Reviewed by Johnny Butane
Starring Andrew Divoff, Reggie Bannister, Erin Brown, Ryan Hooks
Directed by Robert Kurtzman
I can’t really explain why I’ve been looking forward to The Rage, Robert Kurtzman’s first directorial effort since Wishmaster, but I can theorize that a lot of it has to do with the images we’ve been seeing from the film over the past year or so.
Kurtzman, formerly the “K” in KNB, decided that if he was going to come back to horror as a director, it’d be a damn good idea to make something that will stick in people’s heads for years to come, and those images have done a fantastic job of it so far. I’m happy to say the movie itself delivers on all the nasty looking gore he’s been showing off through the official Rage site and then some. In fact, I could easily see The Rage becoming a new splatter classic if given a sufficient release; it’s just that fun.
A bit of plot, just to get things moving: Divoff stars as Dr. Viktor Vasilienko, a former Russian scientist who had actually discovered a cure for cancer but, because his country switched from communist rule to democratic, all his research was destroyed and he was labeled a madman; it was more profitable for the pharmaceutical companies if people stayed sick. Upon his release he vowed to have his revenge on mankind, specifically the bloated, capitalist pigs of the US. To this end he developed a virus that was pure, unadulterated rage with the intention of releasing it in the US and only providing the cure when his original cancer research was returned to him.
Things don’t go quite according to plan, however, as one of his final experiments breaks out of the doctor’s ramshackle abode in the middle of nowhere and eventually curls up and dies, only to be feasted on by vultures. Because of the unique enzymes vultures carry inside their digestive tracks, the virus is mutated and the birds become infected as well, attacking anything that moves. This spells trouble for a group of 20-somethings on their way home from an outdoor concert who, after crashing their RV, run afoul of the fowl (sorry, had to) and eventually find their way to Dr. Vasilienko’s abode, where things go from bad to worse.
From the first few frames of The Rage, the gore is soaking up the screen; and, save for a brief period by a waterfall when our “heroes” stop for a rest, it’s non-stop from there. Heads are torn off, geysers of blood are shot, limbs are ripped apart and of course it’s all done with practical effects so it looks fantastic. The only questionable effects involve the vultures, which thankfully aren’t used very often, because they had to be done in CG in order to get the scenes Kurtzman wanted. The CG isn’t terrible, just somewhat distracting, though far better than you’ll find in most SciFi Channel originals.
Kurtzman has crafted a fun, old school B-movie with all the right elements and brilliantly employed the great Andrew Divoff to carry the story. Divoff is in top hammy form here, in the best possible sense of the word, playing up the role of a bitter Russian scientist whose experiments have gotten out of control to perfection. Hell, even when he’s monologuing about how it all went wrong, he’s great to listen to; he just owns this role through and through.
Reggie Bannister’s brief cameo is pretty good as well, playing an uncle who’s trying to share a family tradition with his niece and nephew before they, too, have a run-in with the birds of prey. Erin Brown (aka Misty Mundae) shows some skills here and there, though she does seem like she’s trying too hard when she’s emoting. The big divot in the cast, though, is Ryan Hooks, who plays the boyfriend Josh. Man, this guy is just plain bad, seriously. His performance is flat no matter what’s going on, and somehow he manages to live for way too long.
But it’s all made up for by Divoff, the gore, the makeup effects, the pacing; everything in this film just works together to make sure the viewer is having a blast from the word go, and considering the budget and timeframe Kurtzman and crew had to work with, some acting missteps and questionable CG are easily forgiven.
You know what The Rage really needs? A sequel. Vasilienko alludes to the fact that his rage virus is able to infect anything, not just humans, thanks to the vultures, and that the entire world is pretty much fucked if he can’t stop it. I want to see that world, damnit! A vast wasteland of destruction full of roaming mutants tearing apart one another and anything else they come across, and a lone band of survivors trying to make it through for whatever reason; that’s what we need to see next! Here’s hoping.
There’s no word on any distro for The Rage yet, but Kurtzman will be taking it to film festivals very soon to see what interest is out there, so stay tuned for updates as we learn them. Just be sure if it does end up playing near you that you grab some friends and head out to see it; a good, gore-soaked time is guaranteed!
4 out of 5
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