“Todd and Terry are twins—blonde, cute as buttons, bright and identical in every respect, with one exception. One of them is a murderer. It all started one night at a drive-in when a teenager was slaughtered in the back seat of his car while his girlfriend watched. Todd was found guilty for the heinous crime and locked away in an asylum.
Years passed and Terry lived happily with his mother (Louise Lasser—“Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman”), who smothered him with enough love for two sons. All was fine until one night when they received news that Todd escaped. The nightmare begins once again and out of its forbidding darkness steps a maniacal killer, raging for blood. But which brother is the killer? The truth may not be seen…until it’s too late!”
Our film starts out at a drive-in where a bad B-movie called “The House That Cried Murder!” is showing…we’re introduced with the superimpositions “1974” and “Jacksonville, Florida” as some horrible eighties synthesizer music (which consumes the film throughout) plays while kids make out, chow on popcorn, and buy condoms from a bespectacled nerd … a cameo played by none other than Ted Raimi!
Irresponsible, thirtysomething mother Maddy (Louise Lasser) makes out with her date as her two pubescent twin sons Todd and Terry fast asleep in the back … or so she thinks. While slutty momma gets to heavy macking down with her date, the boys sneak out of the car to catch a sneak peek of the film ... but the young Terry brandishes an axe instead — don’t ask why there’s an axe at the drive-in — and hacks up a horny guy screwing his date in the backseat of their car. As his naked girlfriend flees screaming from the scene, Terry smothers his traumatized, sweet twin brother Todd in blood and puts the axe in his hands before screaming for his mother to come to their aid.
Cut to present … November, 1984, Thanksgiving … crazy mother Maddy — who still wears huge, ridiculously fake flowers in her hair, meets with Dr. Berman (Marianne Kanter), who has been working with Todd (Mark Soper) for the past ten years to figure out why he did what he did. He finally has started to remember what really happened — that it was, in fact, his twin who had killed the teen instead of himself.
All the years of tests and psychotherapy have made him a little nuts, but he is still a good kid, nonetheless. Maddy, however, refuses to believe Terry (also played by Mark Soper) could do such a thing … he is the apple of her eye, the perfect son, a typical horny eighteen-year old who is now dating sweet, bubbly virgin Karen (Jayne Bentzen) — who looks like a cross between Jamie Lee Curtis in the original HALLOWEEN (1978) and favorite FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 (1981) leading lady Amy Steel — not a bad combo for final girl material!
The family and friends gather for Thanksgiving that night, where Maddy and her boyfriend Brad (Bill Fuller) — announce they are tying the knot. This, of course, pisses of poor momma’s boy Terry, and sets in motion a downward spiral of Terry’s already-questionable sanity … conveniently enough, Todd escapes from the asylum that same night, giving Terry the opportunity to have someone to pin his crimes on again and, with that in mind, Terry starts a down-and-out bloodbath as family, friends and neighbors are dwindled in number, one by one…
The setting — a small apartment complex on a property surrounded by woods — is used to good effect, as a nature walk, tennis court, pool, and lots of patios with sliding glass doors provide plenty of places for the cast to split up during slaughter time.
The slaughter effects are pretty good, too, and this is really where the movie shines. A man’s hacked wrist squirts blood while the severed hand twitches on the floor; a decapitated head is found dangling and wide-eyed through an apartment door’s peephole; a different head is found split open by a machete, a machete is extracted from a woman’s impaled chest, and — in a gloriously gory slasher movie moment — a woman is split in half by a machete and moans as she dies in the woods, her upper torso writhing as her entrails and lower half are spread on the fall leaves nearby.
But this is all in the R-rated VHS Prism release, because the DVD released by Legacy Entertainment—also rated “R” but under the title NIGHTMARE AT SHADOW WOODS — is heavily trimmed, despite a good-looking DVD transfer that, in some instances, hurts the film, because brighter lighting makes the whole thing look less scary and the gore effects significantly cheaper. Most of the gore shots in the DVD are shortened anyway, (such as the decapitated head and the machete chest extraction), while others (the squirting wrist, the split head and the writing severed torso) were sadly removed all together.
T&A fans will be satisfied with a brief shower scene by the token slut Andrea (Lisa Randall) — a neighbor who, when asked what her college major is, responds, “I told you…partying!” — and a short-lived sex scene between her and one of Terry’s hunky friends. Funny enough, the sex scene is actually extended on the DVD release instead of shortened like the gore … there is an extended moment of the teens having sex on a pool diving board with quite a few lines of dialogue between the two which are never spoken on the VHS Prism release, as well as an insert of the pool sex scene a good ten minutes before the actual scene even occurs!
Lasser’s performance is top-notch in that terrible, over-the-top, uber-cheesy fashion … she drinks huge glasses of wine, cries a lot, and does things like vacuum or stuff her face with Thanksgiving leftovers on the kitchen floor whenever she’s freaked out. In one particularly memorable moment, as Terry heads outside to look for his brother, Maddy screeches at him in a frantic voice, “But Terry, be very careful!!…he’s probably very frightened…!” and then follows it up with, “…and Terry…put on a sweater…it’s cold outside…the blue one.” Her hilariously classic performance rivals the other highly memorable slasher movie mother figure, that of the crazy aunt played by Susan Tyrell in NIGHT WARNING (1981).
There are also decent performances by Julie Gordon as the virginal heroine — she even sounds like Jamie Lee Curtis! — and Mark Soper, who takes on the roles of good and evil twins respectively and does a fine job with both. And while it’s not quite as craptastic as the other Thanksgiving slasher — 1981’s HOME SWEET HOME — it certainly holds its own, with better gore effects and much better night lighting to boot.
And you can tell that a good time was had by all during the making of this
film, as it takes itself horrifically serious in some scenes while making fun
of itself in others. One of the funniest things is when a characters sits up,
dead in his office with a severed hand and split head, while a preacher talks
on the radio in a background, saying things like, “…a hand for
It’s all rather amusing yet somehow cruel at the same time, and it’s this element of mean-spiritedness that runs consistently throughout the film and hurts it to a degree … never quite knowing how to react in certain scenes had me a little alienated and made some of the funny stuff seem almost tacky or inappropriate. And the last scene, while ultimately fitting and not entirely downbeat, still resonates an eerie and disturbing message about parents who show favoritism toward their children, and will leave you with a bad taste in your mouth.
Ultimately, BLOOD RAGE is better than most of the films that were coming out by this point (oddly, IMDB claims it is from 1987 but it was clearly made years before), but that’s not saying much since most of the stuff coming out by this point was utter poo. Still, it’s well worth seeking out for gorehounds, slasher completists, and collectors alike, even if it’s not quite what you might call “classic” material.
You’d never know it wasn’t that great from the VHS Prism release, however, as it boasts three stars and “Horrifying!” in quotes on the back cover without ever telling us what critic or source said so…maybe it was the filmmakers? I say two and a half stars…anything beyond that would be horrifying, indeed.
BODYCOUNT 11 female:3 / male:61) Male teen hacked to death with axe