Blood Rage (1987) follows the lives of identical twins Todd and Terry (Mark Soper) and their mother Maddy (Louise Lasser) who live a seemingly perfect life. There’s only one problem—one of the twins is a serial killer. The film is full of sex, drugs, and murder, making it the most realistic Thanksgiving film ever made. Following in the footsteps of campy slashers like Slumber Party Massacre (1982) and Silent Night Deadly Night (1984), Blood Rage is the perfect horror film. It’s beautifully scripted, filmed, and executed. In a time where anesthetized, watered-down, CGI remakes dominate the screen, it’s refreshing to see such an innovative horror film.

Back in the 1980s, music was actually good, horror films had realistic violence, and slashers like Friday the 13th (1980) and Nightmare on Elm St. (1984) blessed our screens. Blood Rage is the epitome of ‘80s horror, complete with high-waisted jeans, men in short-shorts, and synthesized music. Imagine popped collars, rotary phones, feathered bangs. Suddenly I’m back in my childhood home, blasting George Michael and chugging Capri-Sun. But the ’80s were also the decade of Reagan’s sexist, racist, classist, and outright evil policies. Under his reign, countless people of color were imprisoned for crack-cocaine while white lawyers snorted powdered cocaine in broad daylight. Blood Rage captures the duality of the 1980s, splicing beautiful art with the grotesque murder of innocent people.

Blood Rage opens to a drive-in screening of The House that Cried Murder (1973) as we flashback to 1974 Florida. The film’s original title, Slasher, appears on screen as sleeveless teenagers get popcorn and buy condoms from the bathroom attendant (Ted Raimi). Feather-haired couples chainsmoke cigarettes and makeout in their cars. It’s basically Grease (1978) without the musical numbers. That’s when we meet one of two Final Girls, Maddy. Though Maddy is hesitant to go at it while her twin boys sleep in the back of the car with an assault rifle, her boyfriend is persistent.

Maddy gives in to the makeout sesh and the two blonde boys sneak out the back of the station wagon. The identical twins, clad in striped shirts, short shorts, and knee-high socks stumble upon an axe. Terry (Russell Hall) grabs the axe without hesitation and looks for someone to murder. Because that’s what nine-year-olds do, right? Terry finds two completely naked adults going at it in the backseat of a car, cracking a smile that would make the Joker cringe. As innocent Todd (Keith Hall) watches in the background, Terry slashes the man’s face with the axe, blood spurting across the car windows.

In true Jason Voorhees fashion, Terry enjoys punishing people having sex. As we know, horror is a cautionary tale against the consequences of sex, not a glorification of it. As the man bleeds out, the naked woman runs screaming into the night. Hearing the scream, Maddy realizes that her sons are gone and something’s terribly wrong. In one of the most memorable scenes in horror history, Terry wipes blood on Todd’s face and places the axe in his hand. Todd is so horrified by what he’s witnessed, that he stares catatonically, as his mother rushes in.

“Terry what happened?” his mother screams as she sees her twin sons covered in blood. “Todd he just hurt that person!” Terry screams as Todd stares off in horror, holding the bloody axe. Because Todd fails to speak, he gets blamed and spends the next ten years in a psychiatric ward, paying for a crime he didn’t commit. The series of events speaks to the duality of man, the idea that all humans have an intrinsic capability for good and evil. Every person you see on screen and in real life has two faces, one with humanity and one without. Who we are in public is not who we are in private. The persona we project to the world is a mere suppression of our actual selves. The duality of humankind is seen across decades of art. From Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Stevenson, 1886) to Us (Peele, 2019), the idea of evil twins or doppelgängers has remained a popular horror trope.

Blood Rage jumps ten years to find Todd locked up in an idyllic psychiatric ward, lined with palm trees and a perfectly manicured lawn. Dr. Berman (Marianne Kanter), Todd’s psychiatrist meets with his mother Maddy to give her an update on her son. The date is November 22, 1984, Thanksgiving, a day of remembrance of famed serial killer Christopher Columbus. Dr. Berman (who is actually a psychologist but when do movies ever get that right?) tells Maddy about Todd’s breakthrough. It becomes apparent to the doctor what the audience already knows, that Todd didn’t kill anyone. Only Maddy doesn’t believe the doctor because we know science is no match for mom-logic.

The mother-son reunion doesn’t go well and ends with Todd screaming his innocence and throwing pumpkin pie against the wall. Fuck Thanksgiving and its celebration of the rape and slaughter of innocent indigenous peoples. Maddy storms off, ignoring the reality that she has the real killer in her home, while Todd rots in solitary confinement. She returns to boyfriend number two and her house full of guests. After all, she has a basic breeder Thanksgiving to pull off. That’s when the fun begins. Todd escapes because, fuck this shit, and then we get to watch nearly every single character get hacked to pieces with a machete. It’s beautiful.

Dr. Berman arrives with her pot-smoking, twenty-something assistant. While Maddy mixes wine and valium, everyone searches the grounds for Todd. Maddy’s basic boyfriend is the first victim. Terry slashes his hand clean off, as blood spurts from his arm stub, while his severed hand, still holding the beer can, twitches on the ground. One by one, Terry kills off the Thanksgiving party, while Todd tries to warn them. Each victim dies after breaking one of the rules of horror. The doc’s assistant gets a machete through the abdomen for smoking a joint.

Terry smokes the joint then heads into the woods to dismember Dr. Berman. Although the doc would’ve made a good Final Girl since she’s chaste and intelligent, she makes the mistake of going off into the woods alone. Now our only hopes for Final Girls are Maddy, who’s shitfaced and naïve, and Terry’s girlfriend, Karen (Julie Gordon). Even though Karen’s blonde and unknowingly dating a serial killer, she seems smarter than the other guests.

Besides who hasn’t accidentally dated a complete fucking lunatic? Famous Final Girl, Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) fell in love with serial killer Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich) and went on to survive all four Scream (Craven) movies. That’s the thing about narcissistic sociopaths, they’re pretty damn charming. White guys like Billy and Terry get to hack people to death then go home to their intelligent, feminist girlfriends, without raising any suspicion. Though statistics tell us otherwise, white guys are rarely suspected of being the killer.

So next time you’re around a nice white guy with a polo shirt, perfectly coiffed hair, and a trust fund, run. In real life, killers don’t have hockey masks or burned faces. Killers have chiseled jawlines, a house with a white picket fence, and a 401k. The real evil in this society are the guys who say, It’s a tough time for white men right now. We’re the oppressed ones. Evil isn’t the immigrant neighbor taking her kids to school or the Black coworker who makes your racist ass uncomfortable. The real evil is white male privilege. Toxic masculinity. And if you think what you’re reading is feminist trash, you’re part of the problem.

While the characters in Blood Rage hunt for the “psychotic brother,” the real killer hides in plain sight as so many men do. Terry kills four or five more people, dumping their bodies in a sauna. While possible Final Girl Karen enlists the help of some college bros, Maddy refuses to accept the increasingly obvious fact that Terry is the real killer. In a brilliant scene, Todd and Terry finally face off. It’s the good brother vs. the evil brother which likely inspired movies like the House of Wax (2005) remake. Todd points a loaded gun at Terry, but there’s just one problem, his humanity.

Some may view Todd’s inability to fire his gun as emasculating and weak. But what it shows is that Todd would rather die than be a sadistic serial killer like his brother. As the great philosopher, Marcus Aurelius says, “The best revenge is to be unlike the one who performed the injustice” (Meditations). Todd’s refusal to commit murder shows that he knows what it means to be a real man. Being a real man isn’t about firing guns, mistreating women, and asserting dominance. Real men refuse to perpetrate violence, play the role of the oppressors, and they know that women can take care of themselves.

Terry kills a few more people then reveals his true nature to his girlfriend Karen. Without hesitation, Karen grabs a baby whose parents were just killed and runs off towards the pool house. In one of the most amazing endings in horror film history, Final Girls Maddy and Karen hold their ground against the twins, Todd and Terry. In her drunken state, Maddy managed to grab a loaded gun, but she’s not quite sure which son to shoot. Terry jumps up and down on the diving board, holding the bloody machete.

Final Girls Maddy and Karen watch as Todd and Terry fight in the pool. Karen pools Todd from the pool and Maddy shoots Terry three times. Turns out mother Maddy is a Final Girl after all. Maddy holds Todd, rocking him, saying “It’s okay, you’re safe. I love you so much.” These are the words Todd’s been waiting to hear his entire life. Finally, his mother believes him. Finally, he’s safe. “It’s safe here. We just need each other,” she says, “It’s just us, Terry. Todd is gone.”

Seriously?

Todd sits up screaming, “I’m Todd! I’m Todd!” Mother Maddy can’t take the reality that she’s allowed the real killer to live with her all these years. Maddy can’t believe that she’s responsible for every person Terry’s ever killed. Their blood is on her hands. Instead of accepting the fact that she’s killed the real killer and saved her innocent son, Maddy grabs the gun. She holds the revolver to her head and kills herself instantly. Our Final Girl Karen takes the baby and runs out of the pool house. Damn. Police sirens wail in the background as the film fades to black. We never find out if Karen proves Todd’s innocence or if he’s returned to the psychiatric ward, branded a killer for life. All we know is that we have one badass, feminist, Final Girl.

So if you’re a fan of ‘80s gore, creative kills, and a mind-blowing story, Blood Rage is for you. This film will go down as one of the best 80’s slashers I’ve ever seen. I don’t know how I missed it. Shout out to Psycho Drive-In writer, Raul Reyes for bringing it to my attention.

Happy New Year’s from the Final Girl. May 2020 be full of peace, love, and horror.


IMDB Trivia:

  • Blood Rage was originally titled Slasher then later released as Nightmare at Shadow Woods.
  • The film was shot in 1983 but didn’t make it to theaters until 1987.
  • Horror actor/writer, Ted Raimi made his first film debut here, at age 19.

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