Robert Kurtzman, the famous “K” in K.N.B. Effects Group, is well-known as a superior special effects artist. But with The Rage, he has penned and directed a terrific little independent horror film. The story is fairly simple: a mad scientist is experimenting with a new chemical he has developed and called The Rage Serum. He kidnaps and experiments on unfortunate folks who happen to wander too near his laboratory. His experiments keep going wildly wrong, so he has grown a collection of enraged, diseased cannibals that he keeps locked up in a cage in his lab. When one of the rage victims escapes, a disaster is inevitable.
After attacking the doctor, the escaped rage victim manages to kill a couple having sex in the woods before he succumbs to the disease himself. But the buzzards find his body, and before you know it, the buzzards are infected, spreading the disease rapidly across the forest. Meanwhile, five young people are at a rave in the same area of woods. Driving back from the concert, two of the girls get in a fight causing the driver to become distracted. He doesn’t see a rage victim in the middle of the road and hits him, causing their RV to crash into a tree. As the group of kids gets out to investigate, they are attacked by the diseased buzzards. Escaping from the crash area, they fend off the buzzards until they accidentally happen upon the lab where the infected doctor is continuing his experiments along with a mutant sidekick. The remaining kids must now defend themselves from the doctor and his collection of rabid cannibals if they want to survive.
This is a fun—if ridiculously plotted—horror film. But even the filmmakers understand they aren’t making an Oscar caliber film here. They describe it as a “popcorn” film, and I think that is an appropriate description. One doesn’t want to examine the script too closely lest it fall apart, and crazed buzzards attacking seems pretty silly as well, but at least it is a unique plot device.
The technical quality of the film is very high. The acting is generally very good, as is the score. And while the plot is silly, it manages to keep the viewer interested while it pokes fun at itself. Obviously, the filmmakers had a great deal of fun writing the script and producing this feature. But the main reason this film exists—as one should realize with the likes of Kurtzman at the helm—is for the gore quotient. Although there is an R-rated version, I watched the unrated director’s cut, and it didn’t disappoint in the gore category. There is non-stop, outrageous bloodletting. There are graphic and detailed brain surgery scenes, scenes of cannibalism, heads exploding, limbs ripped off, eyeballs gouged out, and literally piles of guts spilled everywhere. Heck, even a couple of little kids are killed in gory fashion, normally a taboo even for horror films.
Although Kurtzman handed the effects off in exchange for the directorial chair, one would expect that the physical effects would be excellent—and they are. The vast majority of gore effects are physical effects and are very bloody as well as realistic. Where the film disappoints is in the area of CGI and green screen optical effects. These are very poor and tend to pull the viewer out of the film. While the vast majority of the gore is made up of physical effects, there are a few CGI blood spurts here and there and they are terrible, basically amounting to animated blood pouring out of a physical body—very amateurish. The green screen effects of outside scenery passing by the windows in the RV are also totally unrealistic and laughable. And while many of the buzzards are puppets, there are plenty of green screen shots of them flying around and attacking people. These actually are the best of the optical shots and don’t tend to be too bad, though. And enough puppeteering is used to keep the buzzard effects fairly realistic.
Overall, I enjoyed this film for what it was: a Friday night date-night movie with decent production value, plenty of blood, and a good deal of fun.