Blood Rage (1987)

It’s not cranberry sauce, Artie.”-Tagline
From “Christmas Evil” to “My Bloody Valentine,” to “SlaughterHigh” (which is set on April 1st, and whose original title was “April Fools Day”), holiday-based horror movies were all the rage in the 1980’s. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “How about Thanksgiving? Aren’t there any 80’s horror movies set on Turkey Day??” Well, you’re in luck, folks! Today’s subject is a somewhat obscure 80’s slasher flick that is set on just this festive occasion. And, whew! “Blood Rage” is a doozy! This nasty little kill flick, which was originally filmed under the appropriate title “Slasher” in 1983 (but not released for four years for whatever reason), is a lot of fun, and packs a wallop in the 80’s-era gore, terror and mayhem department.

Here’s the plot: Louise Lasser plays Maddie, the single mother of two twin boys, Terry and Todd. Todd is a bit slow, and seems to have trouble communicating. One night, they all go to the drive-in, and Maddie proceeds to get hot and heavy with her date. This seems to rub Terry the wrong way, because the young lad grabs a hatchet, and, in extremely gruesome fashion, hacks his mother’s date to death. Youch! When the police arrive, they find a mute Todd, smeared with blood, and a talkative Terry, telling them Todd did everything. The authorities believe Terry, and Todd is sent to a mental hospital.
80s Slasher Bolld Rage

Fast forward a decade or so. Terry is now a high school senior, and is celebrating Thanksgiving with his mother, her new fiancĂ©e, and a group of friends. They learn that Todd has escaped from the hospital, and may be headed to their home for a little…family reunion. Yipes! This proves to be a perfect cover for Terry to indulge in his murderlust again, and frame his twin brother-again!
Louise Lasser, as Maddie, completely freaks out in her usual overwrought fashion, and proceeds to compulsively eat leftovers, chug wine, and straighten up the house literally to the point of collapse. Meanwhile, Terry proceeds to engage in a killing spree. Might I add, this is an extremely gory and violent killing spree; we’re talking about limbs chopped off, decapitations, stabbings, shootings, showers of blood, brains oozing out of fractured skulls, the whole schmear. The kills are bloody, fun, and pretty damn effective.
Terry Killer From Blood Rage 80's HorrorAlthough the performances are somewhat spotty (especially among the twenty-five-to-thirtysomethings playing “teenagers”), it does have some definite high points. Mark Soper is great in a dual role as the twin brothers; he’s sad and sympathetic as Todd, and eerily, emptily psychopathic as Terry. Terry gleefully slaughters family, friends, and neighbors who know and trust him, and it adds another tragic layer to this story. Like Ted Bundy, or Patrick Bateman, Terry’s persona is entirely plastic, and none of his friends or family know the real him, or how little he cares for them. Louise Lasser is also effective as Maddie; she chews up the scenery (as Lasser usually does), but she still takes Maddie seriously, and gives it her all. As a result, Maddie feels raw and real, though over-the-top.

Aside from several great performances, this movie offers memorable makeup effects by Ed French, a vintage early 80’s synth score, and a script filled with suspense and twists. And the finale, in particular, has quite a perverse little plot twist.
So, if you’re looking for something seasonal to watch this Thanksgiving that isn’t football or “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles”, and you won’t lose your turkey dinner over extreme slasher violence, check out “Blood Rage”! This long out-of-print video flick was recently resurrected by Arrow Video in a DVD/Blu-ray combo. Happy Thanksgiving, 80’s horror movie fans! Again, if you enjoy this review like many others on this site, swing on over to Neo Trash Video on FB for all things B-Cinema!
BloodRage Beer Can Hand Cut Off Scene GIF

The Beast Within (1982)

The Beast Within (1982)
The sins of the father are to be laid upon the children” 
                                   –William Shakespeare, “The Merchant of Venice”
I think we can all agree that being a teenager absolutely sucks. My teenage years were some of the worst of my life, and I think that’s a pretty common sentiment. Teenagers have a lot going on: their hormones are raging, their peers are especially petty and cruel, and sometimes it feels like authority figures are against them every step of the way. But some teenagers’ experiences are uniquely nightmarish. In the case of 17-year-old Michael Mc Cleary (portrayed by Paul Clemens), he’s not just becoming an adult. He’s becoming something monstrous. Something inhuman…
Right out of the gate, “The Beast Within” grabs you. It opens with a newlywed couple getting stranded on a creepy backwoods road in the middle of the night. Meanwhile, we see, through a series of point of view shots, that something has broken free of its chains, and escaped from its basement prison. When the groom, Eli (played by Ronny Cox, of “Robocop” fame) goes for help, his poor bride Caroline (played by Bibi Besch) is attacked and raped by a hairy, heavy-breathing, subhuman thing, which then disappears into the woods.
We fast forward seventeen years: Caroline’s infirm son, Michael, is under the care of doctors, who are trying to identify his mysterious illness; No matter what the professionals do, Michael just keeps getting sicker and weaker. We also see that Michael is having terrifying dreams as he lies in his hospital bed: Dreams about a decrepit, abandoned house, and something terrible in the basement … Something calling to him.
Eli and Caroline are convinced that Caroline’s attacker is their son’s real father, and finding out his identity and medical history might help save Michael. They return to the small Mississippi town where the incident happened to get some answers, and are confronted by a group of locals desperate to keep them from learning anything about the vicious murder of a man named Lionel Curwin, that happened the very same night Caroline was attacked. There is apparently a very big, very bad secret the townsfolk don’t want Eli and Caroline to know about.
Meanwhile, Michael somehow escapes from the hospital and, like a man possessed, proceeds to go on a vicious killing spree, even partially eating his victims. He’s on a mission of murder, directed by the thing in the basement from his nightmares. And that’s not all. Michael’s changing. He’s growing strange plates under his skin, like some kind of insect. Like a cicada.
Sound confusing? It is a bit confusing, because a lot of back story was cut from the script, but I think the ambiguity of some of the plot points makes “The Beast Within” even creepier and scarier. As author H.P. Lovecraft pointed out, “…the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” To be confronted with all this horror and not fully understand it, in my opinion, makes it even more effective.

The Beast Within” was intended by its screenwriter Tom Holland to be a potent combination of a possession and monster movie, and I think he succeeded pretty well. We get the thrills and chills of watching a formerly innocent kid behaving in a demonic manner, like Reagan in “The Exorcist.” We also get nasty makeup and gore effects by Thomas R. Burman, including a pretty interesting transformation sequence that’s like something out of a werewolf movie. In addition to good writing and effects, “The Beast Within” sports authentic Southern atmosphere and locations, an intense music score by Les Baxter, solid direction by Phillippe Mora, and winning performances all around. This is an unusual fright film that is well worth seeing.

Brain Damage (1988)

                                                        Brain Damage” (1987)
Hey, Brian. Why don’t we go out and get us some girls? Hookers-I could eat a million of ‘em tonight! Ha ha!” –Aylmer, “Brain Damage
Are you a fan of the surreal, visceral body terror of David Cronenberg (“Videodrome”, “Scanners”), the self-aware horror-comedy of Larry Cohen (“Q : The Winged Serpent”, “The Stuff”), AND the over-the-top gore of Herschell Gordon Lewis (“Blood Feast”, “Two Thousand Maniacs”)? Yes? You’re in luck! Let me introduce you to splattermeister Frank Henenlotter’s bizarre cult classic “Brain Damage”! And “Brain Damage” isn’t a dumb, unmotivated bloodbath by any stretch. There is a real social statement underlying it. In fact, “Brain Damage” has, perhaps, the strongest anti-drug message of any horror movie, without coming off as overly preachy or contrived.
Writer/director Frank Henenlotter (creator of the “Basket Case” series, “Frankenhooker”) is known for films brimming with blood, freaky makeup effects, far-out plots, memorable visuals, and twisted comedic overtones. “Brain Damage” is no
exception. Brian (played by Rick Herbst, who’d later change his name to Rick Hearst and became a popular soap opera actor) meets a phallic, wormlike creature named Aylmer (voiced by TV horror host Zacherley) who promises him a whole new life: a life filled with colors, music and euphoria. All Brian has to do is place Aylmer on the back of his neck, and Aylmer, using a stinger-like quill, injects Brian with a “juice” that gives him an intense psychedelic high. Whoa, far out, man!
Brian immediately becomes hooked on Aylmer’s juice, really grooving on the Mardi Gras of lights and colors that fill his mind when he’s under the influence. However, like any other heavy drug, there are immediate repercussions to this: Brian neglects his job, and completely ignores his brother/roommate and his girlfriend in favor of Aylmer’s sweet hallucinogenic juice. In addition, Brian, while high as a kite and unaware of the world around him, becomes an unwitting accessory to Aylmer’s murderous appetites. You see, Aylmer eats only brains. Human brains, to be specific. Yeah, you don’t need to be psychic to know this is gonna get messy…
When Brian eventually discovers what Aylmer’s been up to (sucking out the brains of random NYC residents while Brian’s been high off his ass, acting as an under-the-influence accomplice) he resolves to quit “using” Aylmer. However, without Aylmer’s juice, Brian gets horribly ill, going through withdrawal symptoms similar to those of an opioid addict; He vomits profusely, writhes on the floor in agony, and has disturbing nightmares and hallucinations, one of which is so over-the-top it had to be chopped in the R rated theatrical cut of the movie.
Tragically, even though Brian has intense guilt over what Aylmer’s been doing, the pain of his addiction outweighs it. Brian literally comes crawling back to Aylmer, and basically agrees to be his partner in crime in exchange for getting juiced again.
Of course, this is a textbook downward spiral for a drug addict. Brian is now compromising his values and morals to have his drug, which he needs now not to feel high, but rather, from feeling completely awful. Brian’s nightmare with Aylmer only gets worse, and worse, building to a crazy climax that will blow your mind!
Brain Damage” is my personal favorite of Frank Henenlotter’s films; it’s surreal, funny, and oddly effective, in spite of its kooky premise. I think the main reason it works so well is the acting is terrific. Even though there are laughs sprinkled throughout, everything is played completely straight by the performers. This brings genuine pathos to the movie, and makes you feel for Brian and the other characters. This is different from Henenlotter’s more overtly goofy efforts, like “Frankenhooker” or the “Basket Case” sequels, where the over-the-top humor allows the audience to distance themselves from the characters and their experiences.
Also, the film, although low budget, is technically very well done. The rich, colorful cinematography, offbeat set design, synthesized music score, and Gabe Bartalos’ special makeup effects are all above reproach. And at the helm is Frank Henenlotter, writing and directing this crazy flick with his customary care and affection for the horror genre.
So, if you like weirdo splatter flicks with a twisted dark comic streak, AND you want to see a fascinating film exploring the horrors of drug addiction that’s far more entertaining than “Requiem for a Dream”, get a load of “Brain Damage”! Purchase Brain Damage on Blu-Ray HERE. Enjoy this review? Find more content HERE!

Evilspeak (1981)

Evilspeak” (1981)
From the prologue of “Evilspeak”:
And Satan said to the Man of God… ‘What would you do tomorrow if you allowed me to die today? What vocation would you pursue if my name disappeared?’”
Kahlil Gibran

Have you ever been bullied? Had someone torment you to the breaking point? What would you do to fight back? Would you punch them in the nose? Leave a flaming bag of feces on their doorstep? Or would you use an obscure spellbook, an Apple II computer, some human blood, and a consecrated host to summon a demon to do your bidding? Luckily, for lovers of the bloody, bizarre, and excessive, the main character in “Evilspeak” chose the latter option!
The plot revolves around a military academy student named Stanley Coopersmith (played by a 22 year old Clint Howard, while he still had hair on the top of his head). Anyway, poor Stanley Coopersmith has always gotten the short end of the stick; He’s an orphan, his parents having died in an automobile accident. To make matters worse, he is an awkward, klutzy geek to the absolute extreme. Naturally, Coopersmith is endlessly picked on at his school by a gang of jerky fellow classmates, led by a jagoff named Bubba (played by Don Stark, who was later Donna’s dad on “That 70’s Show”). This motley crew of bullies loves to prank Coopersmith, humiliate him, sabotage his school projects, the whole shebang. Even Coopersmith’s teachers pick on him, including one who canes him for being late to class. Jeesh!

Well, no one could have seen this coming: Turns out an evil priest named Father Esteban (played by Richard Moll, who was later Bull on “Night Court”) conducted Satanic rituals in the basement of the chapel on the school’s grounds. While Stanley is cleaning out the basement, he finds a hidden chamber, and a book Esteban wrote that’s basically “Black Magic for Dummies”, but in Latin. As the movie progresses, Stanley transforms from a gawky underdog into a full-blown devil worshipper, and he’s out for the blood of all those who have wronged him. What follows is an orgy of telekinesis, 80’s nudity, and fun special effects including heart-ripping, multiple beheadings, vicious demon-possessed pigs that love to dine on human flesh, and vintage 8-bit Satanic computer graphics.
I very much enjoy “Evilspeak”; it’s irreverent, bloody, fun, sometimes very funny, and sometimes pretty creepy. It almost reminds me of a gender-swapped variation of “Carrie”… except with demonic swine and decapitations with a huge sword. This movie was so over-the-top, it was outright banned in Great Britain for years as one of their infamous “Video Nasties”!

Overall, the writing, directing, cinematography, music, effects, and acting were pretty good, but what I like most about this movie is Clint Howard’s solid performance; as Coopersmith, he actually earns our sympathy. I even kind of felt for him when he went full Satanic retribution on his enemies, because he was so tortured by them.
Coopersmith only has a few people who are decent to him, but they are also outcasts on campus as well. It seems there’s no way for outsiders like Coopersmith to escape their miserable circumstances, except to seek Bull’s- I mean, Esteban’s help to fight back. And once he turns vicious with his demonic powers, Coopersmith becomes the kind of trademark creepy Clint Howard character we’ve all come to know and love from his later horror roles.
So, if you, like me, was picked on as a kid, you may find “Evilspeak” to be a grim little exercise in catharsis; the vicarious thrill of watching Coopersmith’s semi-sociopathic bullies get killed off in nasty ways may prove irresistible to you. Or, if you’re just a big Clint Howard fan, he does great work here! “Evilspeak” is now available in an unrated version on Blu-ray from Scream Factory. Again, if you enjoyed reading this review, like many others, then head over to Neo Trash Video on Facebook for all things B-Cinema. - Mike C.

Possession (1981)

 (1981, French/West German)
We are all the same. Different words, different bodies, different versions. Like insects! Meat!” –Anna
Attention fans of the weird, esoteric art house thrillers of David Lynch, and the bizarre, visceral body horror films of David Cronenberg: have I got a movie for YOU!
Clocking in at just over 2 hours, the original director’s cut of “Possession”,
consternated American distributors who bought the rights, that they cut it…by 45 minutes. No joke. Their 85 minute version proved less than impressive, and was confusing as hell to audiences, who probably felt screwed-over. Who could blame them- they were missing 45 minutes of the movie!
The plot: Sam Neill portrays a secret agent named Mark, who’s been working for the West German government. He’s just come off a long mission away from his wife Anna (played by Isabelle Adjani) and his young son, Bob. He refuses a new assignment, because he wants to be with his family. He’s trying to better himself, and his relationships.
Mark comes home to find Anna strangely distant. When they try to reconnect in the bedroom, something isn’t right, and Mark immediately suspects she may be cheating on him. Well, it turns out he’s right. She has, indeed, been cheating, with a sexually liberated German fellow named Heinrich.
After several devastating verbal, mental, and physical confrontations, Anna leaves Mark, who obsessively tries to find her and get her back. When confronted by Mark, Heinrich claims he has no clue where Anna is. In fact, Heinrich is deeply upset because he’s convinced that she’s been cheating on him, too.
Desperate to know Anna’s whereabouts, Mark hires a private detective to locate her. The detective tracks Anna to a rundown apartment building, and upon investigating her grimy, David Fincher-esque dwelling, he finds something he definitely didn’t expect. We, the audience, don’t expect it, either. Up to this point, the horrors in “Possession” have been purely domestic, composed of real world brutalities inherent in extremely toxic relationships. At this point in the movie, “Possession” takes things up a rather big notch. If you are curious, and don’t mind having this particular plot twist revealed (don’t worry, I’ll leave plenty unmentioned), read away. Those who haven’t seen this movie and want to be surprised, please be advised… ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….
In one of the dimly lit rooms, the detective finds Anna’s newest lover, which is a gooey, tentacled, almost Lovecraftian thing. It’s not exactly human, but if it’s an animal, it’s impossible to define. It’s a weird, unsettling unknown that vaguely resembles a human being. And things just get more and more bizarre from there…
Without giving anything else concrete away, “Possession” is a rather slow burner that reminds one of Takashi Miike’s modern horror classic “Audition” in its structure; Both begin as domestic dramas. Then, they both unexpectedly transform into something like a particularly bad dream.
What to expect? “Possession” is a twisted spiral of sex, nihilistic brutality, black-as-midnight humor, madness, murder, and surrealism. It sports viscerally creepy creature and makeup effects by Carlo Rambaldi, atmospheric cinematography by Bruno Nuytter, great direction and co-writing by Andrzej Zulawski, and tremendously raw
and effective performances all around, especially by Isabelle Adjani. Incidentally, Isabelle Adjani has an extremely unsettling scene in a subway station, in which she reportedly had a real mental breakdown while it was being filmed. Honestly, I can believe it. In terms of psychotic freak-outs, Adjani outdoes Nic Cage here.
This is not your typical horror flick, as a whole, its meaning is left up to the viewer to decide. What is all the weirdness in “Possession” about? Personally, I see it as an allegory of relationships gone wrong; just as relationships can transform from loving and nurturing to vicious and destructive, so do the characters in this movie. In addition, there are many elements of Jekyll and Hyde duality in this film. For example, Mark eventually has an affair with Bob’s schoolteacher, who looks eerily like his estranged wife, Anna. But where Anna is absent, neglectful, and selfish, Bob’s teacher is present, nurturing, and caring.
I think another major theme of this movie is that human beings are, by nature, complicated and internally conflicted: Mark loves Anna, but also deeply hates her for her infidelity. Anna seems to hate herself for her betrayal of Mark and her neglect of their son, but cannot bring herself to end her affair, because, presumably, it is the only real joy she has left. Eventually, both Mark and Anna resort to corruption and murder to keep their relationship alive. Having seen the gruesome and nightmarish finale of this movie, I think they should have just let their marriage die.

If you like your horror to be intellectually and artistically interesting without skimping on the blood and discomforting weirdness, and don’t mind disturbing movies (cuz trust me, this one is a real downer) check it out! Although currently out of print, Anchor Bay released “Possession” several times on VHS and DVD. Also, a Region 0 release from South Korea can be found on Ebay. Find it here: Amazon. Also, if you enjoyed this review, swing over to Neo Trash Video and delight in all things Horror, B-Movie and Underground Cinema.