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Rage, The (2007)
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by Jay Seaver

"If you're looking for blood, it delivers. Everything else..."
3 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2007 FANTASIA FESTIVAL: If you like horror movies, you've probably liked some of Robert Kurtzman's work. The "K" in KNB, he's created some of the bloody and otherwise great make-up effects for scores of movies over the past twenty years or so. As expected, he serves up a heaping helping of the nasty stuff as a writer/director. As might also be expected, when it comes to everything else, there's a good argument for sticking to what he knows.

So, you've got these two groups of people. One are a bunch of teenagers in a fan heading somewhere; the other is a mad scientist (Andrew Divoff) who is experimenting with a rapidly mutating virus that causes rage, enhanced strength, craving for human blood/flesh, etc., and his subjects. One of the subjects from group B gets loose but doesn't last long. The real trouble starts when the vultures go for his body, get infected, and... well, you know.

When Kurtzman has his make-up effects hat on, he is really good. The raving, flesh-eating infectees look good and nasty, with sores and pustules and cracks appearing in the skin, sunken eyeballs, and icky stuff coming out of the mouth. People get hit with all manner of blunt and sharp objects, or cut up for all sorts of nasty wounds and viscera being torn out. If all you're looking for is gross-out stuff, this is close to a five-star movie.

The trouble, of course, is with everything else. The writing isn't particularly bad; Kurtzman and partner John Bisson have a vicious streak to them, which is a positive for this kind of movie (although I don't know how many filmmakers would cast their own very young kids to be killed). Sure, the story isn't terribly original, but it's a means to an end, and vultures are a new vector on me. One thing that I think the film might show is that there might only be so much filmmaking a person can pick up by osmosis. Kurtzman has worked on movies directed by some pretty noteworthy guys - Sam Raimi, Robert Rodriguez, John Carpenter, and Wes Craven among them - but he doesn't really have the knack for building suspense that those guys do at their best.

It's worth noting that in the promotion and festival Q&A, there's a fair amount of noise made about wanting to do old-school, down-and-dirty horror like back in the eighties, and they had to get out of Hollywood to do that. This does kind of feel like a semi-pro production - shot in Ohio with mostly actors the audience hasn't heard of, though Kurtzman has spent a lot of time with the big boys. For all that it does have the bloody violence and bare breasts you remember from a generation ago that would be quickly cut from today's PG-13 horror movies, it also picks up some bad twenty-first century habits: There is some pretty crappy CGI used for the vultures at times, for instance, and Kurtzman seems to have picked up some editing tips from Michael Bay; there are moments I just want to scream for them to just show me what's going on.

The cast is good enough. They had enough fun with Andrew Divoff to bring him back in a mutated version later, and he's a pro. Erin Brown is the best of the kids in the van, and she's also a B-movie veteran (looking at her filmography under the name of Misty Mundae, being able to remain dressed during this movie must have been a change of pace). For the most part, the performances aren't great, but they're not as inept as might be expected, either.

I'll be fair here: I don't have a lot of fondness for the eighties horror movies that "The Rage" is inspired by, and my reaction is that as directors go, Robert Kurtzman is a really fantastic make-up artist. But if this is the sort of thing you dig, Kurtzman and company certainly know their stuff where the blood and guts are concerned. That, at least, doesn't disappoint.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=16309&reviewer=371
originally posted: 08/05/07 22:58:10
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Fantasia Film Festiva For more in the 2007 Fantasia Film Festival series, click here.

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