Here in the States it’s time to celebrate that colonialist fantasy holiday known as Thanksgiving. Appropriately, I’d like to offer some recommended viewing for you. Ya know, when you’re not stuffing your face with turkey, carbs, and pie.
Blood Rage (1987) has become a beloved cult classic in recent years, since it started showing up on streaming services and got a beautiful features-packed Blu-ray release from Arrow Video. Since then it’s an annual turkey week watch for many of us. That’s largely because the majority of the film takes place on Thanksgiving night, when a family turkey dinner goes off the rails, thanks to Terry’s mom (with whom he has an unhealthy relationship) becoming engaged and the twin brother he framed for murder escaping the mental asylum, both of which trigger psycho killer Terry to go on a rampage—a blood rage, you might say. Soon enough, Terry is carving up an array of uber-’80s victims in his apartment complex.
Thanksgiving family dinners can be awkward, and the one in Blood Rage is awkward as hell, plus it sets off the film’s titular blood rage as Terry starts to leave a growing pile of dismembered dead bodies in his wake. It’s sort of like that time your mom brought her new boyfriend home for the holiday meal and you couldn’t stand the putz, but instead of mouthing off or pouting, you just killed everyone. Thanksgiving itself is a holiday founded on a bloody imperialist takeover of American Indian land, which has been shamelessly reframed as a friendly, back-patting turkey dinner between colonizers and their victims. So what better way to celebrate than watching a movie that knows the true meaning of Thanksgiving: blood, so much blood, all the blood!
Blood Rage was shot in and around Jacksonville, Florida in 1983 and it feels so very 1983. It didn’t see a wide release (and calling it “wide” is a major stretch) until four years later, then lived on as a VHS cult film that eventually grew into a full-blown cult favorite thanks to the internet and that lovingly curated Blu-ray I mentioned earlier. It’s gone by two other names, Slasher (its original title, which is preserved forever on film in the opening title card) and Nightmare at Shadow Woods (which was the heavily edited cable television version). Mark Soper plays the dual roles of killer twin Terry and the innocent yet framed brother Todd and straight up nails it on both. He’s an absolute delight to watch, especially as Terry, whom he makes into a cheerful, smirking preppy who likes to use a catchphrase after some of his murders—”It’s not cranberry sauce!”—that makes eating cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving dinner impossible to do without laughing, once you’ve seen this movie.
Stage and screen star Louise Lasser, a talented and charismatic performer who was married to Woody Allen and appeared in some of his early movies, is definitely slumming it in Blood Rage, but you’d never know it by her performance. Lasser commits to the part, hard. As the twins’ mom Maddy, she lives in a delusional fantasy world that is shattered the minute Terry starts brually murdering people in the apartment complex. Soon she’s alone in the apartment, where she proceeds to spend most of the film wandering from room to room, vacuuming, drinking wine like a fish, inhaling Thanksgiving leftovers while sitting on the floor in front of the fridge, having lengthy conversations with telephone operators (frantically begging one of them “It’s a real, real emergency!”), and alternating between stoned somnubulance and frenzied distress. Both Lasser and Soper deserve to be enshrined in the slasher movie hall of fame, if such a thing existed, and why the hell does it not??
Blood Rage is both one of the funniest and bloodiest slashers ever made, which is a terrific combination that’ll keep you coming back long after all the cranberry sauce has been eaten…