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Friday, August 4, 2023

Primal Rage (1988)

I did it again. I started poking around the streaming services that I subscribe to looking for something different to watch. I found Primal Rage on Shudder and thought I’d give it a chance. I mean it is one of those Italian made but shot in America late eighties horror flicks so what could go wrong? Plus, Umberto Lenzi co-wrote the script. So really what could go wrong… no I’m asking for real. Here we go.

The movie opens with some odd upbeat music as the camera follows students at a university getting about their daily activities. We are then introduced to a young lady, Lauren, who is about to have her sweet Lebaron convertible towed. Luckily for her the local student journalist, Sam, shows up and saves the day by quoting the laws of Florida to the tow driver. These will be our main characters for the rest of the movie in case that wasn’t clear. They end up going on a double date with Duffy, Sam’s friend and fellow reporter, and Lauren’s roommate, Debbie.

Here is when things get interesting. Our journalists were investigating “monkey abuser” Dr. Etheridge, played by Bo Svenson. Duffy was bitten by a baboon that he let escape and now has some sort of brain rage virus. He gets violent and nips Debbie, who also gets the rage virus. Well things get out of hand from that point forward as more folks get infected and it all ends up at the big annual Halloween party where everyone is in costume. Of course this takes place in October as all horror movies should.

This isn’t a great movie, but it also isn’t horrible either. The story is familiar and follows the typical outbreak plot. There are a few spots that seem a bit out of place when the movie teases some typical college hijinks (along with the oddly upbeat music I’ve already mentioned). Though it does get back to the horror quickly which is for the best. We get some fun puppet work with the baboon test subject that quickly goes squish on the window of a police car. There is a bit of a lull in the action as Duffy slowly descends to madness from his bite. But once he does things pick back up as it seems other infected turn homicidal much quicker. This all leads up to a finale that honestly was a bit lacking. I don’t feel like we get a proper payoff but that could be due to budgetary restraints.

The kills range from fun to meh. The fun stuff ranges from some neck ripping, scalping of a dude in an infant costume, as well as noggin’ violence from a pole, an axe, and awesomely enough bleachers! You give me a good bleacher kill and I’m down with your movie every time. Toss in the squishy baboon, a gnarly pulsating wound, and a final gag with a water sprinkler and I was satisfied. Though I was a bit annoyed by how many of the kills take place off screen. I feel like this could have been a much bloodier flick.  

Other than Bo Svenson the cast is nothing to write home about. Even he is playing the character very subdued. I would have much rather seen him play the mad scientist with some scene chewing glee not as a softspoken academic. Not sure if that is what they were going for or if he was just there collecting a paycheck. Regardless this was a missed opportunity.

Primal Rage has a weird charm that is unique to movies made by Italian filmmakers with American locations and cast. Think Cruel Jaws or Pieces, though be clear this isn’t anywhere near as fun but is in the same vein as the latter. If that sounds good to you then this one is probably worth a watch.


© Copyright 2023 John Shatzer

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