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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Reel Bad Cinema: Primal Rage (1988) review

Never before has a horror film began with such 80's accouterments as big hair, big butts and tight workout attire backed by a kitschy pop tune and about 30 minutes of laughable teen angst.

PRIMAL RAGE 1988

Patrick Lowe (Sam Nash), Cheryl Arutt (Lauren Daly), Bo Svenson (Ethridge), Sarah Buxton (Debbie), Mitch Watson (Frank Duffy)

Directed by Vittorio Rambaldi; written by Umberto Lenzi

The Short Version: Stunningly awful Italian horror film shot in Florida is all the more ludicrous in that it has such an accomplished pedigree behind the camera. Probably the single most interesting facet of this film is that it possibly was inspiration for 28 DAYS LATER (2002). Fans of unintentionally bad movies will find a lot to savor here.


A research scientist creates a deadly contagion while performing experiments on baboons in an effort to restore dead brain cells. A group of young college journalists plan to break into the doctors laboratory and one of them is bitten by an infected baboon. The virus spreads rapidly through scratches, or bites resulting in a mass slaughter on the college campus.

Bo Svenson and company prepare to 'Shock the Monkey'.

Brazenly stupid Italian horror movie has none of the verve and blood dripping energy of its Euro brethren from the 70's and early 80's. Michele Soavi seemed to be the only Italian director capable of turning out consistently good product at this time. What makes PRIMAL RAGE all the more disappointing is that it's a family affair with the Rambaldi clan. However, when I say disappointing, it's because that an award winning effects family couldn't have turned in a more polished movie than this. It's akin to the time another famous special effects ace, Gianetto De Rossi, took the helm of KILLER CROCODILE 2 (1990), a sequel to an already middling movie directed by Fabrizio De Angelis.


PRIMAL RAGE is a terrible movie, but one that fans with a sweet tooth for crap cinema will gleefully gobble up. From the very beginning the viewer instantly knows they are in for a riotously horrible good time. In fact, you're not even sure if what you're watching is a horror movie what with sappy opening resembling a teen sex comedy than anything else. If drivel like ZOMBIE 3 (1988) is your cup of tea, than PRIMAL RAGE will satisfy the beast inside. Probably the most fascinating (and that's about the only time such a respectable description will be used for this film) thing about this Umberto Lenzi scripted (using a pseudonym) production is how much it shares with the much later "zombie" hit, 28 DAYS LATER (2002). The similarities are quite astonishing (that's not to imply that there's anything remotely "astonishing" about PRIMAL RAGE aside from how astonishingly awful it is).


From the infected baboon, to the group that breaks into the lab housing the animal and the deadly "rage virus" itself, about the only real difference is that this poverty budgeted Italian non epic remains college bound while the Danny Boyle post apocalyptic nightmare is on a bigger scale. Still, what PRIMAL RAGE does reasonably right is in its plentiful gore effects which appear mostly during the last half. However, the scene with the insane baboon escaping the lab will have you pissing your pants with laughter. The sight of the infected baboon going ape shit, taking a bite out of a college snooper, then leaping through a window before being run over by a cop car all to the musical accompaniment of the metal group, Steel Grave is one of the funniest things I've seen in any movie.


The production crew had enough money in their budget for this incredibly realistic stunt mannequin employed to stand in for one of the actors during a crucial moment in the film.

While mostly for those who love good bad movies, there will be little, to nothing of interest for anyone else save for the most jaded of curiosity seekers. In addition, those who get off on subjecting themselves to all manner of painful torture will get a 90 minute cheap thrill. Bo Svenson looks both lost and embarrassed to have appeared in this delightfully smelly stinker. His participation was one of the reasons I purchased this disc, but he seems hopelessly miscast here as the doctor who is responsible for creating the deadly disease. He's much better suited to his tough guy roles.


The movie also apes (haha, get it? Baboon? Ape?) Dario Argento's propensity to lace his movies kill sequences with pounding metal music. Not only do you get a lot of head banging cues (courtesy of ex Goblin man, Claudio Simonetti and a band called Steel Grave), but you also get this seemingly interminable 80's style pop song that gets repeated several times. "Say the Word" is inexplicably hammered into your brain so you may be humming it for a time after the movie has ended whether you like it, or not. There's also other pitifully poppy 80's tunes to jam along with during the non horror sequences where the soundtrack automatically switches to metal mayhem.


More of a gore drenched version of a John Hughes movie, it's "complimented" (and I mean that as patronizing high praise) by an onslaught of 80's fashion sense and an aura that belies its Italian origins. It was shot in Miami, Florida and also with live sound which would make the most sense considering the predominantly American cast. The gorgeous Sarah Buxton is probably the most successful participant in the cast having gone on to a very prolific and recognizable career in television.

Not sure why this rapist decided to put a pantie over his head since he wasn't wearing one when he and his sex hungry friends kidnapped this infected woman.

For the most part, the acting is atrocious and the characters incredibly stupid. Nearly everyone in the film that isn't infected with the virus is afflicted with apparent nymphomania right down to the teachers who give good grades for "hard" work. Lenzi's script embraces every slasher cliche turning the proceedings into a funnier mess than many of those movies could ever hope to muster. One character leaves his car after its become apparent someone is outside and while wandering around in the woods utters, "I'm warning you, I know kung fu!"

I must admit this 'leaky faucet' gag is pretty damn funny. It gets better when the faucet on the OTHER side of this guys head begins leaking, too.

The aforementioned gore does come on fast and furious during the last twenty minutes or so during a Halloween costume party (I'm instantly reminded of NEON MANIACS during this sequence). Actually, the costumes here are very elaborate and fun to look at for there creativity. As for the gore--a guy gets his scalp ripped off, another poor sap gets his throat ripped out, skin is torn away from an arm, there's a hanging, a costumed victim is choked till they erupt blood everywhere, a head is lopped off, another has his head crushed in some bleachers and a guy is impaled through the mouth with a sharp implement among other things.


I could go on about the abject nuttiness and unintentional hilarity found in this goofy good time, but PRIMAL RAGE can be summed up best by two dialog exchanges between the two main protagonists towards the end of the movie: "It was all such a nightmare...", and "It'll be over soon."

This review is representative of the Code Red DVD


6 comments:

© Deliria said...

Fun review You got there. Steel Grave never existed, but there was a minor heavy metal band from Turin called GOW. The songs from OPERA were taken from one of their demos.

http://www.metal-archives.com/band.php?id=3540263297

venoms5 said...

Thanks for that, Deliria! I'd never heard of the name before seeing this movie. There's another movie called SHE (1983) with some metal tunes spread throughout including some from a band called BASTARD. I could never find anything on them. I kinda dug the score from that one.

Andrew Green said...

Looks incredible....
The title screen alone makes it worth checking out.

The Flying Maciste Brothers said...

A wonderful dummy-death! This was breakfast for us!

venoms5 said...

Two Brothers Maciste, where you guys been? Thanks for stopping by!

venoms5 said...

@ Andrew: Yeah, that shot of the jogger between the words 'Primal' and 'Rage' looks lovely, don't it?

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