REVIEW: Primal Rage (1988)

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From the makers of Welcome to Spring Break come this horror tale that taps into primitive actions but amped up in this B-movie horror film.

Sam Nash is a photographer for the local college newspaper. He has been constantly harassed by his best friend Frank Duffy to do an expose on illegal experimentation on monkeys in the science lab. Sam, however, doesn’t want to get involved until all the facts are revealed. Going to great lengths to prove that something is not adding up, Duffy goes to the lab late at night and finds a monkey inside a cage. Taking pictures of the monkey, Duffy thinks he has the proof. However, the monkey breaks out of the cage and bites Duffy before escaping through the window only to get killed after the police arrive and are stunned.

As Sam gets long with new student Lauren, Lauren introduces him to her roommate Debbie. Sam offers Duffy a date with Debbie and the two seem to hit it off. The next day, an ill Duffy goes to the clinic to get checked out. He exhibits some rage when he impatiently waits. All of a sudden, Duffy apparently faints. That night, he awakens and has mutated, attacking a policeman. Meanwhile, Debbie begins to go through a sudden change and when three frat boys plot to attack her, she unleashes her rage attack against the frat boys. When Sam discovers what has happened, he and Lauren must find a way to stop the raging attacks before more get infected.

From Italian director Vittorio Rambaldi comes this horror film that tapes into the primitive rage of humans that delves into madness. The first half hour of the film kind of starts slow but provides a good set up of the characters who are involved. There’s the required innocent couple in photographer Sam and freshman Lauren, played by Patrick Lowe and Cheryl Arutt, who must find a way to stop the chaos when their best friends find themselves injected by an accidentally discovered “rage virus” when moneys are being experimented on. Lowe’s other memorable appearance in a horror film was that of being the first true victim of the Driller Killer in Slumber Party Massacre II a year before so it is more better to see him play the hero this time around.

The first to get infected in the film is Sam’s best friend Duffy, played by Mitch Watson. An overexcited reporter desperate to get an expose on the experiments, he starts out feeling unwell but well enough to go on a date with Lauren’s best friend Debbie, played by Sarah Buxton, who would go on to a successful career in Hollywood. While this takes about half hour for the film to pick up, it is well worth the wait as when we see the infected in rage modes, they look quite nasty and proceed to kill anyone who stand in their ways, showing that primitive side that has long been dormant but awoken from the virus.

What brings more chaos is the scene where Debbie is attacked by campus bully Lovejoy and his goons. Using a pretty good strobe-light effect, Debbie’s rage is unleashed and she infects the trio of thugs with all going down at the campus Halloween party. The theme music by Goblin’s Claudio Simonetti is fantastic and fits the rage that is unleashed. Add to the mix the special effects by Carlo and Alex Rambaldi, in which the infected all have a look that shows a bit of disfigurement that looks quite nasty. The film does make good of the setting of Florida International University in Miami as it looks like all of the film was shot there and in nearby locales.

Primal Rage is quite an interesting entry in the 80’s horror genre, bringing something fresh such as a deadly outbreak on campus and breaking the stereotype of having the “final girl” and instead have a “final couple”. Some decent special effects and Simonetti’s score really drive the film as well.

WFG RATING: B

Laguna Entertainment presents an Elpico S.A. production. Director: Vittorio Rambaldi. Producer: William J. Immerman. Writer: Harry Kirkpatrick. Cinematography: Antonio Climati. Editing: John Rawson.

Cast: Patrick Lowe, Cheryl Arutt, Sarah Buxton, Mitch Watson, Bo Svenson, Doug Sloan, Luis Valderrama, John Baldwin, Turk Harley, Jennifer Hingel, Barry Schreiber.

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