Posts Tagged ‘rage virus

09
Sep
20

Primal Rage (1988) or Campus Monkey Trouble

“It’s a red-ass world, honey baby.” – Tow Truck Driver Guy, Primal Rage

a Primal Root written review

There’s a bit of a dynasty when it comes to malicious virus films. One of the earliest examples of a really solid puss spewing, blood gushing pandemic picture is Canadian body horror wunderkind, David Cronenberg’s 1977 underrated chunck blower, Rabid starring the late, great, Marilyn Chambers with her blood sucking arm pit vampire parasite that spreads a nightmare contagion which causes people exposed to it to go into heinous bouts of unmitigated violent rages and green bile spewage that culminates with the machine gun death of a department store Santa Claus which makes me laugh my ass off every single goddamn viewing. This might be the most popular of the genre to classic horror hounds, but there are plenty more the churned the masses into hordes of disgusting plague rats, like Georege Romero’s The Crazies, Cronenberg (yet again) with The Shivers (aka: They Came From Within), Luigi Cozzi and his torso exploding Contamination from 1980 and, of course, the countless SLEW of flesh devouring living dead films which I feel completely fall under this category, or at the very least, a sub category of the genre or whatever makes you comfortable. They’re kissing cousins.

Of course, this sort of shit it strictly for us consumers of such filth, where the rest of the pop culture palate prefers their apocalyptic end of the world scenarios served up a bit more palatable with films like the 1995 Dustin Hoffman vehicle, Outbreak, where the world can be saved if Cuba Gooding Jr. can spank the right monkey, and the genuinely unsettling 2011 Steven Soderbergh film, Contagion, which at the beginning of the 2020 pandemic was feeling a bit TOO prophetic.

However, decades before Acadamy Award Winning Filmmaker Danny Boyle would unleash his effectively nightmarish art house RAGE virus on an unwitting United Kingdom and post-apocalyptic, sexy, shirtless Cillian Murphy on the masses, there was a far more shlockier, trashier, brutally wacky and colorful rage virus unleashed right here in The Sunshine State of Florida, I am of course speaking of the 1988 contagious college campus carnage of the 1988 Trash Cinema Classic, PRIMAL RAGE!

Penned by Italian schlockmeister Umberto Lenzi, probably best known to us as the man who sparked the Italian cannibal film boom of the 1970’s with 1972’s The Man From Deep River (aka: Sacrifice) and directed by first time filmmaker Vittorio Rambaldi, 1988’s Primal Rage tells the story of a tiny pony tail sporting scientist named Dr. Ethridge (Bo Svenson of Kill Bill Vol. 2 and Inglorious Basterds fame) who does his well meaning experiments in a lab at an undisclosed Miami Florida college. See, Ethridge is experimenting on baboons in order to find a means of restoring dead brain tissue, which is noble enough if you leave out the animal cruelty. But wouldn’t you fucking know it, the guy goes and accidentally creates a fast acting rage virus that can be transmitted by bite, of course. Thankfully the powerful, infected, absolutely insane and uncontrollably violent baboon is locked in the lab behind the flimsy latch of an aluminum bird cage…

We are introduced to our protagonist, Sam Nash (Patrick Lowe from Slumber Party Massacre 2) who, when not cycling around the bustling college campus snapping photos of co-ed asses in late 80’s spandex jogging attire is attending the WHITEST African Hertiage Celebration Day I have ever seen documented on film. Sam is one of those hunky 80’s dudes with a mighty chin, upward arching eyebrows, a flawless tan and perfectly coifed hair. You know, REALLY dull. Turns out Sam works for the school newspaper with his roommate and genetic crossbreed between Hunter S. Thompson and Bobcat Goldthwait , Duffy (Mitch Watson, voice actor for Kung Fu Panda and Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated)) who is a hard edged investigative college rag reporter willing to do anything and hurt anyone in order to get the story on taco Tuesday, or whatever. We are introduced to Duffy as some sorority sisters come barging into the newspaper’s office screaming about cutting off Duffy’s balls.

This bespectacled, unshaven, most assuredly unwashed and far too into his own bullshit college kid who is willing to lose his genitals for the story is destined to be the life blood of the film…right? Not so fast, see, he goes to the lab for Sam in order to snap some shots of the animal cruelty going down on campus and simultaneously prove that Sam doesn’t have what it takes to be truly great journalist, like the willingness to break into private property. As one might guess, Duffy starts snapping shots WITH THE FLASH ON, and when the blood thirsty psychotic rage infected baboon starts losing it’s fucking mind when the flash goes off in it’s little face and begins violently trying to dismantle it’s enclosure, Duffy starts fucking taking shot after flash bulb shot while screaming at the caged up animal to “RELAX! TAKE IT EASY!” As you might have guessed, the test baboon tears it’s cage apart, beats the ever loving shit out of Duffy before biting a meaty chunk of the intrepid reporter’s arm, flings itself out the glass window, strolls around the parking lot and then attacks a cop car, smashing it’s misunderstood monkey head into the windshield, killing the poor little test baboon. And Duffy stumbles into the shadows…

Meanwhile, Sam has come to the rescue of a fellow co-ed who was about to get her car towed by flaunting his bottomless knowledge of Miami traffic ticketing laws and saves the day. This young lady is Lauren Daly (Cheryl Arutt of Murder, She Wrote and The Magical World of Disney fame) and she strikes up a flirtation with Sam immediately and the two decide to go on a double date where Lauren will be hooking the recently rage infected Duffy up with her new roommate, Debbie (Sarah Buxton from Rock ‘n’ Roll High School Forever and Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead) who is a math wiz and introduced herself to Lauren as having missed a good chunk of the semester because she had to get an abortion. Beats the typical boring, getting to know you chit-chat, I suppose…

Sam informs Duffy of the double dater and recommends he take a shower, with soap, wear clean clothes and not wear the same underwear he’s been wearing all week. Honestly, their little house on campus is kind of gross and exactly what you;d expect two college roomate brows to be living in. The point is driven home when Duffy, who stares it his now pulsating, oozing, gaping monkey bite would, reaches into his medicine cabinet, grabs an already open can of Old Milwaukee that’s been sitting there for who knows how long, and dumps the contents into the bloody, gore and puss drenched jagged meat canyon that was once his forearm and lets out a cry of agony he quickly muffles to keep up the charade that he wasn’t there when he made the baboon go berserk.

The foursome goes out to a local, dingy, college dive bar where Sam and LAuren dance the night away to 80’s pop and Duffy regales Debbie with stories of setting fire to locker rooms in order to avoid getting his ass kicked by those pesky jocks. What’s really intriguing is Debbie seems to picking up what Duffy is putting down and to both Duffy and the audience’s amazement, it looks like a bit of romance might be sparking here! And wouldn’t you know it, of course a trio of already violent, rude, rapey jocko’s happen upon the date and begin being complete scum bags to the ladies and gents present. What they don’t know is Duffy has a rage virus beginning to take hold and Duffy derails their asshole behavior with a few well place fist pokes and nearly breaking the ring leader’s arm. Afterwards, Duffy and Debbie go walking along and start to make-out despite Duffy being super pale, completely drenched in sweat and complaining of stomach cramps that sounds like he’s about to shit his pants. Despite all this, Debbie goes in for the lip lock, which is sweet enough, until Duffy violently pulls her in and ends up nipping her neck…two, TWO are now infected! Ah! Ah! Ah!

The next day, Duffy heads to the campus infirmary as the virus begins deeply taking hold. He freaks the fuck out int he waiting room and uncontrollably attacks everyone there, knocks over shelves and screams the entire time like a wild animal before running outside where some pulsating part of his temple bursts open, spewing blood all over the lush college campus greenery before he collapses to the gentle grass below. Does anyone rush to his aid or follow the screaming, bloody, rage fueled gusher of a man out into campus? Of course not! He falls to the ground and is left to recoup.

It’s about this time that Debbie begins feeling the nastiness of the rage virus and tries to keep a low profile as well with Lauren shrugging it off as the flu that’s been going round. But, of course, that trio of sociopath jocko psychos is on the prowl in their convertible for a woman to abduct and rape. Seriously. They are driving around campus hootin’ and hollerin’ looking for a victim like future conservative Supreme Court Justices when they spot the super pale, immensely sweaty, puke residue on her chin Debbie who is stumbling as if she is about to drop dead to the infirmary. She IS the only other living soul on campus at the moment in the middle of the night, so the fuck face frat fuckers nab her, try forcing her mouth open to pour Old Milwaukee down it and speed off to their unbelievably intricate rape room/apartment which is replete with a filthy cum soaked mattress, super loud stereo system and a ton of seizure inducing strobe lights. “I GO FIRST! I NEVER GET TO GO FIRST!” one bro shouts as they throw Debbie onto the crunchy comforter and he drops his denim revealing what I can only assure you are yellow pee stained tighty whities. It’s a gut churning feeling knowing these scumbags are all too familiar with this act of violation and that we actually live in a world where subhuman shit liquid like these three actually exist, and I do give the filmmakers a ton of credit for showing this sort of act as being absolutely horrifying, dehumanizing and beyond repulsive.

Thankfully, it is right at this moment when the rage virus takes hold of Debbie giving her super human strength, invulnerability and a need to spread the disease. She makes short order of the three bros, flinging them across the room, beating the shit out of them and managing to sink her teeth into all three, before rushing out of there and into the night. The virus takes 24 hours to fully take hold, which means these three murderous rapist pieces of shit will become UBER murderous rapist pieces of shit just in time for…HALLOWEEN.

Will Sam somehow become interesting and seal the deal with Lauren? Will our two protagonists find a cure for the rage virus in time to save Duffy and Debbie? Will Dr. Ethridge be exposed as a fucking horrendously irresponsible mad scientist who is willingt o sacrifice numerous young, sexy co-ed flesh in order to reanimate brain matter, or will he just get what’s coming to him? And will campus EVER be the same after the Three Amigos of Rape and Murder put on their grim reaper costumes and go on a killing spree at the universities Halloween Festival? Trust me, it’s WELL worth finding out.

vittorio rambaldi | Tumblr

Primal Rage is actually a really effective, inventive and dare I say fun contagion horror film that works on a bunch of different levels. From creating a bunch of colorful characters that are well written for the most part with lively dialog to a genuine feeling of dread as you watch this virus spread from person to person and an excellent knack for shoving gratuitous, explosive, highly creative violence in to shake things up if they start to get a little bogged down in plot talk. Sam is a bit of a drag, but most lead male protagonists are in these sorts of film. But everyone else rocks their rolls, especially Duffy who goes for broke in his grungy college guy trying to be cool and offbeat performance. Also, a big kudos to the three actors who play the evil virus fueled murder rapists, Lovejoy (Doug Sloan), Chas (Luis Valderrama) and Bryan (John Baldwin) for bringing three of the most heinously unlikable villains to malicious, joyful life. The are a pretty intimidating threesome of nastiness who when we are first introduced to them are almost played for comedic affect, like the typical horny guys in an American Pie movie. But as the film progresses their characters become a nightmarish commentary on the nature of rape culture and making light of this sort of behavior. It’s pretty fucking bold and way ahead of the pack. And once these three put on those grim reaper costumes, and begin violently killing random costumed Halloween revelers, it’s one Hell of a fucking spectacle. I don’t enjoy spoiling things, but these three skid marks get what’s coming to them, thankfully.

All in all, Primal Rage is a shit kicker of a late 80’s horror film when many pop culture commentators were claiming horror was dying out at the time. It’s a film that fools around with expectations, take full advantage of it’s location on a college campus, despite not having ANY nudity at all, (NOT EVEN IN THE DAMN SHOWER SCENE!) and doesn’t skimp around on the positively fantastic physical gore effects and make-up. When we are treated to close ups of the faces of those infected, it looks extremely legit, gross and painful.

Turns out, to my own shock and amazement, they were brought to life by Oscar winner Carlo Rambaldi who did effects work on such legendary mainstream flicks as Spielberg’s E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Ridley Scott’s Alien, Silver Bullet and even The Neverending Story. Oddly, it looks like this film, Primal Rage, which was directed by his son, would be his swan song. He retired from the business as CGI became more common place in film. Rambaldi sadly passed away in 2012, but his legacy lives on in those truly remarkable and believable character creations he built from the ground up in front of the camera in those final days when physical effects were at their pinnacle.

For years, Primal Rage was incredibly hard to come by on any format other than VHS. Thankfully, Dark Force Releasing has done us Trash Cinema fans a huge favor and released a great transfer of the film on blu-ray for us to finally savor in all it’s sickeningly gross, bloody, puss soaked, rage fueled glory. I highly recommend was I consider one of the greatest lost gems of the dying days of the late 80’s slasher horror boom. One that threw the conventions of the genre to the wind and created something unique, bold and highly entertaining. A film I cannot help but wonder if Danny Boyle ever watched before penning 2002’s 28 Days Later. I cannot help but see a spark of inspiration there.

Yes, grab your vomit bag and soak in the unconventional horrors of Vittorio Rambaldi’s ultra sloppy rage virus run amok freak out, PRIMAL RAGE!

I award this nutzoid flick FOUR out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets. I highly recommend this one.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

WARNING: Trailer Contains Spoilers



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