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Rage On!

Rage On!

It’s been 10 years since Robert Kurtzman’s The Rage was released on DVD. Shot entirely in Ohio, this horror film notably touts Oscar-caliber special effects makeup despite its extremely low budget.

Kurtzman was the “K” in K.N.B. EFX, a powerhouse of special effects artists that have crafted the much loved movie magic of most of Hollywood’s seminal blockbusters through the ‘90s and beyond. Kurtzman moved back to Ohio from Hollywood in 2002 to start Creature Corps, a special effects makeup studio in his hometown of Crestline. This move altered the course of his creature creation and special effects wizardry, as well as jump starting the careers of others.

Beki Ingram, one of the top contestants for SyFy Channel’s first season of Face Off, a special effects makeup competition reality show, came from the tutelage of Kurtzman’s Crestline studios. Alan Tuskes, who served as the lighting supervisor on The Rage and also played “Gor” on screen, recently wrapped working on Native Son which was lensed in Cleveland. Kurtzman recently finished working on the new film from George Romero’s son, Rise of the Living Dead; the new Tate Taylor film, Ma, for Blumhouse Productions; and the hit television show The Walking Dead with his old partner, the “N” of KNB Effects, Greg Nicotero.

The Rage centers on a mad scientist crafting a biological weapon that amplifies anger and transforms people with murderous results. An unwilling test subject escapes the secluded laboratory only to become dinner to several dozen hungry buzzards. These birds then carry this virus en masse and infect all they can attack.

Cue the hot and horny 20-somethings who exist to end up in the wrong place at the wrong time, and I’m not talking about the guest appearance by Cleveland’s own shock rockers, Mushroomhead. The music videos for Mushroomhead songs “12 Hundred” and “Damage Done” were both filmed on set of The Rage, and are featured in the bonus materials of the films DVD. While Mushroomhead provided tracks and a cameo in the film, the score was performed by the gothic orchestral stylings of Chardon’s own Midnight Syndicate. You may have even heard some of Midnight Syndicate’s eerie soundtracks played at Cedar Point during Halloweekends.

Throughout the film are several nods to Ohio folklore. The zombie buzzards seem to be drawn from Buzzard Day in Hinckley, the March 15 celebration when buzzards return each year to circle the skies above the Metroparks in search of meat. More inspiration seems drawn from the infamous Dr. Crow and his “Melon Heads;” human guinea pigs tortured with unethical experimentation.

Tipping the hat to these pieces of Ohio folklore is what makes The Rage stand taller than a generic masked slasher running through the woods, especially when coupled with the cast. Andrew Divoff, the demon genie of Wishmaster, stars as our mad scientist. Reggie Bannister from the Phantasm franchise makes a gory cameo. Prolific underground actress, Erin Brown, better known as Misty Mundae among B-movie aficionados, gives her all. The Rage ends up playing out like The Island of Dr. Moreau on crystal meth.There’s blood, guts, dodgy CGI, and amazingly awful one-liners, a perfect time capsule of late 2000s horror. Everything here is perfect for six-pack cinema; tossing back cold ones with your buddies late at night and giving Mystery Science Theater 3000 a run for their money with your own Buckeye State-themed commentary.

The Rage is often unheard of by many horror cinephiles, as there was already quite a lot of noise coming from Hollywood, and even overseas, that drowned out the film’s release to DVD. Think back to 2008 and you may recall horror film fans were regaled with Twilight, Saw V, Repo: The Genetic Opera, The Happening, and Cloverfield in addition to foreign smash hits like Let the Right One In and Martyrs. With a release slate like that, it’s no wonder The Rage was more than overshadowed at the box office and beyond.

There was a limited-run series of comic book stories that told the prequel of the film titled Beneath the Valley of The Rage that was initially released by Fangoria Comics. Hopes were high once to film a prequel or sequel based on these comics, but sadly never came to fruition. Now, 10 years later, it’s time to dust off this DVD and see all the blood-soaked love for Ohio it has to offer.

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