Code Red // 1988 // 91 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Judge Ike Oden (Retired) // July 23rd, 2010
"Lauren, I killed Duffy and burned his apartment to the ground...I'll never be a journalist!"
Do you like Italian horror films? Do the names Umberto Lenzi and Claudio Simonetti warm the cockles of your gore loving heart? Does the thought of Bo Svenson (Kill Bill: Volume 2) in thick rimmed glasses and a Steven Segal pony tail send you into fits of never ending laughter? If you answered "yes" to two or more of these questions, Primal Rage is probably for you.
Nash (Patrick Lowe, Slumber Party Massacre II) is an aspiring college journalist whose cherry red Vespa and non-threatening good looks make him our protagonist. When his best friend, a would-be Gonzo journalist named Duffy (Mitch Watson, Ben 10: Race Against Time), tries to steal an exposé on resident mad scientist and "monkey abuser," Etheridge (Svenson), the milquetoast Raoul Duke is bitten by a genetically supercharged orangutan. To the chagrin of Nash and Duffy's newfound love interests, Lauren (Cheryl Alrutt, The Perfect Bride) and Debbie (Sara Buxton, Bedtime Stories), the rage virus spreads throughout campus. A predictable zombie outbreak plays out every cliché of the subgenre, giving the viewers rage-infected frat boy gang rapists, meditations on Gonzo journalism, impromptu (and I mean totally out-of-nowhere) Halloween parties, and overtly horny geometry professors.
Okay, you got me. Primal Rage is anything but predictable. Its an "infected persons" movie with a set-up eerily similar to that of Danny Boyle's 2002 opus 28 Days Later. But rather than spark your stereotypical rash of legions upon legions of raging-monkey-zombie college students, the film takes off on bizarre tangents more fit for a Revenge of the Nerds sequel than an Italian horror film. Thus, we're given a genre grab bag held together by razor sharp cinematography; a soundtrack mix tape of cheesy '80s pop; Goblin-esque synth cues (recycled from Simonetti's work on Dario Argento's Opera); plentiful, mean spirited gore; and a supporting cast of painfully quirky characters. The art direction is a pastiche of '80s pop cultural artifacts (Spuds Mackenzie and Timothy Dalton-era Bond posters abound), the acting is soap opera level, and the script is clearly Umberto Lenzi's (pseudonym "Harry Kirkpatrick") stilted and misguided interpretation of American college life. In a word, Primal Rage is a hilariously bad, ridiculously entertaining movie that'll be loved by most Eye-Talian horror film buffs. If you're reading this review, I assume that's probably you.
Unfortunately, the DVD received was a screener disc, bereft of any extras beyond vintage trailers for upcoming Code Red releases such as Horror High. The 1.78 anamorphic transfer was a bit scratchy at times, but impressive given the source material, and may not be indicative of final retail product. The Dolby 2.0 stereo mix was clean and clear. According to Code Red's blog, this is Primal Rage uncut for the first time on home video, though without any extras to put this decision in perspective, I'm not entirely sure how different it is from other home video releases.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Code Red
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Release Year: 1988
MPAA Rating: Unrated