Directed by Christopher Witherspoon
Who knew 40 years ago, a TV movie by an unknown director named Steven Spielberg would still be influencing filmmakers today? With Duel, Spielberg made a statement about man's isolation against a force of nature or something like that.
That's where Rage draws it's inspiration from and because of this influence, director/producer/editor Chris Witherspoon even drew up a scene commenting on what the metaphor might be. One can make up comparisons but I'm pretty sure Generation Y and Z have never seen Duel. So Rage becomes it's own malevolent little indie that takes cat vs mouse to a whole new level. What Witherspoon has created is a tense, suspenseful and amped movie about a ordinary Oregonian with his share of secrets and thrown him into a deadly game vs a masked villain whose motivations are also hidden in secrecy.
Rage plays with it's audience so well, I even got duped by its overall simplicity (I'll explain in a bit). It's a mix of Hitchcockian slickness, Twilight Zone twistiness and Spielberg terror magic. Sure it's hindered by its low budget and some odd flashback placement but overall it's an entertaining movie that plays out like a long riddle of emotion.
Rage tricked me big time and it's why it was so much fun.
A thirty something man who lives in a suburb just outside of Portland says goodbye to his beautiful and loving wife and heads into town. There he unintentionally provokes the wrath of a mysterious motorcyclist. The confrontation between the two, sets in motion a day long battle. Beginning in the form of harmless taunts then quickly escalating into something more serious and then into something unimaginable.
So we get to hang out with Dennis Twist (Rick Crawford), a 30 something writer from Portland, OR who with his wife Crystal (Audrey Walker) live the American suburban life. But all is not well with the Dennis. He has a few secrets and on his day off, we're going to see all of them. As he drives off in his SUV we see him get into a scuffle with a black helmeted motorcyclist over a parking spot. Dismissed, he meets with his mistress who he breaks off an affair and also meets with a friend where they discuss his failed writing career.
Soon the stalking of Dennis begins and the motorcyclist is appearing at every angle. He is taunted at a red light, then his car gets keyed is only the beginning. Later his breaks are cut and a random beatdown at a bathroom get it all into the bit of ultra violence. Dennis plays mouse and our Darth Vader mute (he doesn't speak throughout the film) are gaming it up for all of us to see. It's not until Dennis gets home does all shit hit the fan. Uber gorehounds with rejoice in the splatterific scenes involving chainsaws, stab-o-palooza and an uncomfortable rape-ture. The end of Rage is pure madness and one final twist breaking down what the fuck just happened is the WTF of the entire movie.
Let me get what irked me out of the way. There is a bit of bad acting by all (Dennis's neighbors are cardboardy) and Rick Crawford who plays Dennis goes in and out of his Irish accent on more than one occasion. During highly emotional scenes, none of our actors can emote above a 5. But overall Crawford plays a mousey mouse well and shows a man littered with guilt and believes karma is out to get him.
Witherspoon also added a few B/W tinted flashbacks of scenes that only happened 5 minutes before. I have no idea why these were added. I'm pretty certain I was following along and didn't need a reminder. There were also a few odd camera angles that had me scratching my head ( a lunch scene in particular was a bit odd)
But these can be forgiven because Witherspoon for an indie does a nice job of getting SUV vs motorcycle shots all over Portland. Solid camera work for on the location shooting and I was impressed. It's a testament to Witherspoon's ability to make low level speeding into car chasing awesome.
Rage is clearly a guessing game. Witherspoon plays with the audience tossing in clues and red herrings to get us emotionally vested as well as riddling all of us. His mistress ex BF might be the man under the helmet but we savvy vets are ultimately going with the Twilight Zone route and expect somebody else. Everybody wants to know who this road rager is and why he might be doing it but it's not until the end do we get a clear explanation. At first, I thought I had been gypped, that all that had occurred was too far fetched for our stalker to go through to exact revenge.
But I remembered a scene Witherspoon inserted mid way in where cordial social parking protocol was followed and realized what I was watching. The movie wants you to believe our psychopathic biker is the embodiment of karma, what goes around comes around. Our man Dennis has to pay for his transgressions, for all the evil that he has done to his wife and to others. It's a brilliant play on the audience's preconceived notions of what we SHOULD expect. But the world is a much simpler place. People get angry for the stupidest and dumbest reasons and real ultra violence happens for far less. I mean people got beatdown for retro Air Jordans, wedding dresses and an Xbox during Black Friday madness.
All the clues lead to Rage. It's the damn title in the movie and the clues are littered throughout peaking at that scene I mentioned earlier. Witherspoon's Rage is so creatively smart that even the best cinema-phile might have been duped. It's one of the best movies I saw in 2011 and I'm going to keep my eyes on Witherspoon (he played the biker BTW). In a few years, we might be calling it Witherspoon terror magic instead.
Stabby stab stab stab
The reveal at the end
The Jaded Viewer's Final Prognosis
I get a lot of indie screeners sent to me and I toss them into a pile and figure I'll get to them eventually. But the horror blogosphere is getting this little indie the buzz it deserves and I decided to watch it based on the hype.
Rage has no release date but it has won tons of awards. Rage won top honors at the 2011 Horror Quest Film Festival in Atlanta, Georgia. Rage screened in festivals across America and all over the world including the Oldenburg International Film Festival in Oldenburg, Germany and the Cryptshow Film Festival in Barcelona, Spain.
Hopefully Witherspoon gets a distributor so the horror universe can see this awesome bad boy.
Check out the trailer.