Primal Rage (1988)

Primal Rage is a rare example of a horror movie that manages to create some degree of tension due entirely to a pre-production fuck-up. When the filmmakers decided not to cast the highly appealing soap star Sarah Buxton as their female lead, but instead as the female lead’s doomed roommate, they made it impossible for viewers not to agonize over the likelihood of her eventual fate — if only because she’s the only remotely sympathetic person in the entire picture. That her painful descent into madness and violent death is suggested to be an indirect punishment for a previous abortion only makes Rage that much more infuriating.

An Italian production shot in the States, the movie is about what happens when university professor Bo Svenson (sporting the most pathetic ponytail in the entire history of mad science) experiments on a monkey, which then goes on to bite a muckracking student journalist who contracts a contagious disease that turns all of its victims (all five of them) into zombie-like homicidal maniacs.

Written by Umberto Lenzi, the auteur responsible for the infamous Cannibal Ferox, and directed by Vittorio Rambaldi, the son of Oscar-winning E.T. FX artist Carlo Rambaldi, Primal Rage is — with the exception of one decapitation near the end — virtually gore-free and filled with cheap-looking effects.

Despite the film being ineffective even as unintentional camp, horror completists might want to watch it as a double feature with Slumber Party Massacre II, if only to make their way through star Patrick Lowe’s entire filmography in just one sitting. —Allan Mott

Buy it at Amazon.

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