If you’ve ever seen 28 Days Later, the plot of Primal Rage may sound a little familiar, but on a much smaller scale… Sam Nash is a Florida college journalist is looking for a story. That quest leads him to Dr. Ethridge (Bo Svenson – with and awesome little mulleted ponytail, btw) who is conducting experiments on a baboon, trying to revitalize dead brain cells in the primate’s brain. Sam can’t get any face time with Dr. Ethridge, so his journalism buddy Duffy suggests that he break into the lab to get some recon for his story. Sam refuses to do it, so Duffy goes instead and unleashes a fury that rocks the small college campus.
It seems that the experiments that Dr. Ethridge is working on revitalizes a protein in the baboon’s brain that puts it in a rage-like state – and once it’s been pushed towards the edge, it jumps whole hog right off the cliff driving it crazy to kill. Unfortunately for Duffy, the flash from his camera drives this baboon to break out of his cage, bite him, and run off into the night to ultimately get hit by a car. The bite on Duffy’s arm gradually worsens and he starts to exhibit the same rage-like symptoms that the baboon was showing. Throw in a date with Sam’s girlfriend’s roomate, a little kissing and nip on the neck… you can see where this is going. Soon, Sam is getting that face time with Dr. Ethridge, but not in the capacity he was looking for. Now, he’s trying to find a cure for his friend Duffy before this rage spreads across campus and beyond.
At the onset, Primal Rage almost seems like an 80’s college comedy, complete with kitschy pop theme song which plays not once or twice, but three times throughout the movie. The song actually is so off for this movie, you have to wonder what the hell they were thinking when they decided to include it so often. It adds even more credibility to this actually being a comedy with the love story between Sam and Lauren, and with the overacting of the ridiculous frat guys, and especially the character Lovejoy, who sounds like he’s got the worst case of constipation during each line he delivers. If there wasn’t the scientific experiment introduced early in the movie, you could probably go half way into the film without even knowing it’s a horror movie.
While it isn’t exactly scary, it is an extremely entertaining movie. I laughed quite a bit at the ridiculousness of most of it, and the aforementioned overacting got a few laughs from me too. The special effects are heavy on the rubber mask side, but the makeup that was used for each “rage” victim was done really well, and was easily on the level of a good zombie flick. One thing I didn’t understand while watching was that a lot of the gore seemed like it was shot out of the frame, and there was one death scene in particular where one of the rage infected people killed a campus police officer and all you saw was the person reaching out, and then the cop with a painful look on his face. That left some of these scenes a little unsatisfying, but there were some good effects near the end that made up for that. The entire dance scene near the end of the movie has the most laughable kills of the film, including faucets pouring blood, and a set of bleachers that gets closed an a pursuer’s head.
While Primal Rage isn’t particularly scary, it does have some interesting ideas, and pretty decent compared to some of the other Italian horror films released in the mid 80’s. Also, it doesn’t have a lot of scares, and it does try for a few pretty cheap startling ones that you can see coming. I’m a big fan of the 80’s high school/college setting, and this film did a good job capturing that. It doesn’t have a lot of scares, and does try for a few pretty cheap startling ones. Despite having scientific undertones, you never feel like you have to think to understand what’s going on, and I especially thought the computer equipment used early in the movie was pretty funny. Primal Rage is definitely a mindless horror movie that should keep you entertained, and for that reason I give it 3.5 skull crushes out of 5.