When Italians and Americans team up to make a new spin on zombies and plague films, you get the delightfully weird, wild, and gory Primal Rage. No relation to the hit video game, Vittorio Rambaldi directs this odd slice of 80s horror that intermittently thrills and entertains with violent gore and effects from legendary Carlo Rambaldi! On 4K from Vinegar Syndrom, the flick scores an excellent A/V presentation with a nice assortment of bonus features. Worth A Look
It’s one thing to ape (pun not intended) one George Romero movie, but two? Made during that weird 80s phase of low-budget horror productions shot in Florida (and partially in Canada), Primal Rage is a mishmash of horror tropes and plots smushed into that disjointed lens of what Italians thought Americans looked and acted like. At times it doesn't make a whole lot of sense, plot points sort of stumble over themselves, but if you’re a seasoned gorehound, it pays off when and where it counts most.
Taking some cues from Romero’s The Crazies and Night of the Living Dead, local reporter Frank Duffy (Mitch Watson) and his collegiate protege Sam Nash (Patrick Lowe) break into a research lab to uncover the truth about questionable animal testing. When the test baboon breaks out a bites Frank, the reporter becomes infected with a virus that turns its host into rage-fueled zombies. As the number of infected rises and the body parts pile up, it’ll be up to Sam and his girlfriend Lauren (Cheryl Arutt) to end the nightmare.
To be up front, it’s difficult to speak about Primal Rage in terms of “good” or “bad.” While the film delivers some great gore and horror effects with plenty of eye-ripping bodily dismemberment carnage, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. Are the infected completely mindless? Do they have any sense of what they’re doing? What are the rules? Some of the infected seem completely mindless and will chew on anyone that comes along, others seem to be driven to a specific goal. Then there’s the filler that offers up more padding than a Sealy and could well put you to sleep just as fast. Thankfully the short run time keeps the action moving and Vittorio Rambaldi holds the show together long enough for dear old Oscar-winning dad Carlo to show off his visual effects prowess.
Overall Primal Rage is an entertaining jaunt into 80s Amero-Italiano horror cinema. It’s not a great movie and it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but it does just enough right to hold your attention. It takes pieces and bits from a lot of classic horror films, chews them up and then regurgitates them back onto the screen. Even through all of the filler, there’s an interesting energy to the picture where you can believe there was once a strong idea written down somewhere. It'd been years since I last looked at this movie even remotely sober and I was amused to see that the plague started with a rage-infested baboon. Not sure if that was a purposefull jumping off point for Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later but this film almost works as a pseudo-prequel. Those looking for a smart film that breaks new ground in the genre probably won’t find it here. But for folks looking for ample bloody body bits chewed and ripped off their respective hosts, the film delivers just enough to keep you invested. I had fun, but I definitely found myself laughing more than shuddering and howling more than shrieking.
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
Primal Rage infects 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray in a new two-disc 4K UHD + Blu-ray edition from Vinegar Syndrome. Pressed on a BD-66 disc with a Region Free BD-50 for 1080p, the discs are housed in a sturdy two-disc case without being stacked. Insert artwork is reversible and if you ordered from Vinegar Syndrome it comes with a slipcover with raised text features. The disc loads to an animated main menu.
Primal Rage gnashes its teeth on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray with an impressive new HDR10 2160p 1.85:1 transfer. Not that long ago in 2020, Dark Force Entertainment released this film on Blu-ray. I never got a look at it personally, but I heard overall positive things - ultimately I can’t speak to any differences as I haven’t been able to find a copy at a decent price. But when all is said and done, this new Vinegar Syndrome release is quite impressive. The last time I had seen this film was on DVD ages ago and this is an easy clear improvement. Details are immaculate with sharp lines and textures. Those 80s fashions never looked better… or worse depending on how you look at it. Facial features, all of the great makeup, and gore effects come through with crystal clarity and a nice healthy cinematic grain structure.
HDR10 has been well applied with bold colors, strong contrast, and impressive black levels. Primaries get a lot of work and attention throughout the film but never appear too hot or oversaturated. Skin tones are healthy without looking peached or too whites are crisp without unsightly blooming and black levels are nice and inky with strong shadows. Source elements are in good shape without any serious wear and tear to speak of.
On the audio front, we get to enjoy a solid DTS-HD MA 2.0 track. The dialog is clear throughout without issue. Sound effects can sound a bit thick and canned, but that’s part of the overall charm. When the big action-filled or gory bits are on screen there’s plenty of attention paid to all of the squishy bits. Imaging is on point giving plenty of space and channel movement for the bigger more active sequences, especially the last act when all the mayhem breaks loose. Free of any hiss or age-related issues, a clean clear track to enjoy.
As is the case with most Vinegar Syndrome releases, the bonus features package is an ace. While not plentiful, they make up for quantity with quality. The head of the pack is the new Making-Of documentary Baboon Bite Maniacs! featuring various cast and crew members. Between everyone involved, there’s plenty of detail and anecdotes to fill in the feature-length runtime for a breezy interesting look at the making of the film. After that, we get a brief interview with producer Bill Immerman from 2020 who gives a few extra tidbits about the film with some extra detail not covered in the main “Making-of” documentary. Rounding out the show is a still gallery with a bunch of behind-the-scenes pics. Again, not a lot, but at least quality material worth checking out.
Primal Rage is a weird wild and crazy film, but it’s a lot of fun. Directed by Vittorio Rambaldi - Son of legendary effects master Carlo Rambaldi who also did effects work on this picture, Primal Rage is a wild mashup of genres and horror sensibilities. It doesn’t always work, but when it does you get some impressive bloody gore to feast on. Featuring an eager cast of young actors, there’s plenty of blood and mayhem to satisfy gorehounds for an entertaining evening at your home theater.
Vinegar Syndrome delivers a first-rate 4K release offering a bold and often beautiful HDR10 transfer. The DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio is strong and gets the job done and there are some interesting worthwhile bonus features to dig into. A good crowd-pleaser, Primal Rage is a fun show to throw on for an evening of simple brainless entertainment and it makes a solid 4K entry. Worth A Look