Friday, February 10, 2012

Pre-Release Screening Room: Rage!

Rage  (Big Screen Ventures, 2010)

Before the Camera:

Rick Crawford

Audrey Walker

Jo Black-Jacob 

Spencer Conway

Anna Lodej

M.L. Maltz

Richard Topping

Chris Witherspoon  (the film's driving force - pun intended)
The Biker
Behind the Camera:
Written, Produced, Photographed, Edited, and Directed by Christopher R. Witherspoon
Suzanne Mitchell .... executive producer

Joe Shore .... executive producer

Darrell E. Smith .... producer

Shawn P. Smith .... producer

Cheryl Waters .... executive producer

The movie opens with Dennis Twist (Crawford), a regular guy having a regular day in regular old Portland, Oregon. He kisses his wife goodbye in the morning, chats with his neighbor about helping get a tree cut down - and drives off into the city to run some errands. But as we spend more time with him, we realize that Dennis is having a bit of a rough go at the moment. Some of what he's going through isn't his fault - he's not had much success with his writing, but it's not from lack of trying - and some of his current problems are very much his fault - he's been having an affair. He's made the decision to end the dalliance, and that's actually one of his errands. But pulling into a parking spot in the city, Dennis is momentarily distracted from the phone call he's on by a man on a motorcycle honking his horn at Dennis. Is he trying to get Dennis's attention, or is he honking for another reason? Regardless, Dennis waves him off and goes on with his day, and it is at this point that Dennis Twist's completely mundane, utterly normal, totally regular day - spirals down into violence, madness, and sheer utter horror. Dennis Twist has just met The Biker.

    As the day continues, Dennis breaks off the affair with his mistress, but it goes badly. And then The Biker turns up again, gouging a huge scratch into Dennis's car. Things escalate from there, with each man taking turns pursuing and being pursued. Then The Biker assaults Dennis in a men's room, and sabotages his brakes while he's out of the car. Now in fear for his life, Dennis now tries to simply escape the motorcycle riding madman - but it's not going to be that easy. Believing that his nemesis might be the former boyfriend of his now ex-lover out for revenge, perhaps even at her behest, Dennis seems to make his escape and heads home. But he hasn't escaped, as The Biker soon turns up at his house. And as bad as this day has been up to this point for Dennis Twist, now, thanks to The Biker - it's about to get A WHOLE LOT WORSE.

I am a big fan of Steven Spielberg's TV movie Duel, which pitted staid businessman Dennis Weaver against a crazed and almost completely unseen trucker in a big rig after Weaver cuts the truck off on the freeway. Reading about Rage and the connections it has thematically it has to the earlier movie intrigued me. What would happen if you took that creep out from behind the wheel of a semi tractor trailer - one of the largest, least maneuverable vehicles on the road - and instead put him on a motorcycle - one of the fastest, most maneuverable vehicles on the road? Rage takes that notion and runs with it. The Biker is so frightening because he can whip around on that cycle, go anywhere faster than a car, hide it out of sight, and get on foot in seconds. Intrigued by this notion, I sat down ready to enjoy Rage.

I enjoyed Rage! Firstly, it's a really nice looking movie - with gorgeous and crisp cinematography layered carefully across a beautiful 2.35:1 frame. The actors are all at least good led by Crawford coming across as likable and low key as Dennis. One of my minor quibbles with the movie is how little we see of Audrey Walker - as she proves a very solid screen presence in the last third of the movie, but I understand it would have been difficult to work her in much more without throwing off the carefully balanced cat-and-mouse game between the boys over in the city. Of course, a movie like this can live or die with the performance of the bad guy - and luckily Chris Witherspoon the actor pulls off a very driven performance as the helmeted hardass. The supporting cast has a couple of small weak spots, but the movie is smart and keeps the focus on the two antagonists so that even the less seasoned performers are adequate in the film. Everything else about the production is fine, and kudos to the script for keeping the action moving to the boiling point, and for finding a measure of intensity that gives the movie a very sharp edge - not unlike The Texas Chainsaw Massacre - not really that graphic - but it feels graphic, because it gets so raw in the climactic scenes. My only complaints about the movie - there is a scene where two extraneous characters talk about the TV movie Duel, as I guess Mr. Witherspoon's way of acknowledging the earlier movie, and owning this movie's debt to it in the borrowing of its basic plotline, but it is a little too on the nose for me, and took me out of the movie for a moment. But that was only a brief moment, and everything else about the movie worked for me.

In the end, it's a very well constructed piece of cinematic architecture - laying down a solid foundation  of character, then building on it with ever more exciting and nervewracking scenes leading up to the invasion of the Twist home, when horror becomes the new tenant, and no one who lives there will ever be the same again.

Right now Christopher Witherspoon is working to get Rage a distribution deal; and in the meantime Rage is getting booked into several festivals and conventions across the country. If you get a chance to see it with an audience by all means do - this is the kind of movie that would work really well in a theater setting. But regardless - when Rage becomes available - check it out!

Until next post, you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!


  1. Hmm.. I'm semi-intrigued. I was a huge fan of Duel. But, I don't like crotch rocket bikers. They're like large mosquitos. They're fast, but stick your foot out and you can kick em over. LOL If the dude is riding a Harley, I'm all on board.

    Still, it does sound kind of cool and since it has impressed you, I will check it out when I can.

  2. I can tell this is my kind of movie! I love Duel and I simply adore black biker helmets since I first laid eyes on Night School! I'm so gonna anticipate for this film!

  3. I heard about it a few weeks ago. Looks pretty interesting, although the motorcycle-helmet-guy doesn't look as impressive as the one from Night School. Nevertheless, I put this on my must-see list

  4. Mel - I am motorcycle deficient - all I can tell you is it had two wheels and moved. I'll be intrigued to see what you might think of this one. I think you'll go to one end or the other - I don't think you'll land in the middle.

    K - It is definitely up your alley - but be aware going in - the body count is not through the roof - hope you get to see it soon!

    MM - And you're another review I want to read for this one! Hope you see it soon!