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Here at FANGORIA we get buckets of mail, a good deal of
which consists of first features from every indie wannabe filmmaker and his
talentless brother. Yeah, why lie? Nine out of 10 of these movies are hackwork
junk, clear cases of starry-eyed dreamers with camcorders trying to blast out a
nickel-and-dime greatest-hits homage to every considerably more costly
blockbuster and/or cult fave they’ve thrilled to, none of them heeding their
own strengths or limitations, all reaching for the unattainable silver (screen)
Sometimes, this tidal wave of digital drek puts Fango
staffers in awkward positions as we privately hold our heads in our hands while
publicly trying to be cheerful and encouraging. It can drive a brother nuts, I
tell you… So when this writer received a DVD-R copy of a homegrown thriller
called RAGE in my slot last week, expectations were too low to limbo under. I
put it on the pile and left it alone. But on a slow Friday night, I opted to
give it a spin, bidding that if the picture didn’t grab me in the first five
minutes, I’d eject it and settle in for a night of TWILIGHT ZONE reruns.
Well, writer/director/editor/co-star Christopher
Witherspoon’s RAGE did actually grab me from the opening credits. And when the
actors appeared on screen, they didn’t embarrass themselves. And when the plot
kicked into gear, I was genuinely intrigued. And when the…well, let’s just say
that I stuck it out, and was happy that I did so.
RAGE is really, really good—a tight, taut indie thriller
with enough action, suspense and intrigue to fill three movies and an honest
energy that makes you forgive its minibudget limitations. The film tells the
tale of a philandering hubby (Rick Crawford) whose designs to terminate his extramarital
affair are complicated when a black-leather-clad motorcyclist begins to dog his
every move. First, the biker begins taunting him at traffic lights, then gets
more aggressive: scraping his car, setting him up, attacking him in a public
washroom and eventually, after a day of violence and torment, following him
right to his home. The fact that that our antihero refuses to contact the
authorities stems from his belief that this faceless (the biker never once
removes his helmet) antagonist is either an emissary of his spurned lover or
perhaps even a manifestation of his own guilt. The truth proves to be something
far more mundane, and makes RAGE something of a satirical cautionary tale as
well as a shocker.
Sabotaged somewhat by a final-reel descent into ultragory
(but stylishly shot) gratuitous violence and some unfortunate overemoting from
Crawford, RAGE is still a kick-ass, sharply executed riff on DUEL (which is
explicitly referenced here), ROAD GAMES, THE HITCHER and every other classic
film in which automotive-based maniacs chase average men to their dooms. With
all budget restraints forgiven, this critic personally can’t wait to see
Witherspoon’s next effort. He knows how to ratchet up suspense and turn the
simplest of structures into operatic tension meditations. And in the
underground, this sort of savvy is hard to come by.
If you’re in the Hollywood area and want to see RAGE
somewhere where it most likely (and unfortunately) almost never be shown—the
big screen—head over to the Regent Showcase Cinema Palace Theater (614 North La
Brea Avenue) this Wednesday, December 15 at 10 p.m. to see the premiere.
Witherspoon will be in attendance—and give away the original helmet worn by the
biker in the movie. (The biker, incidentally, is essayed by Witherspoon
himself. Think Darth Vader meets Ghost Rider meets the “Living Dead” from
RAGE gives homegrown horror a good name. Check it out.
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