Remember "28 Days Later"? You know, that movie in which a viral outbreak is caused by a diseased primate and dumb environmentalists? Well, it seems like Italy got there first with the 1988 movie "Primal Rage."
Dr. Ethridge (Bo Svenson) has been working on a new experiment on baboons that's supposed to heal damaged brain tissue. There's a bit of a problem though-said baboons carry a deadly virus that can cause people to be the victim of uncontrollable, murderous rage. Well, idiot/self proclaimed "gonzo journalist" Duffy (Mitch Wilson aka unknown actor with a generic name # 2061) decides to investigate, only to get infected. And he's spreading said infection. Can dull hero Sam Ashe (Patrick Lowe) protect his new love interest Lauren (Cheryl Arutt)? Will all hell break loose? Will bad 80's fashion and hair prevail?
An Italian/North American co-production directed by Vittorio Rambaldi and written by exploitation jack of all trades Umberto Lenzi, "Primal Rage" (which has nothing to do with the video game I played religiously back in the day) is a cheap little movie made in the ass end days of Italian exploitation. At this point, only guys like Dario Argento and Michel Soavi were doing anything worthwhile. Lucio Fulci's best days were behind him, Lamberto Bava never managed to do a good follow up to his "Demons" films, Lenzi had been regulated to bad straight to video and television fair-the list goes on. So while "Primal Rage" is a bad movie (complete with bad acting, questionable direction and logic, and horrible pop songs that make it feel like one of those old TGIF sitcoms) that hasn't aged well at all, it's at least an entertaining bad movie.
The movie manages to be one of the more graphic Italian horror movies from this part of the decade, which manages to help quite a bit. The viewer gets to see a scalping, torn out throats, crushed heads, gouged out eyes and more, especially in the last 20 something minutes at a Halloween party. It's also never boring, and moves at a reasonable clip for a 91 minute movie thanks to the fact that those behind it know what it is-dumb exploitation-and for the most part delivers what the viewer wants out of it. Also, Claudio Simmnetti's score is a lot of fun, and at times reminded me of his work for Bava's "Demons", and the the climax itself offers most of what one expects from a movie like this.
It may not be a great (or good) movie, but "Primal Rage" is a nice hunk of Italian Cheese made for a Saturday night with friends and some beer.