The Film: Silent Rage (1982)
The Principles: Michael Miller (Director), Chuck Norris, Ron Silver, Brian Libby, Toni Kalem, Stephen Keats, William Finley, Stephen Furst
The Premise: A strange combination of genres that may not thrill Norris fans but works surprisingly well given its identity crisis.
Is It Good: I don’t know if it is really good, but it is entertaining. Silent Rage attempts so hard to be a slasher, but essentially was not able to ignore the god like martial arts of Chuck Norris and the alluring mad scientist angle. What the hell, Stephen Furst was there also, playing Flounder from Animal House once again.
To really appreciate Silent Rage, you cannot expect a Lone Wolf McQuaid or Invasion USA Chuck Norris action flick. You have to accept that Chuck Norris is just cast as an actor in a horror film, and not want a balls to the wall action star. Only then can you love this movie the way it was meant to be loved. Chuck Norris was not the box office success he would later become, and with little more than a half dozen films under his belt he was just starting to be a name player.
The film starts off letting you know this isn’t a typical Norris affair by introducing our villain and not explaining a damn thing about him, other than he is not sane. He calls a genetic doctor to tell him that he is losing it. He talks to the lady of the house where he is living as if he is a complete stranger and even has a run in with a random guy at the same house. The lady of the house prevents violence to children by sending her 3 obnoxiously loud and sanity chiseling children to play elsewhere, and then aptly runs from the guy with the ax. She gets to yell for help to a mailman, and within seconds we see Norris appear in a glorious 1980 Ford Bronco. Even though uncannily fast, the lady is dead and the frantic attacker attempts to sucker ax Norris and leads to the big bad being shot 15 some times and his genetic doctor (Silver) being amazed that he lived through the gunshots.
It really is that crazy, and that’s the first 10 minutes. Shortly after, we have a biker fight, a sex scene with Big Pussy’s wife from The Sopranos and our brain dead villain being injected with a super serum that allows him to be almost invulnerable. This movie is very eclectic, but at the same time plagiaristic of other genre films from that era.
There is absolutely no doubt that the base for the story resided in the creepiness of the ending of Halloween, where the killer is thrown shot through a window and when they examine the ground from above he is there, when they go through the house to reach the bottom he was gone. It gave that supernatural evil edge that defined Michael Meyers for many generations and sequels to come, but Silent Rage took that concept and wanted to make it scientific.
The scientists in this film could later be compared to Herbert West from Re-Animator. His initial thought is to create something so important to the human race that he wins the Nobel prize but quickly digresses in much the same as Herbert West did, putting his evil creation above the safety of everyone else. I love Re-Animator and don’t think I have seen Silent Rage after seeing it until now, but I could easily have seen Stephen Keats playing the role made so famous by Jeffrey Combs. His sidekick reminded me of an Igor wannabe, and why not pay homage to the one of the first scientific monster movies.
Where the hell they came up with adding Stephen Furst into this I don’t know. He is nothing but comedy relief, and poorly done. He plays Flounder before joining the fraternity. He is innocent and just begging to be a victim. When he does finally get the charge from the rage monster and has to be a cop, he dies in the most degrading way just in order to prove how strong our brainless muscle bound vengeance machine is. The interaction between Norris and Furst could be seen to resemble Andy Griffith, and really is the worst part about the entire film. It is the one weird piece that sticks out as out of place from the rest.
Norris is not treated all that special for his martial arts. He has 3 fights in the movie, and only one of them makes him out to be a badass. He takes on a whole biker gang that was causing trouble, and just like every badass cop ever, he does so without backup. The thing that struck me most odd about the Norris fights wasn’t the stunts or slow motion, it was the complete lack of background sound. Not many action films have fights where there is no yelling, no heavy metal soundtrack and no over sampled synthesized pound sounds. The fights (including the finale fight) have very little audio. The audio that is there sounds like actual hits landing, and it adds to the creepiness factor the film was going for. This is what makes it so hard for me to think of this movie as a Chuck Norris film, and more as its own stand alone horror film that happens to have Chuck Norris in it.
Is It Worth A Look: Yes. It is. If you have seen it and wrote it off as a bad Chuck Norris film, than I think you owe it a second chance as anything but a Chuck Norris Film. Look at is as a slasher newly on the market after Halloween and Friday the 13th, and one that decided to inform the viewers that science was the reason the bad guy couldn’t die.
Brian Libby alone is reason to watch this. His maskless serial killer is every bit as frightening as Michael or Jason were, and he didn’t require a mask to do so. Anytime he was one the screen, his motion resemble Jason Vorhees, while his evil eyes reflected that pits that Michael Meyers had. Somehow, while deciding to make an invincible bad guy to be like the others, they made one that took some of the best parts of the others. When I started thinking this, it was down to a stalker and the girl sequence, and I thought the only thing that wasn’t almost completely stolen from Carpenter’s masterpiece was the POV which made it so unique, and not even 30 seconds after I thought it we were in first person POV hunting the girl. To make it known that the shooting techniques were not the only things stolen, the theme that played very infrequently was trying to capture some of the Carpenter/Manfedini glory, but never comes close, the location of the stalker/girl chase occurs in a hospital type setting like the one year prior Halloween sequel and there is even a scene where Norris unloads a clip into the madman only to have him crash through a window and fall to the ground below. The look down scene was almost shot for shot, but the after events were different. They also decided the 2 story swan dive by Meyers left too many questions as to whether he could have lived, so this baddy falls at least 6 stories.
The movie is nowhere near perfect, but is definitely enjoyable. It has a nostalgic place in my heart as I watched this years before Halloween, Nightmare of Elm Street and Re-Animator. In fact the only true hard core genre films I had seen preceding this were Friday the 13th Part 2, American Werewolf in London and Carpenter’sThe Thing.
The saddest thing for me is that it is only available in SD. There is not a Blu Ray yet, and the streaming options seam to only be SD. The film has aged decently due to the few but nicely done practical effects, the lack of location and the only technology that really seems outdated is that tech in the lab.
It was remade in 2009 and title Indestructible. I did not know that before writing this column, so there is a good chance I will check that out to see how it did.
The Director Michael Miller added to his non-genre bound credits by directing National Lampoons Class Reunion, an apocalyptic romantic, slasher comedy also released in 1982.
Cinematic Soulmates: Halloween, Friday the 13th, Re-Animator, Lone Wolf McQuaid