Friday, August 26, 2016

Retro Reviews: SILENT RAGE (1982)

Welcome to another installment of RETRO REVIEW where we take a look at films made before the year 2000.  Today we review the 1982 action horror film, SILENT RAGE.  Enjoy!

Silent Rage is one of my all-time favorite movies in the horror subgenre of ‘indestructible killers’ for two huge reasons:

One: it stars Chuck Norris, who I seriously adore. Two: It’s one of the few movies of its kind that actually gives a reason and background story for why and how the killer, John Kirby, became indestructible.

Silent Rage is about small town sheriff, Dan Stevens (Chuck Norris) who has the peacefulness of his life disrupted when a mentally disturbed outpatient named John Kirby (Brian Libby) who, while under the care of Dr. Halman (Ron Silver), goes on a murderous rampage at a boarding house. Sheriff Steven and Kirby battle it out until the mental patient is subdued. Moments later, Kirby is shot by deputies while trying to escape from the back of a parked cruiser.  

Sheriff Stevens believes the incident is all over when the head of the local research center/medical center Dr. Philip Spires (Steven Keats) informs him that Kirby has died. Dan Stevens is totally unaware that Spires has turned John Kirby in to a human Guinea Pig by using an experimental serum on him called Mitgen 37, which will make Kirby capable of total and complete regeneration on a cellular level. Simply put, John Kirby cannot die. The serum has also altered his brainwaves to make Kirby even more deranged that he already was.

Silent Rage is an odd version of the classic ‘indestructible killer’ movie because it spends a majority of its time being a typical Chuck Norris type movie. His character is a soft spoken, gentle natured man who is also skilled in martial arts. Dan Stevens plays mentor to somewhat na├»ve and comic relief deputy named Charlie (Stephen Furest), takes on a biker gang in bar scene fight that show cases Norris’ fighting skills (and the stunt skills of his younger brother Aaron Norris who plays one of the bad guys).  When he isn’t mentoring or beating up biker bad guys, Sheriff Stevens is rekindling a romance with old flame, Allison Halman (Toni Kalem) who is back in town.

All the while, the danger that is the now completely deranged John Kirby is lurking in the background and, unknown to Stevens, is killing people he perceives as threats to him. People like Dr. Halman and his sweet wife Nancy (Stephanie Dunnam in her very first film role).

What Silent Rage does have in common with the classic ‘indestructible killer’ movies is the standard ‘find the dead bodies’ scene in which Allison discovers the dead bodies of her brother and her sister in law. This leads Sheriff Stevens to discovering that Kirby is not only alive, but he just won’t die no matter what deadly thing Stevens does to him.

Silent Rage is a decent movie. Chuck Norris is at his best in the parts of the movie that are familiar ground for him, but stumbles a bit in the horror genre parts of the movie. His love scenes as Stevens with Toni Kalem’ character of Allison are lukewarm because there is absolutely no chemistry between them and Kalem seems to be sleepwalking through this movie. This lack of chemistry is made especially apparent when compared to the scenes between Tom and Nancy Halman. Stephanie Dunnam and the late Ron Silver effortlessly create the image of two people who are in a real relationship. Sheriff Stevens' friendship with Charlie is on better ground and more believable, as Furest and Norris create the friendship with ease.

Stephen Keating plays the arrogant Dr. Philip Spires with the perfect amount of dramatic flair and genius gone awry.  Then we come to Brian Libby as John Kirby. The character is mostly mute after being experimented on and having his brainwaves altered by the Mitgen 37, so Libby must rely heavily on body language and facial expression to convey his character’s intimidating and dangerous nature. Brian Libby made it work, he made you believe every aspect of John Kirby as a deranged and unstoppable killer. 

Silent Rage ends with Stevens, unable to kill Kirby, settles for dropping him down into a deep and abandoned well. While Steven’s reassures Allison that ‘yes, it’s over’, the last scene is of Kirby coming up from being underneath the water and reaching for a way out.  The classic ‘setting it up for a sequel’ that, even to this day, has never materialized.

Chuck Norris is quoted as saying that of all his stand alone movies, Silent Rage is the one that he gets asked the most about will there be a sequel. Norris always replies in response to why there is no sequel by saying: "What would I do? I tried every way in the world to kill that guy. Finally, I had to dump him down a well. There's nothing else I could do to him."

It may not have a sequel, but will forever stand out as one of the few movies of its kind that gave the audience a reason why the killer couldn’t die.

Marla’s Score: 8/10 

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