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Cult Cinema: Rampage (1987-1992) - Reviewed

Posted By themoviesleuth 655 days ago on Entertainment -  William Friedkin’s most overlooked and hard-to-obtain serial killer thriller film Rampage, based on the book of the same name by William P. Wood, is a film with highly checkered past that remains virtually unseen and is rarely spoken of these days.  Despite some of the director’s even harder to see films such as Sorcerer and Cruising getting lavish home video special editions years later, Rampage remains curiously under the Friedkin fan’s radar.  A shame because what’s here is among the director’s most underrated chillers ripe for rediscovery and recognition with some of the most uncompromisingly frightening material of Friedkin’s career. Charlie Reece (Alex McArthur) is a remorseless vampiric serial murderer who shoots and mutilates his victims before drinking their blood.  Soon however the killer is apprehended by the police and a trial is set with prosecuting attorney Anthony Fraser (Michael Biehn) vying for Reece to be found sane and given the death penalty.  As quickly as the story began as an overt gaze into demonic bloodletting, Rampage shifts gears into a tense courtroom drama as defense lawyers try to make the case for Reece being insane to avoid being executed with a very real possibility of the killer freed back into society looming over the trial. Digging a little deeper into this one, Rampage joins John McNaughton’s Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer as a cinematic portrait of a murderous sociopath that found itself in distribution Hell for nearly five years after being shot.  While Henry couldn’t find anyone willing to take it, Rampage did secure a theatrical release in Europe but went to home video in the US after the film’s production company DEG went under.  Furthermore, in the time between the film’s international and eventual domestic release, Friedkin changed his mind about certain aspects of the story and fashioned an entirely different ending than what foreign audiences saw. With Rampage, Friedkin has assembled some of the industry’s top-notch technicians including but not limited to a brooding and ominous original score by the legendary Ennio Morricone as well as Wes Anderson’s regular cinematographer Robert D. Yeoman lensing the mayhem.  Then there’s the star-studded cast with Biehn and McArthur in top form as well as some surprise turns by Art LaFleur as one of the chief detectives on the case and David Lynch regular Grace Zabriskie as the killer’s tormented mother.  Still, as always, the film’s real stars are the director and his editor Jere Huggins who, in the time honored tradition of Friedkin, uses subliminal imagery during some of the killer’s mad flashbacks that will sear their way into your psyche. Considering the existence of two disparate release versions of the film as well as ongoing renewed interest in the uncompromising filmmaker’s oeuvre, the unavailability of Friedkin’s Rampage is at once curious and frustrating.  While by the director’s own admission the film is imperfect, it remains a solid and at times horrific serial killer film that becomes less of an examination of pure evil as it is of the system that allows them to roam the world freely and unchecked.  Not to mention the pedigree of talents brought together by the project, making you wonder why Friedkin didn’t manage to have more collaborations with Morricone.  As it stands, Rampage is one of Friedkin’s strongest works long overdue for newfound recognition and one of the most chilling serial killer thrillers in living memory.--Andrew Kotwicki (function() { var zergnet = document.createElement('script'); zergnet.type = 'text/javascript'; zergnet.async = true; zergnet.src = (document.location.protocol == "https:" ? "https:" : "http:") + '//'; var znscr = document.getElementsByTagName('script')[0]; znscr.parentNode.insertBefore(zergnet, znscr); })();

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