Directed by Christopher R. Witherspoon
Written by Christopher R. Witherspoon
Starring Rick Crawford, Christopher R. Witherspoon and Audrey Walker
From independent film-maker, Christopher R. Witherspoon, comes a tale of bloodthirsty rage. Dennis, an aspiring, 30-something author waves goodbye to his loving wife, Crystal, as he sets off into town on his day off from work. Unbeknownst to most except his friend, he goes to meet his mistress, for whom he’s been having a long affair with, to tell her it’s over between them. Whilst travelling to his rendezvous, Dennis unintentially disgruntles a motorcyclist who decides to get his revenge on Dennis throughout the day. What starts off as harmless taunts turns more sinister, as the biker continues to up the ante in his cat and mouse games with Dennis. Dennis’ day culminates in the most terrifying way, as the people around him suffer from the consequences of his actions.
Christopher R. Witherspoon is a talented individual. FACT. Having worked on films such as Re-Animator, Troll and From Beyond, the independent filmmaker knows how to make a movie look more expensive to create than it actually is. From the beginning of the film, we are treated to professional shots of blissful suburbia, where the neighbours know each other and the paper boy cycles around the lanes, throwing newspapers onto the driveways. From these opening shots I knew I was watching something special. It was like poetry. The stunning shots continued as we followed Dennis to his meeting with his lover in the park. There was almost a whimsical, romantic feel to it, that is until we see the biker. Once the maniac motorcyclist is on Dennis tail the shots are explorative, to give the viewer a similar feeling as to that which Dennis is going through. Unlike most low budget films, Christopher never opts for the manic, fast cuts that ruin a perfectly good film. Instead, he uses strategic shots backed by a tension filled score to create the panic and unease. The director also makes good use of the location of Portland, Oregon, where a large chunk of the film is spent racing around the town to avoid the killer motorcyclist. The fact that the film’s action is based in a town, surrounded by other people and vehicles, in broad daylight adds the ultimate fear factor to this flick. You are not safe anywhere at anytime and you have nowhere to hide, not even in an underground parking lot! Even though Dennis is surrounded by all these civilians in the street, he is helpless. The biker is his own problem, nobody elses. Feeling guilty for his adulterous betrayal, he half believes he deserves it. As he says at the beginning of the film, it’s karma come to bite him in the ass.
It takes a talented individual to direct, write, produce, edit, film and star in a movie, and Christopher R. Witherspoon is just that! Christopher takes the role as the silent, intimidating, homicidal biker, who strikes fear into the hearts of Dennis and the viewers. Dressed head to toe in black, the biker is menacing just to look at. Not once does he utter a word or remove his helmet, so Christopher must express himself through movement and likewise, the camera shots of the biker must mimic his role to heighten the fear in the viewer. As the biker, Christopher couldn’t be without his partner in crime, an ocean blue Triumph Sprint ST 955cc, whose appearance will strike uneasiness in even the most hardened of souls. The director cleverly manipulates the viewer into believing the motorcycle is a part of the killer itself. The character of Dennis believe this too, as the mere sight of the bike sends him into a panic.
Dennis, played terrifically by Rick Crawford, is a good natured yet self-centred individual who has the love of two women but still doesn’t seem content. As he breaks up with his mistress, he doesn’t seem that bothered about her feelings, but more concerned that she may inform his wife of his infidelity. Likewise in his profession as an author, both his wife and mistress support and applaud his efforts, much to the disinterested Dennis who convinces himself that he’s a failure. Whilst I sympathise with the predicament he has gotten himself in with the biker, I can’t help loathing him in his selfishness. I can feel myself egging the biker on whilst in the next breathe I’m shouting at Dennis to hide. Like life itself, the situation is complex.
Audrey Walker stars as Crystal, Dennis’ childhood sweetheart who has a naive innocence only a devoted loving wife can. Unaware of his infidelity and the predicament he’s got himself in with the biker, Crystal pampers her husband to the point where it’s verging on sickly. But before too long, she discovers exactly where her husband has been all day… Our brief glimpse of Audrey Walker at the beginning gives the impression of a Stepford wife, but her character comes alive later on in the film and Audrey subtlely plays the scene with dignity and authenticity. On the flip side, I thought Rick as Dennis was weaker in the scenes with Audrey but gradually improved towards the end. The supporting cast who play neighbours Clancy (M.L. Maltz) and Eleanor (Jo Black Jacob), as well as Dennis’ friend Stan (Richard Topping), provide solid characters who feel familiar to us, even from the little dialogue from them. The way in which their scenes are shot, as well as the script and direction from the screenplay, feed an impression that lets the viewer fill in their backstory. Through these characters we are also fed information on the main cast which develops the story further.
RAGE pulls no punches in it’s onscreen violence. It replicates the sadistic torment that some humans like to inflict on others. However, the film never portrays any gratuitious scenes and the content is entirely in context and justified. We witness in the latter end of the film scenes of rape and bloody massacre, that is hardhitting enough without going overboard with the visual. There’s a fine line between tasteful and distasteful, but Chrisopher has approached the scenes in the most suitable of manners, without loosing any of the authenticity or professionalism of the film. Tension is created in the film through small events that snowball into more serious issues. At the beginning, the biker taunts Dennis by blocking him at a green traffic light before speeding off on his bike just as the traffic light turns red, leaving Dennis to wait another few minutes. But things heat up when the biker speeds past and scratches his car. This makes Dennis furious and determined to confront his adversary. However, the biker isn’t one to exchange words or to be messed with.
One of the things I love about RAGE is that Christopher never misses a trick and just when you’d forgotten about something, he hits you straight between the eyes with it. I found this to be clever as many films introduce characters, stories and props that seem irrelevant and we never encounter them again, but in RAGE, everything is accounted for, which makes the story that much more believable. Christopher’s nod to Duel is unmistakable in RAGE, even with a comical section of dialogue at the garage between two customers makes this film fan’s heart fill with joy, as RAGE is made by someone who is passionate about making and watching films.
With stunningly stylish shots, accompanied by a tension-rising score and hard-hitting visuals, RAGE is one of the greatest independent films I’ve ever had the fortune of seeing. RAGE is a gritty, splatter-fueled thriller that’s not afraid to hit the redline.