This particular Throwback Thursday re-post wasn’t what was originally intended for today, but due to something happening next week that would make the originally-intended post more thematically relevant, I’ve decided instead to revisit a Chuck Norris movie that I originally reviewed for Crane’s Cabinet of Kinetographic Curiosities.
Originally published January 9, 2018.
Summary: After his arrest at the hands of Sheriff Daniel Stevens (Chuck Norris) for murdering two members of a family with whom he was staying, mentally disturbed John Kirby (Brian Libby) is fatally wounded during an escape attempt. But when Kirby is revived and rendered indestructible as the result of medical experimentation, it is up to Sheriff Stevens and his deputy Charlie (Stephen Furst) to put an end to Kirby’s murderous rampage. Hilarity ensues.
Thoughts: What happens when you combine one part Halloween (1978), one part Walker, Texas Ranger (1993-2001), and toss in a dash or two of an outlaw biker gang grindhouse film like The Rebel Rousers (1970)? Silent Rage, that’s what! It sounds like a crazy mix of disparate things, but you might be surprised to know that it actually works in execution.
Occupying a place within a small niche sub-genre of film (the “action/horror hybrid genre” for those uninitiated souls), Silent Rage shares space with such titles as Raw Force (1982), The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974), and pretty much all of El Santo’s filmography (1961-1982). While loveable in an unapologetically schlocky sort of way, the other films I’ve listed will never be accused of being objectively good cinematic experiences (though Raw Force comes close, just for its sheer outrageousness). Silent Rage is different because Silent Rage is good. Genuinely good. Among chimeras, it is a unicorn. It’s tense, well-paced, atmospheric, and engaging from start to satisfying finish.
Brian Libby is excellent as Kirby the mute killing machine, menacingly stalking through every scene like a maskless Michael Myers. Chuck Norris plays to his strengths as the stoic Sheriff Stevens–martial arts included. Unlike (arguably) other Norris characters, Stevens isn’t portrayed as an indestructible superman himself; Kirby seems like an actual threat in himself, and more than a match for Chuck. Toni Kalem is fantastic as Chuck’s love interest Alison Halman. She’s three-dimensional, clever, has an actual history, is more than a mere damsel in distress, and leaves the viewer hoping she won’t get fridged (ala the 1983 Chuck Norris vehicle Lone Wolf McQuade). Even the supporting cast is stellar, from the doctors working on the Kirby medical experiment to the criminal bikers knocking over Texas bar after Texas bar. The actors here take their job seriously in spite of the strange premise, and the audience can tell.
I suppose I can complain a bit about Stephen Furst (Flounder from the 1978 comedy Animal House), and his portrayal of Charlie–who is annoying at times as the bumbling deputy. Even then, though, Furst’s clumsy mishandling of almost everything is somehow endearing. He grows on the audience over the course of the movie and by the end, you find that you actually care about what happens to him. So even my complaint isn’t really justified.
Conclusion: It’s been several days since I viewed this film and I’m still riding high from it. There were so many ways in which Silent Rage could have gone horribly wrong, but thankfully, this film operates on all cylinders as both a serious action film and a serious horror film. If you love slashers, love Chuck Norris, and/or love action, give Silent Rage a try. More people need to be exposed to this movie.
I still think this movie is all kinds of awesome. It is truly like seeing a version of Halloween with Chuck Norris airdropped into it–or, perhaps more accurately, it is like seeing what would happen if Chuck Norris popped up in Absurd, an Italian/German horror film from 1981 that’s known in some circles as “the Italian Halloween.” John Kirby has somewhat of the same backstory as the antagonist (played by George Eastman) in Absurd, namely that he’s a science experiment in super human endurance gone horribly wrong. While Absurd is certainly more graphic (it is probably best known for a prolonged scene of a babysitter having her head roasted in a kitchen oven while she’s still alive), Silent Rage has a more coherent plot and much better pacing. I highly recommend giving this one a shot if you haven’t seen it yet.