At one point in their careers, most big-name action stars dipped their toes into horror. Schwarzenegger fought demonic evil in End of Days, while Stallone tried his hand at slashers in Eye See You. Long before there was a Marvel Cinematic Universe, Wesley Snipes was Blade. Jason Statham fought Martians in Ghosts of Mars and prehistoric sharks in The Meg. Even Bruce Willis took a break from Die Hard to do films like The Sixth Sense, Glass, and Planet Terror. And yes, Walker, Texas Ranger, himself, Chuck Norris fought an undead killer in the 1982 sci-fi horror outing, Silent Rage. A martial arts master versus an unstoppable Frankenstein’s monster – how could it go wrong?
After a violent killing spree, Sheriff Dan Stevens guns down the mentally unstable murderer, John Kirby. Yet Kirby somehow survives and winds up in the care of a genetics research institute. Despite Kirby’s violent history, the scientists manipulate his genetics, turning him into an indestructible killing machine. When Kirby escapes the institute, Sheriff Stevens faces one last inevitable showdown with the madman.
Silent Rage Mixes Slow Burn Horror-Lite With Kung Fu Action
To some extent, Silent Rage is really two movies wrapped into one. When it’s an updated take on the ‘Frankenstein story’, Silent Rage is somewhat of a slow-burn thriller. No one’s going to mistake it for an Alfred Hitchcock masterpiece. In fact, you wouldn’t mistake it for a later Friday the 13th sequel. Nonetheless, Silent Rage is most interesting when it’s following this ‘mad scientist’ angle’. Nothing in the movie is genuinely scary, but there’s a few scenes that border on suspenseful.
…Silent Rage is most interesting when it’s following this ‘mad scientist’ angle.
Unfortunately, Silent Rage is still a Chuck Norris vehicle. For better or worse, this means contrived subplots thereby allowing Norris to show off his martial arts chops. Run-in’s with a biker gang offer a fairly well-choreographed bar room fight scene. These scenes have absolutely nothing to do with the movie. Still they keep things from getting dull. On the other hand, they also set up for what’s an ultimately disappointing climax. After nearly 90 minutes of build-up, Norris’ showdown with the unstoppable killer is a dull, abrupt affair.
A Stiff Performance – Chuck Norris or the Undead Killer?
Aside from Stallone, who has a Best Supporting Actor nomination under his belt, 80’s action heroes generally weren’t regarded as thespians. Yes, Schwarzenegger had a larger-than-life charisma, and Van Damme had his moments. Steven Seagal could be stiff, but Norris was arguably the least talented of the group. In Silent Rage, it’s sometimes hard to tell who’s the undead killer. Norris has such limited range that you have to wonder if he’s been embalmed. Though Norris’ thriller has some effectively creepy moments, it’s Norris’ love scene that‘s still the scariest scene. Calling it awkward is an understatement. It’s painful or hilarious, depending on your sense of humour.
Though Silent Rage has some effectively creepy moments, it’s Norris’ love scene that’s still the scariest scene.
Don’t blame everything on Norris. While veteran character actor Ron Silver is predictably good, no one else escapes unscathed. Silent Rage miscasts funny man Stephen Furst in what’s a hopelessly unfunny role. But it’s killer John Kirby where much of the movie’s limitations emerge. Actor Brian Libby, playing the deranged monster, lacks presence. Silent Rage’s screenplay gives Libby nothing, but he’s missing the requisite intensity to make the role work.
Silent Rage Best Left on the VHS Shelf of Your Imagination
Growing up in the 80’s, Silent Rage was one of those top-shelf horror movies that always caught your attention. It’s also a movie that my parents always passed over and never seemed to pop up on late-night television. Technically, this doesn’t qualify as a bad movie. It’s also not particularly good. And herein lies the problem. Silent Rage is pretty forgettable stuff. Like the story that influenced its premise, Silent Rage is a crudely assembled ‘Frankenstein’s monster’ of two unfulfilled ideas. Leaves this one on the VHS shelf of your imagination.