Color, 1997, 87 mins. 24 secs. / 82 mins. 16 secs.
Directed by Ronnie Sortor
Mark Brazeale, Dan Rowland, Dina Harris Saturn's Core Audio & Video (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD), Sub Rosa (DVD) (US R0 NTSC)
Shortly after crafting his dime store-budget wonder Sinistre, Missouri-based SOV filmmaker Ronnie Sortor struck again in the '90s with this wildly ambitious, action-packed revenge tale. The late '90s was still a busy era for analog video productions designed to appease action and horror audiences, and this is a prime example with lots of homegrown charm and a ferocious attitude clearly inspired by all the American and Hong Kong gunplay films that were starting to have a huge impact around the world.
A nocturnal murder spree is being committed by an unhinged serial killer (Rowland) who shoots and stabs nearly anyone who crosses his path. It all ends with a home invasion during which he stabs criminal psychologist Gregory (Brazeale) after snapping his wife's neck and killing his kids. When the cops show up, the wounded Gregory fights back and sends the culprit escaping out of a window. Feeling he's incapable of starting over, he still makes an attempt at building a relationship with Lydia (Harris), whom he lies to about his wife's fate. However, his real dedication is finding the killer, a bloody quest that sends him plummeting into an underworld of assassins and cultists that will soon fill the streets with blood.
Packed with gory gunshots and other bodily mayhem, Ravage is less predictable than you might think and is probably best going into as unspoiled as possible. The budgetary limitations are obvious, but Sorter and company keep it moving at a fast clip with a surprisingly high amount of stunts and explosions. Obviously the performances and technical levels are at your usual shot-on-video standards, which of course is a selling point if you've developed a taste for these over the years.
Initially self-distributed on VHS by the filmmaker's Borderline Entertainment line, Ravage turned up on DVD from Sub Rosa in 2009 with a handful of bonus features later ported over into the far more elaborate 2022 Blu-ray from Saturn's Core Audio & Video. The Blu-ray features two versions, the original '97 one (with Sortor providing a new solo commentary about its making and the DVD's original commentary with Sortor and actors Rowland, Frank Alexander, Mike Smith, and Todd Reynolds) and a "Director's Final Cut," running five minutes longer and clocking in at 87 minutes. The differences here are far more extensive than just adding footage; the action scenes have been tweaked considerably with added digital muzzle flashes, the color timing is a lot more saturated and realistic, and the previous mono soundtrack has now been given a surprisingly effective 2.0 surround mix including new sound effects. There's actually some footage removed in the process as well (including a bit of over-the-top stunt work), so it's very much worth watching the original version as well if you're new to the film. Optional English SDH subtitles are also included, and the director's cut comes with a new audio commentary by Sortor and writer-producer Byron Blakey swapping stories about the shoot, filming at airports, other '90s action movies, and rounding up folks to act in front of the camera. “The Year of Ravage” (100m58s) is essentially a massive video diary chronologically gathering up tons of behind-the-scenes footage showing how the film was assembled over a much longer production period than normal, all the way from start to finish. That's followed by a hefty reel of bloopers and deleted footage (29m55s) and a short comparison between two versions (2m37s) showing how one shootout was extensively augmented to fix a continuity issue. Blakey's short film Transient Error (21m16s) is a much more recent production shot in HD at 2.35:1, charting a man's hunt through a city's homeless community to find someone who wronged him. Finally you get a hefty photo gallery (14m16s), the original trailer and one for the director's cut, and bonus trailers for Mail Order Murder: The Story of W.A.V.E. Productions, Burglar from Hell, Sinistre, Psycho Sisters, Duck! The Carbine High Massacre, Red Spirit Lake, We Await, and Shatter Dead.