Thursday, June 5, 2008

reVIEW (48)

Before today, I last saw David Cronenberg’s Rabid in the very early ‘80’s, on Beta. Beyond some key moments, my memory of the film had grown terribly fuzzy over the years.
Now, having seen it again after over two and a half decades, I can safely say it’s got the dodgiest acting I’ve seen in a Cronenberg film, and of all of them that I’ve seen, is the one that can benefit tremendously from a responsible redux (certainly more so than either The Brood or Scanners, both reportedly on the remake block).
In Cronenberg’s second feature film, porn star Marilyn Chambers stars as Rose, whose injuries from a motorcycle accident are treated to a revolutionary skin grafting technique by Dr. Daniel Keloid (Howard Ryshpan), whose Keloid Clinic, Inc. happens to be in close proximity to the accident site.
The surgery though will cause Rose to become a carrier for a rabies-like disease, whose vector was a bizarre, Cronenbergian bit that had never before been seen, and actually has also never been seen since.

The most noteworthy aspect of Rabid is quite possibly the fact that this film is the precursor for recent horror fare like Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later, and, from everything I’ve heard about it, Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza’s [REC].
Here, we track the spread of the disease as the narrative follows the unfortunate characters who have the terrible misfortune of crossing paths with Rose, whose newfound compulsions inadvertently cause the contagion to eventually reach civilized areas.
Scenes of armed security at the mall, and roving garbage trucks assigned to gather the infected and the dead, are just some of the chilling sights Rabid has to offer, scenarios which are arguably more troubling now than when the film was first released in 1977, what, in our post-millennial age of bird flu and SARS.
And, given the sexual trappings Cronenberg surrounds the manner by which Rose inadvertently spreads the disease, Rabid (as with Cronenberg’s debut feature, Shivers) can also be read as an eerily prescient portrait of AIDS.
As timely as Rabid is though, as I mentioned above, the acting leaves a whole lot to be desired. The original score is also rather horrific.* (Howard Shore, why must you still be two films away?)

All told though, Rabid still leaves an impression, in its depiction of the breakdown of civilization in the face of a virulent disease, and the disturbing visual of exactly how Rose spreads the contagion.

* It’s interesting to note that Ivan Reitman—yes, that Ivan Reitman—is an executive producer on Rabid, as well as Music Supervisor. (He also served in similar capacities on Shivers.)

Parting shot: Reviews of other Cronenberg films can be found in the Archive.

(Rabid DVD cover art courtesy of

(Thanx must go out to Jeb, for making this reunion with Rose possible.)

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