Rabid (2019)

One from the to watch pile…

Rabid (2019)

The Cover the the Australian DVD release of Rabid.

Film: Most people love Cronenberg for his films like Videodrome and The Fly, and whilst I rate the latter, I’m not the biggest fan of the former. I much prefer his earlier films Shivers and Rabid: those films have a far greater appeal to me.

I do like eXistenZ and Naked Lunch too, but those early films really speak to me. As you can imagine, like most film fiends who hear the word ‘remake’ associated with a film they like, I went into a pre-judicial whine when I heard Rabid was getting one, until I heard the Soska Sisters, whose film American Mary was one I liked, were attached, and my whine turned into a far less bitter fruit punch. I wasn’t happy, but I was willing to cross my arms and shout ‘impress me’ at my TV screen.

The screenplay for this film was also written by the Soska Sisters along with John Serge, who gave us Killer Crush, Killer Mom and The Perfect Soulmate… I guess the name ‘Killer Fan’ was already taken.

Eeeeeeeek! She’s SOOOO ugly! (Not really, it’s Laura Vandervoort)

Wallflower Rose Miller (Laura Vandervoort) works in the fashion industry for obnoxious designer, Gunter (Mackenzie Grey) and because of her retreating personality, probably due to her facial scars from a car accident, is treated like dirt.

Gunter is having a fashion show and after the After Party, Rose leaves immediately after having an argument with her friend Chelsea (Hanneke Talbot) and is in a horrific accident which causes irreparable facial damage.

Yeeesh! That’s something gross from the effects department!

… or is it irreparable? Rose receives a mysterious email from The Burroughs Institute about the potential for reconstructive therapy, but it’s not facial reconstruction they perform: its stem cell based hocus pocus, which of course offers a full recovery… but it changes Rose in ways she doesn’t want to face.

Dr Burroughs (Ted Atherton) gives Rose some tablets and ‘protein drinks’ to help her recover, and is warned that they may give her bizarre hallucinations, but her hallucinations seems so real, and the people she is hallucinating about attacking seems to be coming down with a weird, rabies-like disease…

Ok, so the first problem with this film is it’s star. Sure, it’s a good performance, but like teen movies of the 80s and 90s, when the wallflower is revealed to be a great beauty, it’s a false reveal, because even with the light scar facial effects and blotchy make-up, Vandervoort is still absolutely gorgeous.

My next issue with the film is it’s decision to just play along with the expected tropes of bitchy industry professionals, flamboyant fashion designers, asshole TV directors, and the horrifying ‘oh my god, she’s so successful now she’s beautiful’ plot device. I honestly couldn’t tell if the Soska Sisters were pulling the piss out of those cliches, we’re paying homage to them or were unaware they existed. Either way, it didn’t work very well.

It’s not all bad, though. The make-up on Rose after her accident is horrifying, and some of the other gore effects are nice and chunky.

Possibly the most terrifying thing about this film is the medical professional reaction to a viral outbreak. At this point in time it seems unfortunately real.

Also, considering this is a remake of Cronenberg’s film, there are some fun tributes to him throughout, such as the medical scrubs from Dead Ringers, and the concept of calling an institute that deals with altering bodies ‘The Burroughs Institute” and it’s head scientist/ doctor ‘William Burroughs’ was a nice tribute to the author William S. Burroughs, who wrote Naked Lunch, an unfilmable film made by Cronenberg.

This film is OK at best, and all the way through watching it, all I could think of was how much I wished I was watching the original, or Shivers, or Dead Ringers, or something ‘body horror’ more original than an average remake.

Score: **

The menu screen to the Australian DVD release of Rabid.

Format: This film was reviewed on the Australian R4 release which runs for approximately 104 minutes and is presented in a clear 1.85:1 image with a matching Dolby digital 5.1 soundtrack. I would have rathered a super Bluray release with a bunch of extras.

Score: ****

Extras: Absolutely nothing, well unless you count the trailer for The Final Wish before the film. It is a shame there is none as I would have liked to have heard the Soska Sisters thoughts on Cronenberg’s original and their ideas to remake it. Oh well, screw you, movie fans, you don’t deserve that.

Score: 0

WISIA: Probably not.

Holy crap! Someone needs some ointment!

Rabid (1977) Review

One from the to watch pile…
Rabid

  

Film: Do I think of myself as a fan of the director David Cronenberg? Well, to be honest, I didn’t! Whenever a conversation leads into to Cronenberg territory, the film Videodrome always pops up… And THAT film I am not a fan of, but in the last week or two I have been rewatching some films of his that aren’t Videodrome. These films were eXistenZ, which Cronenberg says it is a reaction to Salman Rushdies’ persecution, his remake of The Fly, which is just amazing, and Naked Lunch, which, whilst it has its problems, I find an intriguing watch. During this rewatch frenzy, fellow To Watch Pile-r Simon (check out his action movie blog explosiveaction.com ) offered me his copies of earlier Cronenberg films, Shivers and Rabid, neither of which I have ever seen. I’m not sure how either passed me by, especially seeing as how I can remember seeing the trailer for Rabid on many films hired on VHS during the 80s.

Rabid is Cronenberg’s second feature film, and has a bit of notoriety as it stars porno actress Marilyn Chambers in the lead role. Now whilst I may have observed the ‘occasional’ pornographic film (and even reviewed things like Sexcula and Debbie Does Dallas for other sites), I haven’t ever, in my cinematic travels, seen Ms. Chambers in anything, and I have to admit I was quite struck by her presence in this: she has a lithe seventies sexiness about her that is quite breathtaking.

I thought the pixie-ish Lynn Lowrey’s appearance in Shivers couldn’t be topped: I was wrong.

  
Rabid tells the story of Hart (Frank Moore) and his girlfriend Rose (Marilyn Chambers) who are involved in a terrible motorcycle accident which sees Hart with a few superficial wounds, but has Rose severely injured after being stuck under the burning motorcycle. 

He wounds are quite catastrophic and she is picked up your the ambulance associated with the local plastic surgery clinic run by Doctor Keloid (Howard Ryshpan), who is an innovator of a type of surgery which involved the manipulation of human tissue so it can be used to assimilate any tissue it may be combined with.

Unfortunately for Rose, it does some thing else to her. She becomes a vampire, of sorts, who doesn’t turn her prey into vampires, but instead infects them with a form of rabies, which there can then spread through their bite.

Soon. Of course, the virus quickly spreads…

  
Simply, this movie is amazing. It is thematically similar to Shivers in its story of a spreading virus, but it is different enough for that not to even matter. All of Cronenberg’s themes of change and bodily transformation are present and clearly in embryo. 

The film is well performed by all the actors, and it clearly has a higher budget then that of Shivers. Special effects and make up legend Joe Blasco had his work cut out for him with the effects in this film, and Rose’s vampiric ways are nothing short of disturbing!

This is definitely a must see, and it will certainly change your opinion of the originality of a lot of the post millennial pandemic films and zombie virus films we have seen since. 

Score: *****

Format: As I stated earlier, I was lucky enough to get this film as one of the UK’s Arrow Video’s bluray steelbooks, which of course means it is Region 2. The feature runs for 91 minutes, and is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, with a mono audio. At first I didn’t appreciate just how excellent the image is, until I watched the trailer, an extra on this disc, and saw just how well it had been cleaned up in comparison

Score: *****

Extras:

This disc has a bunch of pretty cool extras. 

  
Two different commentaries, one with Cronenberg, which he articulates every aspect of the film production and one with William Beard, author of The Artist As Monster: The Films of David Cronenberg. This second commentary explores not just this film, but many of Cronenberg’s work. Beard clearly has a deep and thorough understanding of Cronenberg.

Four interviews with Cronenberg, producer Ivan Reitman, co-producer Don Carmody and special effects artist Joe Blasco. These interviews are all fascinating a really present an interesting picture of how the film was made though for my liking, Blasco’s was a little short.

There are two documentaries: The Directors: David Cronenberg is a 60 minute episode of a series from 1999 that focused on various directors and their processes and people who worked for them. Obviously this one focuses on Cronenberg and interviews the man himself, and Holly Hunter, Peter Weller, Marilyn Chambers, Michael Ironside and others, and is a full exploration of his career up to eXistenZ. Raw, Rough and Rabid takes a look at the production Canadian company Cinepix, who released Rabid and is a fascinating look at the Canadian film business of the time.

The trailer is also one here as a special feature, and you don’t realise just how beautiful the film looks until you see just how ordinary is the video quality of the trailer. There is also a promotional gallery of various materials used to advertise the film.

This set also features a DVD presentation of the film, in standard definition as opposed to the bluray’s 1080p and a booklet containing several articles: Plastic Surgery Disaster: Rabid, The October Crisis and the Pathological Body Politic by Kier-La Janisse, A Biologically Correct Vampiress by David Cronenberg and An Interview With Marilyn Chambers by Calum Waddell, not to mention the films credits and several notes about the transfer. These are all interesting and essential reads for the Cronenberg fan.

  
Score: *****

WISIA: A resounding ‘Hell yeah’ from this lowly critic on the rewatchability of this pic. I just finished writing this review and I am thinking about watching it again now!