Starring: Marilyn Chambers, Frank Moore, Joe Silver, Howard Rhysphan, Patricia Gage
Running Time: 90 minutes
Cronenberg’s early film RABID, reminds me of why and when he was at the peak of his great talent. I can’t stand his last two efforts, with both COSMOPOLIS and MAPS TO THE STARS wallowing in weirdness for the sake of atmosphere, and failing to have any pay off or real sense of what they were doing. RABID is a simpler affair, but one that explores the mutilation and mutation of one’s body that Cronenberg is well-known for.
Set in Canada, the film begins with a peculiar bike crash in which a number of people come to the scene. An injured woman (Chambers) is taken to hospital where she undergoes cosmetic surgery to correct some of her wounds. This leaves her with a strange infection that causes her to attack people, who then become rabid, aggressive, almost zombie-like attackers. The gradual spread of the disease is handled with particular care, and there is no moment where the film tries to rush for the sake of action. It’s more considered than that, and as such has a grounded believability.
Chambers is both terrifying and sympathetic. She is the perfect siren, leading people to their doom, while also being the victim of whatever it is that she hosts. Her role is played more as a creature fulfilling basic desires, rather than something evil attempting to take over, and this makes it all the more conflicting. The attacks are also brutal, often taking place in public, where confusion hits before survival. That’s the scariest thought of all, not knowing how to react when someone on the subway gets their ear bitten off.
RABID certainly feels dated when compared to contemporary and similar films, but the essence of the 1970s lives strong and also adds to the fear. Perhaps zombie/infected films need to be faster these days due to the way information can travel, whereas here it’s a slow progression without 24 hour news, mobile phones, and the internet. A lovely look back at Cronenberg’s early work, it’s fun to see how his career progressed into unforgettable classics.
[usr=3] RABID is released on DVD and Blu-ray Dual Format from 16th February.