David Cronenberg is undoubtedly on of the strangest success tales the world of film has ever witnessed. The creator of the ‘Body Horror’ sub-genre and producer of such titles as ‘Shivers’, ‘Scanners’, ‘Videodrome’, the remake of ‘The Fly’, ‘Naked Lunch’, ‘Crash’ and his final venture into fantastical horror ‘Existenz’ is now known and loved by audiences and critics for suspense thrillers and crime dramas such as ‘A History Of Violence’ and ‘Eastern Promises.’ From the beginning he was a brave writer and director that tackled the issues of sexual deviance and perversion, dangerous fetishes and the fear of bodily change, something which undoubtedly drew younger and more mature audiences to his works without truly understanding why. His works in horror were most openly and frankly sexual although often repugnant and were often the result of many nightmares and newfound phobias; a writer and director with the power to affect jaded horror audiences, yet tell a vitally moral and heartfelt tale about the lesser desired individuals within our societies.
‘Rabid’ was his second venture into film and was maybe a lesser moral tale although watched closely delivers many messages for the modern man and woman, the so-called liberated and free to choose.
The main character Rose was portrayed by then and now legendary porn star Marilyn Chambers whom Cronenberg placed great faith in as a relatively inexperienced actress and to everyone’s surprise, she delivers on so many levels, giving the viewer an unbelievably beautiful but deadly, calculating but no doubt lost and scared Typhoid Mary who spreads a plague of mutated rabies across Canada.
Rose is involved in a motorcycle accident. Her boyfriend walks away relatively unscathed and is forced to pick up the pieces of his life as she lies in a coma after revolutionary surgery just about saves her life. The only side effect being that a mutation occurs and she becomes a vampire of sorts, sleepwalking her way from victim to victim within the confines of an isolated hospital for plastic surgeons.
But when Rose one night wanders off the beaten track into a farm and draws blood from an infected cow, she does not know that everyone she drains of blood from then on will contract a deadly disease that will turn them into raving, bloodthirsty lunatics.
So when Rose’s boyfriend receives a distress call from her and rushes to her aid, he is dismayed to find her gone as her secret has been exposed and several patients found dead or infected. From there on, a cross country chase sees her go on to infect anyone who comes into contact with her as the blood-thirst becomes ever more uncontrollable.
What results is a national crisis, Rose slowly becoming aware that she is the cause and cannot escape her urges or her guilt and the streets filling up with contagious madmen.
Cronenberg uses past familiar faces over famous ones, which works in his favour as only everyday people can portray the everyday people look and feel. Only Chambers provides that stand-out stunning beauty that is essential to the telling of this tale in a seedy time where the sexual liberation of the ’60’s had only resulted in the incessant gratifications of a nation left perverted and never able to feel satisfied. In perhaps what can be seen as a fateful twist, Chambers goes on to pick out her victims from the shadows of porn theatres, pick up men off the street looking for a danger thrill and learns to use her feminine sexual power to her advantage; the literal deadly siren calling a sinking ship towards its doom by mesmerising her lustful victims.
The horror scenes are singled out in isolated incidents throughout, so to give the film a rhythm to work to as it escalates to full-on chaos and those scenes are sometimes comic, sometimes grimly trashy but then hideously dark and uncompromising and like George Romero’s offerings at the time such as ‘The Crazies’ and ‘Dawn of the Dead’ it helps to affect the audience by leading them into the false security of a film that doesn’t take itself too seriously before shocking the unwitting crowds. Cronenberg’s sense of humour lies within his gift for freaking out his audiences with surreal moments we do not think can get any stranger before they do and in that sense, this film is golden.
Watch it on a cold rainy night when you have nothing to distract you and appreciate the horror genius of a mind that will never be equalled!