David Cronenberg’s second major movie can be viewed as a kind of sequel to “Shivers,” which, in more ways than one, deals with similar themes and issues as that of the aforementioned movie. Whilst Cronenberg showed originality and a genuine talent during each of the movies he made in the 1970’s and early 1980’s, it probably wasn’t till “The Fly” and “Dead Ringers” that finally confirmed him as one of the greatest and most talented film-makers working today. Whilst movies such as “Rabid” and “The Brood” merely suggest a strong and original presence of talent coming from behind the camera (With, perhaps, an edge of genius), if one is watch each of Cronenberg’s movies from “Shivers” onwards (Ending with his most recent “Crash”), his career is an interesting one to follow, simply because its obvious how his worked has matured and improved over the several decades, whilst following virtually identical themes and motives throughout. Cronenberg’s obessions and passions are obvious in every one of his pictures, making him the true author of all his movies.
“Rabid” is the mildly shocking story of a bizarre strain of rabies which spreads across many citizens of Montreal, following a revolutionary skin-graft operation which takes place on a beautiful, young motorcyclist (Maralyn Chambers).
In its favour, “Rabid” is an automatically above-par horror tale, simply because its fascinating in a way most horror movies are not. Cronenberg also shows more control and ability than with “Shivers” this time around, with an improved narrative and a better control over his characters. Considering its low budget origins, it’s generally quite a well made picture, and, because Cronenberg is so very fascinated with ‘The changing of the flesh’ or ‘The new flesh’ (A theme in virtually all of his pictures’), it becomes equally as fascinating for his audience. We come away asking questions at the end of the picture; whilst “Rabid” may be a clear fantasy, it also works as a metaphore for the outbreak of any disease. It also has numerous disturbing and memorable images, now something we should come to expect in a Cronenberg movie. There’s a wonderful air of sexuality in the movie, too, and, in the past, I’ve read some good writings on the picture, where themes such as loneliness and want play an important role in its narrative.
However, the film is also diappointing in many ways. The picture soon becomes repetitive when it should probably be taking a different Road altogether – Watching Ms. Chambers drain blood from victim after victim soon becomes tiresome (Though it’s important to note that during such scenes, the movie is mostly un-gory and horrid – Being gruesome isn’t what Cronenberg wants to do here). The movie also boasts some incredibly bad performances; whilst Chambers isn’t bad (Her performance holds parallels with that of Natasha Henstridge from “Species), Frank More is truly terrible as her boyfriend. There is also big questions hanging over Chamber’s motives in the movie – One can’t help but wonder why she doesn’t do one in a million things to stop her blood-obsessed rage e.g. Get her arm cut off! We’re just not told enough about what the disease has done to Chambers; does she want to kill? If not, why doesn’t she get help? If she does want to kill, what caused this? Has the strange penis-object taken partial control of her brain too?
Perhaps the film’s most ameturish and significant aspect is in the way the script never actually explains how Chambers develops the blood-sucking ‘Penis’ in her arm – Whilst Cronenberg’s original cut of the movie had a scene left in to give an explanation, it was eventually removed because he felt it broke the tension. It’s probably the script that’s the movies biggest fault, or maybe we can credit it more to Cronenberg’s liking for cutting-to-the-bone during editing.