Two years after releasing Shivers, arguably writer/director David Cronenberg’s best work to date, the body horror maestro would follow it with Rabid. Another tale of parasitic infection with visceral gore, strong violent themes blended with psychological terror.
Released in 1977, Rabid stars Marilyn Chambers as Rose. A young woman badly injured in a motorcycle accident. Her boyfriend, Hart (Frank Moore) suffers minor injures and both are taken to nearby clinic.
Rose’s injures are so severe that Dr. Keloid (Howard Ryshpan) decides to perform a risky procedure that he has yet to perfect. It involves morphogenesis and his plan should see new skin grafts replace her damaged and burnt skin and organs. It seems to work even though she remains in a coma for over a month.
When she finally wakes, she finds that she has mutated and a has a small orifice in her armpit. Unable to live without blood, Rose is at the mercy of a phallic-like stinger that emerges from the hole and stabs into her victims drinking their blood.
The victims afterwards are none the wiser but slowly get sicker and sicker before transforming into rabid and violent zombie-like creatures.
Scared and confused, Rose leaves the hospital and begins to spread the virus throughout the city. As more and more people become infected, the authorities get heavy-handed desperate to find ‘patient zero’.
Rose isn’t going to give herself over easily though unless Hart can convince her to stop her rampage.
Whereas Shivers was excellent, Rabid is just a good movie. A very good movie but definitely lacking in certain areas. The story, a zombie-like infection, is so far from original even if the way it spreads is fairly unique. This does make it less interesting but with the main focus being on Rose, played excellently by Marilyn Chambers, it’s forgivable.
She is great here. Showcasing innocence and sexiness in equal parts. Sometimes you’ll feel sympathy for her, other times you’ll fear her. She preys on men who are immediately attracted to her but to be fair to her character, most of the men who do come on to her are sleaze bags anyway.
She isn’t the only highlight though as Frank Moore and Joe Silver also deliver great performances. The latter, is involved in the movie’s darkest scene, something that will make your blood run cold.
Just like Shivers, Cronenberg doesn’t pull any punches but Rabid is slower paced and less exciting. When Rose is ‘hunting’ the tension is ramped up but it drops away elsewhere, this makes it drag in places sadly.
It’s still a very good movie though, just not quite up there with the writer/director’s best work.