After undergoing experimental surgery, Rose (Marilyn Chambers) acquires a taste for human blood for which her victims subsequently become violent zombies.
Rabid is one of those films that so much time has passed from when I would have first seen it that I can’t remember if I actually watched it, or just manufactured an idea of it from seeing the coverbox so much as a kid. Considering I recalled almost nothing, I wager the latter is true. Though Rabid is one of Cronenberg’s least talked about works, I think it’s still a solid piece of work.
Obviously, the main talking point was the casting of porn star Marilyn Chambers (apparently a suggestion by Ivan Reitman after the studio balked at their first choice in Texan Sissy Spacek) that I think was as bold as it was perfect. I felt she had real screen presence in this film, switching back and forth between innocent and predatory with ease. Her comfort level with the nudity was to be expected I suppose, but I also got the sense she really trusted her director. I mean, can you imagine her reading the script, “soooo I have a parasite that comes out my armpit???”
After watching Strange Shadows last week, I was surprised by how different Montreal looked even though both these movies were filmed around the same time. Granted, a lot of Rabid was shot at night, but I definitely felt there was more grittiness to this one. As with most of Cronenberg joints, this had so many recognizable locations. If there’s ever a Montreal edition of Horror Express, I hope that at least the mall and apartment complex are on the list.
Also while watching Rabid, I couldn’t help but draw parallels to George A. Romero’s The Crazies released a few years earlier. Not that there was any intentional aping going on, but they did share similarities in both pathology and escalation. It’s also clear the pair shared the nihilistic streak that was so common during that decade, it was almost a badge of honour.
I mentioned Rabid wasn’t as popular as some of the Baron of Body Horror's other efforts, but that’s not to say it doesn’t have its moments. It played to me as an extension of Shivers, moving beyond the confined space of Starliner Island and sweeping into the entire city of Montreal where truck drivers, pervy moviegoers and mall Santas were all caught in the crossfire. Not to fear though, as Cronenberg’s version of squeegee kids were there to clean up the mess.