Written and directed by David Cronenberg this is a warped tale about a young woman who is involved in a nasty motorcycle accident and after surgery begins to infect people with some kind of disease which makes them rabid. It is quite tense and nasty in places but not entirely effective and seems to borrow from both the vampire and zombie genre without explicitly being either.
The film opens with Rose and her boyfriend zooming down the road on a motorbike and crashing into a field. The nearest medical facility is an exclusive out of town plastic surgery retreat and the doctor rushes her in and opts for some experimental surgery. When Rose wakes up the surgery appears to have worked but she suddenly has a thirst for human blood and something strange has grown under her armpit. Rose embarks on a killing spree and her victims become infected with a rabies-like disease which causes them to foam at the mouth and try to bite other people before succumbing to a coma and death. The infection soon spreads throughout the city and security forces struggle to maintain control.
It never becomes clear exactly what has happened but the problem with Rose is typical of Cronenberg's fascination with the body and there are frequent Freudian sexual overtones. Rose uses her sexuality to snare victims before penetrating them with her bizarre armpit phallus and feeding on their blood. The vast majority are sleazy and unpleasant but as her hunger grows Rose is unable to control the impulse to feed and becomes less selective about her victims.
The direction is nicely handled particularly the opening scene which is witnessed by a patient at the medical facility through a set of binoculars. There are a few creepy moments here and there but the effects are fairly poor and the strange stinger which slides out of a hole in Rose's armpit looks more ridiculous than scary. My favourite scene in the whole film is after the doctor has been infected and he is performing surgery on someone else but beginning to feel the effects of his encounter with Rose, he suddenly loses control in spectacular fashion.
The cast is not the greatest. Marilyn Chambers went on to a long career in porn after this film and she certainly managed to rack up several topless scenes in Rabid but she failed to really capture the horror and confusion you might feel if something like this happened to you. Her boyfriend Hart was played by Frank Moore and he seems as though he has been sedated, turning in a sluggish and lifeless performance. Luckily some of the supporting characters are quite good. Joe Silver was likeable as Murray and Howard Ryshpan was really good as the dodgy Doctor Keloid.
In the latter half of the film things begin to drag and Rose trawls the streets of the city like a vampire in search of victims. As the epidemic continues to grow the military roll in and with rabid attacks increasing by the hour it begins to feel like a zombie movie. The conclusion is somewhat less than satisfying.
Watching this film again for the first time in years it certainly wasn't as good as I remember. The early part of the film works well but there are big holes in the plot and towards the end things got a little boring. It is unmistakeably a Cronenberg film so there are chilling touches and the direction is bleak and intelligent but this is not his best work.Short Review
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