Forgotten Friday Flick – “Rabid”

Now that the looming task of taking on two film fests back to back has finally come to a close, it’s time to come back to an old friend that was merely on pause and not forgotten…welcome to Forgotten Friday Flick!  For the next few weeks we’re gonna concentrate on the early works of one of the oddest and most original auteur filmmakers working still today.  A master of fantastic visuals and askew stories that never ceases to amaze – filmmaker David Cronenberg!  Up for initial dissection this week is a terror tale that combines the director’s staple of sins of the flesh with the mass spread of a disease that can’t be named outright, but leaves the infected feeling rather…Rabid!

Rose and her boyfriend Hart are a freewheeling motorcycle riding couple who love the feel of the open road.  But when a truck stalls in the middle of the highway and Hart must swerve off the road to avoid certain death, he puts the two in a position of being hurt and Rose severely burnt and in a coma.  The two end up at a nearby plastic surgeons office called the Keloid Clinic and Rose undergoes a rather experimental procedure where lead physician Dr. Dan Keloid removes live skin and puts it in areas that are missing it.  It seems to work to great effect at first, but Rose soon realizes that there’s something strange going on and discovers an open lesion in her armpit.  Seems there’s a large swollen stinger in search of blood that emerges from it and attacks those who get physically close to her.  But that’s not the end of the story – those affected then become bite hungry drooling ghouls in search of victims of their own.

While there might be a dated feel for some, the dread effect of Rabid as a twisted horror picture is undeniable.  Examining the fear, disease hysteria and the fascination with wanting to change physical self and using all of the above as a stepping stone, Cronenberg then adds a pinch of his signature strange for a film that truly gets under the skin.  So scenes of surgical procedures and visuals like female private part looking armpit monster holes are equally as unsettling as the tride-and-true infected folks frothing at the mouth for human flesh and work in tandem to provide some grounding to the grandiose nature of Cronenberg’s awry vision.  It’s a definitely a more cerebral way of describing what is at times on its base level a low-budget B-movie freak fest, but fans know there’s always more at work with the famed filmmaker than merely surface sins – perversion is always put on a pedestal for all to see.  (At one point during a scene of panic and pandemonium a mall store Santa gets clipped in the chaos – David’s got issues!)

Plus his unconventional hypnotic muse for the piece, Behind The Green Door porn star Marilyn Chambers, makes the film all the more compelling and repelling as both his beauty and the beast.  Playing a stunning woman who uses her charms to hand out some passionate pain (think a more hardcore Natasha Henstridge via Species which followed years later!), Chambers and her sexy siren persona provide a perfect creepy conduit for Cronenberg’s weird world.  Torn between her love for boyfriend Hart and increasing desire for the bloody red stuff, Chambers shows the range and quality of a Hollywood star and under the direction of the Videodrome helmer makes Rabid equal parts alluring and appalling.  (Thank goodness!)

The use of adult stars in mainstream films is no longer taboo (see Traci Lords ala John Waters y’all!), but it’s a tribute to both Rabid producer Ivan Reitman (yes, he of Ghostbusters fame – who would have thought it?!) and Cronenberg that they chose to go against the grain and use the feminine wiles of Chambers to hammer the horror of Rabid home, which her casting and work does in spades.  But mostly the film and its off-center ideas solidified David Cronenberg as a filmmaker who was savory at being unsafe – the rabid fan base that followed the skilled auteur was fait accompli.


I'm a passionate and opinionated film critic/movie journalist with over 20 years of experience in writing about film - now exclusively for WhySoBlu.com. Previous sites include nine years at Starpulse.com where I created Forgotten Friday Flick back in 2011, before that as Senior Entertainment Editor for The213.net and 213 Magazine, as well as a staff writer for JoBlo.com. My other love is doing cool events for the regular guy with my company Flicks For Fans alongside my friend, partner and Joblo.com writer James "Jimmy O" Oster. Check us out at www.Facebook.com/FlicksForFans.

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