Today, reports have come in that Van Halen founder Eddie Van Halen passed away of cancer at 65. Regardless of where you stand on Van Halen overall (whether you prefer David Lee Roth’s vocals over Sammy Hagar’s), it was Eddie that brought some great sound…
- Good for a late night watch.
- Great to see how everything escalates. From single attack to near Martial Law.
- There's two types of terror at play. Both Rose and her victims are dangerous
- Pacing is even. The film is halfway done before you realize it.
- The ending is an awesome punch to the gut.
- That cow didn't deserve its fate.
While not what I'm used to from him, David Cronenberg's classic tale of a medical experiment gone wrong hits all of the right late night movie viewing notes. Innocent girl in danger? Check. Rabid people foaming at the mouth? Check. City Wide Epidemic? Check. I learned Ivan Reitman was a producer for some of Cronenberg's early work, that Rabid wasn't Cronenberg's earliest film, and that Canada has some great roads for motorcycle riding.
I accidentally stumbled on to Rabid. I woke up with the tv on late at night to some guy trying to console a nearly nude and upset patient in her bed.
“Wait a minute….” I say, rubbing my eyes and trying to wake up fully. “Okay, this isn’t Lifeforce. What is this?” My hands start looking for the remote, but by the time I’m able to grab it, the guy howls in pain. Blood starts running down his side while in the patients arms.
“What the what? Hell am I watching?” My hands search for the remote.
I bring up the info on the film and sigh with a smile…”Oh. Cronenberg. I should have known.”
I jumped to the In Demand station and watched it from start to finish. I was always under the impression that Scanners was David Cronenberg’s first film, so Rabid was a nice surprise. I also learned that Ivan Reitman was a producer both for this and some of Cronenberg’s earlier works, much like Mel Brooks was for The Fly. My mind is blown. What is with comedy makers turned Horror Producers?
When Rose (Marilyn Chambers) suffers major injuries in a motorcycle accident, a local medical center takes her in and performs some strange new surgery on her. She’s kept for some time, while her boyfriend Hart (Frank Moore) is sent home. It’s during her stay that the madness starts. As she recovers, Rose finds she has a craving for blood, Leave it to Cronenberg to find the strangest way to do it. Rabid is the kind of film that teaches horror fans. Watching it, I was able to see how it was the source for films like James Gunn’s Slither, Tobe Hooper’s Lifeforce, George Romero’s The Crazies and Hal Barwood’s Warning Sign. Anyone watching Rabid would get an idea of where Slither could have gotten the stinger from, which is interesting to see.
Those bitten by Rose begin to suffer from an advanced case of rabies, and this spreads like wildfire. It happens to be one of the best elements of the film. The terror in Rabid comes from both Rose as a carrier, who is compelled to find someone to drink from/infect and her victims, who are left foaming and violent. Bart spends the bulk of the film trying to track down Rose and piece together what’s occurring while facing some guilt. Not a terrible thing, given the entire situation and the fact that it was his motorcycle they crashed. As the story progresses, the danger escalates for everyone involved. By the second half of the film, the city is almost under Martial Law as they try to contain the virus. As a result, the pacing for Rabid is even for a film from the 70s. It doesn’t feel like it drags on at all.
From an acting standpoint, everyone’s parts were okay. Chambers’ Rose is a mixture of innocence, quiet sexuality and a little ruthlessness. I particularly liked Joe Silver (Shivers, another early Cronenberg film) as the investor who watches the hospital kind of unravel. Frank Moore (who reminds me a lot of Christopher Walken) has this tortured soul quality to him that I enjoyed.
The effects and makeup work were great. There’s quite a bit of blood and foamy mouths, of course it’s what anyone would expect from Cronenberg. The blood doesn’t look entirely real, but considering that this was about 40 years ago, it seems to hold up okay.
Overall, Rabid is a great late night movie worth catching if you can. At the time of this writing, the film is available on Amazon Prime.