16th Feb2015

‘Rabid’ Blu-ray Review (Arrow Video)

by Paul Metcalf

Stars: Marilyn Chambers, Frank Moore, Joe Silver, Howard Ryshpan, Patricia Gage, Susan Roman, Roger Periard, Lynne Deragon, Terry Schonblum, Victor Désy, Julie Anna, Gary McKeehan | Written and Directed by David Cronenberg


Rabid has always been one of my favourite David Cronenberg movies, there is just something about the strange little film that makes it more accessible than some of his others like Shivers. When I was younger I remembered it as the film with the women with the strange bloodsucking thing under her arm, but as with most of Cronenberg’s work as I grew older I started to understand his vision of the film and his use of body horror.

When Rose (Marilyn Chambers) is involved in a bike accident she has to undergo experimental emergency surgery to save her life. When she awakens from her coma though she has an insatiable taste for human blood. Once bitten her victims become crazed, suffering from the same lust for blood leading them to attack others, spreading the disease with speed, creating a plague which threatens to endanger all of society.

The casting of Marilyn Chambers isn’t a sly reference to her work in porn and the sexual themes shown in Rabid, it was just a casting decision that was made in the hope it would gain the film more exposure. This proved to be a masterstroke though as Chambers really makes an impact with her portrayal of Rose. She is able to play the irresistible predator with the lust for blood, using her sexuality as a weapon to entice her victims while also showing the vulnerability of actually being a victim and not the truth monster at work in the film. She may be the origin of the plague but that does not make her the plague itself.

Unlike Shivers which preceded it, Rabid is actually a more subtle approach to the theme of sexually transmitted disease and how quickly it can spread within a society, though at the time I doubt Cronenberg envisaged it would be seen that way. In his commentary which Arrow Video have included on the release he talks about how he envisaged the evolving of Rose to the creature she becomes as her bodies means of survival, which makes for interesting listening. We don’t really see this in the film itself but that comes as no real surprise with Cronenberg’s work. The fact that her body is meant to have evolved based on the surgery that has taken place is connected (by the director himself) to the idea of stem cells and the adaptability of the human body to survive. All confusing stuff but very interesting to listen to, especially from Cronenberg.

The reason I like Rabid more than some of his other work is that it is more accessible, and while his commentary track may reveal a deeper meaning within the director’s mind this is still a film that we can connect to the vampire legend, so something we as the audience can easier understand. While the idea of the new appendage under Rose’s arm being her means of attack is definitely a strange idea, Cronenberg fans buy into this with a certain understanding of the bizarre nature of is movies. Comparing it to his other films which included parasitic creatures and exploding heads it fits a world where the bizarre is believable as long as it results in a horrific payoff. If the weird thing works as a weapon that kills people who are we to complain about it?

As with Shivers, Arrow Video have used this release as an excuse to look at the work of Cinépix and its importance to Canadian cinema. The documentaries on the disc feel like a continuation of those that were included on Shivers and delve into a few other films that are connected to Canuxploitation. Films geeks like me will love all of this, especially some of the new interviews that have been included on the disc.

Although Rabid is one of my favourite David Cronenberg movies it isn’t one of his best. Arrow Video though have given this cult classic the love it deserves and added extras that not only show the importance of the film but also where it fits in the history of Canadian filmmaking. Cronenberg is one of the legends of cinema and Arrow Video’s release of Rabid shows him the respect he deserves. Also working as an apt reminder of how good Marilyn Chambers was in the movie it also reminds us what a loss it is that she is no longer with us. A release well worth horror fans adding to their collection.

Rabid is available on dual format DVD and Blu-ray, with a Steelbook release also available in the UK, from today.

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek

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