30th Aug2015

Frightfest 2015: ‘Rabid Dogs’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: François Arnaud, Franck Gastambide, Guillaume Gouix, Lambert Wilson, Gabrielle Lazure, Pierre Lebeau, Virginie Ledoyen, Nicolas Paquin, Hedi Rian, Nathaly Thibault, Gisèle Trépanier, Christopher Tyson | Written by Yannick Dahan, Éric Hannezo, Benjamin Rataud | Directed by Éric Hannezo


I’m not ashamed to admit that, as a die-hard horror fan, there are still some gaps in my movie-watching history. The original Rabid Dogs, directed by the Italian legend that is Mario Bava, is one such film (something I should correct given the film has recently had the Arrow Video treatment). It’s a situation that meant I was headed into this redux with no prior knowledge of the original.

Once again based on the Michael J. Carroll short story “Man and Boy”, this new take on the story – from first-time director Éric Hannezo and The Horde co-writer/director Yannick Dahan – sees three desperate criminals take a young woman and a father and child hostage after a bank job goes badly wrong. It’s the beginning of a frantic and violent road trip that not all of them will survive.

For the most part a by-the-numbers, Drive-inspired, French crime drama, this iteration of Rabid Dogs is less about telling an interesting story and more about trying to make a film that looks cool; with a soundtrack that rehashes the original, whilst giving it a Clint Mansell-esque update. There are some interesting visuals – a shot of the car travelling through a field, scored to a cover of Radiohead’s Creep, showing each character is tainted in some way for example Yet this is still a meandering, cliched-riddled story filled with obnoxious, stereotypical, characters…

Sabri (Gouix) is the short-tempered leader, whose fuse becomes shorter and shorter as the film goes on; then there’s Vincent (Arnaud) the crazy one of the group. The third member of the team Manu (Gastambide) is that one guy we always see in films of this ilk – the one who’s just following his friends, not really wanting to be involved in the first place but there out of loyalty and so he’s more of a hindrance than anything else. The hostages are even less developed. We know nothing bout the father beyond that, and Virginie Ledoyen’s character, a woman in the wrong place at the wrong time, is so unsympathetic that – come the latter third of the film – I was willing the kidnappers to just get rid of her (OK, maybe no get rid, kill would be more accurate – she’s THAT annoying)

If there’s one thing going for this this French remake it’s that the majority of those who see it will most likely never have seen Bava’s original. Which is a very good thing. For the twist in this films tale, the sting of realisation when it does happen, is what makes this film work. With prior knowledge of Bava’s original kidnap drama this Rabid Dogs would undoubtedly be a cuddly poodle.

* 1/5



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