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"David Cronenbergs underrated second film continues to develop his theme of body manipulation. ", Combustible Celluloid
With Rabid, acclaimed director David Cronenberg (The Fly, Dead Ringers, Naked Lunch) delivers a high-tension thriller filled with "zombified sluts and shock moments... an irresistible combination that Cronenberg handles well", (Almar Haflidason, BBC)!
After undergoing radical emergency surgery, Rose (former adult film star Marilyn Chambers in her first leading role in a mainstream film) develops an insatiable desire for blood. She searches out victims to satisfy her incurable craving, infecting them with an unknown disease which in turn swiftly drives them insane... and makes them equally bloodthirsty.
Follow the lovely but deadly Rose through her terrifying ordeal as victim by victim, the spreading circle of casualties grows... until no one can escape their grisly fate of becoming... Rabid.
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Rose (Marilyn Chambers) is badly burned in a motorcycle accident. She is rushed to the nearby Keloid Institute where she undergoes experimental skin grafts. Unfortunately, as in many of Cronenberg's films ("Shivers," "The Brood," "Scanners," and "The Fly"), the treatment has dangerous side effects; Rose experiences a mutation. In her armpit, she develops a needle-like protuberance. She awakens from a coma with an insatiable thirst for blood and commences seducing and attacking men around her, inflicting them with a Rabies-like virus. The incubation period is short and soon these men become crazed lunatics, foaming at the mouth and biting anyone near them. The virus spreads like wild fire and all of Montreal is in danger of becoming rabid.
"Rabid" has a very suspenseful, terrifying plot. It belongs in the same genre as the end-of-the-world films where a mutating virus threatens to destroy all of mankind as in the classic "Omega Man" and the modern "27 Days Later." It does not have the look and feel of a low budget film. There is a lot of violence, the type you would find in a zombie film such as "Dawn of the Dead." There is mass hysteria on the subways and at the malls as people are attacked and bitten. Soldiers shoot those who have been infected. At the end, soldiers in white decontamination suits are seen gathering up the dead. Like many of the horror films in the seventies, "Rabid" does not have a happy, cheerful ending. It is rather bleak and disturbing.
I must praise Somerville House for releasing an excellent DVD package of "Rabid." It is presented in a crisp, clear widescreen format with excellent audio. There is an interesting, informative interview with Cronenberg who explains how he came to cast Marilyn Chambers despite critics complaining that his first film, "Shivers," was pornographic. Her filmography is also provided on the DVD. Despite all of her other films, I will always remember Marilyn as the star of "Rabid."
Despite a tight budget (a half-million dollars Canadian, or about double what your average Roger Corman cheapie cost back then), Cronenberg succeeds in adroitly staging an apocalyptic epidemic in Quebec province. He's aided immensely by Chambers, who turns in a much stronger performance than you might expect as a Nice Pretty Girl (the kind you want to ask out, or take care of if she's in trouble) turned reluctant predator - while she's not in the league of Sissy Spacek (the director's first choice for the role, turned down by the producers because Chambers was better-known at the time!), she still does a good job with the part.
This DVD, digitally remastered and released by Canadian distributor Somerville House, comes with a Commentary track by Cronenberg, as well as a half-hour interview (clearly part of a larger career retrospective, but still worth watching). Would that Cronenberg's other, better known horror movies THE BROOD and SCANNERS had this much attention paid to them!