RABID **** Canada 1977 Dir: David Cronenberg. 86 mins
Cronenberg’s second horror movie is another NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD-influenced body horror in which the monster – spreading, as in SHIVERS, like a plague that turns the infected into snarling violent zombie-like figures- serves as a venereal disease metaphor. In her only so-called “legitimate” film role, Marilyn Chambers successfully conveys the metamorphosis of her character, invoking sympathy as an enforced sexual predator who feeds off other women, drunken lechers and even cows after developing a parasitic, post-op blood craving creature in her armpit. The pre-AIDS parallels to STDs are reinforced by powerful scenes of Chambers sobbing pitifully, “I’m a monster!” and confronting her boyfriend with the desperate assertions “I’m still me, I’m still Rose!” as she accurately confirms “It’s not my fault!” The film offers a typically sharp Cronenberg satire on contemporary fads for cosmetic surgery, while proving the director’s ability to get the most out of a low budget: the escalating scenes of panic (in a subway train, a diner and a shopping mall) are extremely effective. The Romero influence is readily apparent from the incorporation of television newscasts to the apocalyptic ending, but RABID itself has been an enduring influence on subsequent genre filmmakers. BRAIN DAMAGE borrowed its drug addiction metaphors and has a virtually identical scene of its protagonist writhing around on the floor in his underwear, desperate for a fix, while the film’s portrayal of the infected foaming at the mouth and lumbering around in a brutal fashion prefigures the style of the recently revived in Stuart Gordon’s RE-ANIMATOR.
Review by Steven West