Rabid comes from what I would call David Cronenberg’s second era of films. After a couple early films and several shorts and TV movies – most of which remain relatively unknown even after his later fame – he began to carve out what would become known as his trademark style and subject matter with unsettling “body horror” films, beginning with Shivers and continuing with Rabid and The Brood. (In my mind, breakout hit Scanners began his third era of well-known horror films, and shifting away from horror marked the fourth). It’s not only a great film in its own right, but from an interesting and seminal place in his career.
A young woman named Rose (Marilyn Chambers) is badly injured in a rural motorcycle accident, and a nearby clinic chooses to treat her immediately as she’d never survive the long trip to a better-equipped city hospital. As a last-ditch effort, the head doctor treats her severe burns with an experimental skin graft procedure. She survives, but experiences some frightening new changes.
A retractable stinger appendage develops in her armpit, and she must use it to feed on people, trying to satisfy her new craving for blood. She escapes the hospital and hitchhikes her way back to the city of Montreal, creating more victims along the way.
Unbeknownst to her, she is patient zero in a fast-spreading epidemic. Rose is still lucid and able to act and appear normal, but her victims aren’t as lucky. They quickly become rabid – crazed, mindless biters that spread their disease exponentially with no known cure.
Meanwhile, Rose’s boyfriend Lloyd, along with Murray Cypher, a business partner of the clinic, try to track her down and get to the bottom of the mystery, which is fast becoming a national concern. After a surge of incidents, the city of Montreal is effectively shut down and placed under martial law.
Rabid skirts the vampire and zombie genres with its blood thirst and apocalypse of infection, but mostly does its own thing. The closest comparison is perhaps 28 Days Later, which has a similar “zombies but not zombies” concept driving it narrative.
The body horror elements are, of course, grotesque and memorable, and indicative of the direction that Cronenberg’s films would take over the coming years. Rose’s stinger is a red, fleshy, retractable appendage housed in an orifice. It basically looks like an animal penis poking out of an anus. Her victims become sallow-faced ghouls with pus oozing from their eyes, and green foam from their mouths.
But what’s even more striking to me is the frightening vision of how quickly society can break down under the right perfect storm of circumstances.
It’s also a Christmas movie. ‘Tis the season.
Rabid comes to Blu-ray in a snazzy Scream Factory Collector’s Edition with a reversible cover featuring new artwork and a classic design. My copy included a slipcover with the new art.
According to Scream Factory’s press notes, the disc features a new 2K scan from the original negative, at David Cronenberg’s preferred aspect ratio of 1.66:1.
Special Features and Extras
· NEW Young and Rabid (33:05)
– an interview with actress Susan Roman, who played Mindy, the best friend character.
· David Cronenberg Interview (20:36)
vintage interview in which Cronenberg outlines his early career and the challenges of making Rabid.
· Independent Spirit (12:28)
– an interview with executive producer Ivan Reitman, who discusses his early career and getting started as a filmmaker in Canada, as well as some thoughts on making Rabid.
· Northern Exposure (15:37)
An interview with co-producer Don Carmody, who provides a solid discussion of the film’s creation, particularly from a business angle.
· From Stereo to Video (26:23)
– Arrow-produced video essay covering Cronenberg’s entire career. Hosted by Caelum Vatnsdal, the author of They Came from Within: A History of Canadian Horror Cinema. A bit monotone but very informative.
· Theatrical Trailer (2:10)
· TV Spot (0:32)
· Radio Spots (1:39)
U.S. and U.K. radio ads
· Still Gallery (5:49)
A collection of posters and BTS photographs (note: contains nudity).
· NEW Audio Interview with Jill C. Nelson and Ken Leicht
An hour-long conversation about marilyn chambers with Jill C. Nelson (an author of books on the subject of erotica) and Ken Leicht (Marilyn Chambers’ personal appearances manager). Though not a commentary, it’s listed as such in the menu and plays against the film.
· Audio Commentary with writer-director David Cronenberg
· Audio Commentary with William Beard, author of The Artist as Monster: The Cinema of David Cronenberg
Get it at Amazon:
Rabid – [Blu-ray][Instant]