RABID

1977; written and directed by David Cronenberg; 91 mins

[Mild spoilers. Send your complaints to…]

Sex vampires! Sort of! More Cronenbergian Canadian corruption after the similarly sleazy Shivers. This time concerning the fate of a young woman, Rose, who, after a horrible motorbike crash, is taken in at the nearest medical centre – a plastic surgery clinic. The surgeon who sees to her makes the rash decision to try some radical surgery which results in a freakish, cock-like deformity which emerges from a vaginal hole in her armpit, hungry for blood! The deformity also has the added bonus of turning people into rabid, drooling maniacs who try to eat anyone they come into contact with…

In all honesty, it’s possible that I didn’t understand the medical knowhow that was spouted by Dr. Keloid and Cronenberg is infinitely more knowledgeable in science and medicine than I am but to be honest, I’m not quite sure how the surgery is meant to manifest a vampire cock/slug. This possible narrative discrepancy aside, what a film! Like Shivers, it’s a hoot and a holler! A body horror that is a cautionary tale about the sometimes impetuous nature of advancing science that still makes time for car crashes and tits (in this sort of film, you expect the egregious tit shots but one scene stands out for sheer pointlessness of nudity)!

However, cos on this blog, actors seem to get short shrift (but who to blame for this constant oversight?) so let’s talk about Marilyn Chambers. A porn star who’d appeared in some soap flakes adverts before her x-rated sideline was discovered and which obviously could seriously harm soap flake sales by association. It had got around that she was seeking serious acting work and producer Ivan Reitman suggested to Cronenberg that, since they couldn’t have Sissy Spacek, he should give the main role to Chambers… and she’s great in the role! It’s easy to see Abbey Lee in The Neon Demon as a successor to her, particularly with the subtlety of her changes, when she goes from normal, friendly Rose to possessed bloodthirsty Rose. It’s that change that happens as the eyes glaze over and the body follows, prompting the cock-slug to come out and feed. She’s clearly totally game for anything but she also has command of both sides of Rose’s personality: going from fearful and confused and then vamping it up when she needs to entice sad perverts* for blood.

In terms of the production, whereas in Shivers, you could see the cracks in the budget sometimes, here, what’s surprising is quite how big the whole thing is. The car crashes are fairly spectacular and the Montreal scenes clearly aren’t being shot on the fly (the exception being the scene in the subway with commuters just looking right into the camera). The look of the film is nice too, with the vast Canadian countryside, dotted with snow and that blinding winter sun contrasting with the neon lit, slushy streets of Montreal. Even for a low-budget horror flick, you start to get a sense of an unstoppable, national crisis.

*… and for the record, is it me or is that a lot of punters in one porno theatre?

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