HTS Moderator , Reviewer
HTS Overall Score:78
David Cronenberg is a name that is WELL known in the horror and science fiction community. He’s best known for “Scanners”, “The Fly”, “Dead Ringers”, “A History of Violence” and many others over the years. His early early works usually consisted of TV movies and a few shorts, but he was introduced into the feature film era with a little movie called “Shivers”, which is eerily similar to “Rabid” in many ways. Both feature transplants that result in horrifying conditions and an almost psycho sexual relationship with the condition. In fact, I’d say that “Rabid” acts as a spiritual successor to “Shivers” more than anything. A reimagining that expands upon the original idea of the transplant and takes it to a much broader audience (in regards to the people IN the film). “Rabid” is an interesting movie that has a lot going for it, but it is also very obviously one of Cronenberg’s early works where he was still gaining his footing in the body horror category of film making.
Keloid Clinic is an isolated little medical resort where rich folks can come and get their plastic surgery in peace. There no one will see them recovering and can keep their dirty little secret hidden away until they resurface with a face lift in a few weeks. Well, there languid lifestyle is about to be upset when a young woman named Rose (Marilyn Chambers) is brought into the facility after suffering a catastrophic motorcycle accident nearby. She’s under massive trauma and the resident surgeons there have only once choice. Administer a cutting edge, but highly untested, technique where they graft skin from another portion of her body onto the wounded areas. However, the tissue is treated to be morphogeneticaly neutral so that it can adapt easier and heal faster.
Heal faster it does, and soon Rose is up and at em again after only a few days in a medically induced coma. The thing is, her morphogentically transferred skin has done something rather strange. It’s created an orifice under her armpit that houses a strange phallic attachment. You see, the changes done to her are not only external but internal as well. Her digestive system is completely destroyed and she now can no longer accept food as nutrients. That afore mentioned phallic attachment under her armpit is used to inject people with a toxin and drain blood from them to feed the vampiric like creature that Rose has become. To make matters worse, anyone who is attacked by Rose wakes up with no memory of the situation but soon becomes a mindless zombie, screaming and tearing at the flesh of whoever they can get their teeth on. As Rose infects the entire clinic she moves on to bigger and better things, soon unleashing a plague on all of Montreal that brings martial law on the land.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=85098[/img]“Rabid” expands upon the general premise laid out in “Shivers” a few years earlier. This time instead of an isolated building in Montreal, Cronenberg expands out to the entire city, watching as Rose infects person after person to the point where the military has to come in and try and put down the rabid berserkers before the rest of the populace has a chance of being infected. It’s disturbingly creepy and typical of Cronenberg and his love of body horror films. There is a sheen of 70s cheese to the movie, especially with the infected. The idea that this is akin to rabies may seem like child’s play to horror veterans who have seen every type of infection known to man in movies, but back in 1977 it was actually quite a disturbing film, and got plenty of flak for being blatantly “gory” (for the time). While it’s not as refined and creepy as some of his later works, “Rabid” is DEFINTILEY classic body horror from the master of the genre, and works all of the typical Cronenberg moments into the film. Complete with transformations and realization that the person is losing their humanity in the process.
“Rabid” hits all the right notes and all the right horrific centerpieces of the genre. The claustrophobic atmosphere, the overly ooey gooey transformation into something completely horrific and alien to the person’s nature, and the fun of a cheaply done set with low grade special effects to make it all the more appealing. However, this is definitely Cronenberg at his roughest and rawest. Many of the finger tuned bits that show up in “The Fly” and “Scanners” aren’t present or feel very rough around the edges. The dialog is a bit stilted and even the scope of the picture feels a bit limited. It’s almost as if we’re TOLD that the virus is widespread vs. actually seeing it unfold. Something which hampers the believability of the movie just a little bit.
Rated R by the MPAA
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=85106[/img]“Rabid” has been given a brand spanking new 2K remastering, supervised by the director himself at his preferred aspect ratio of 1.66:1 for the Blu-ray. The old DVD gave it the theatrical 1.85:1 encode, but Cronenberg has always said he preferred the 1.66:1 ratio for the film. Something he corrected in this particular release. The Arrow release of the film has always been problematic with excessive black crush and contrast issue that plagued the release with a rather mediocre presentation. This release looks miles better, with a lot of digital cleanup that breathes new life in to the image. There are some speckles and print irregularities in the opening shot of Rose on the bike, but other than that the image is surprisingly pristine, with a very filmic look to the picture. Colors are warm and 1970’s vibrant, and the skin tones are beautifully natural. There’s a scene inside the apartment where you can see Rose’s sweat dripping down her body and you can see each individual water droplet perfectly. It’s the best the movie has EVER looked, and rightfully so. The work has been supervised by Cronenberg himself and given a very nice touch up job.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=85114[/img]The 2.0 DTS-HD MA track for “Rabid” isn’t AS wonderful as the video transfer, but still does the job for a very low budget 70s horror film. Dialog is usually strong and clear, but there are some moments were some of the vocals get lost in the background, or are at a different volume level than some of the other dialog on screen. There’s a few bits of hissing and background crackling, but overall the 2.0 monorail track is more than capable of replicating the limited effects on screen combined with the standard dialog. It’s a simple track, but this was very intentionally a claustrophobic film without a whole lot of activity going on around Rose (besides in the mall and at the theater). It gets the job done and quite decently so I might add.
• NEW 2K Scan From The Negative At Director David Cronenberg's Preferred Aspect Ratio (1.66:1)
• NEW Audio Interview With Author Jill C. Nelson (Golden Goddesses: 25 Legendary Women Of Classic Erotic Cinema, 1968-1985) And Marilyn Chambers' Personal Appearances Manager Ken Leicht
• NEW Young And Rabid – An Interview With Actress Susan Roman
• Audio Commentary With Writer/Director David Cronenberg
• Audio Commentary With William Beard, Author Of The Artist As Monster: The Cinema Of David Cronenberg
• Archival Interview With David Cronenberg
• Interview With Executive Producer Ivan Reitman
• Interview With Co-producer Don Carmody
• From Stereo To Video – A Video Essay By Caelum Vatnsdal, Author Of They Came From Within: A History Of Canadian Horror Cinema
• Original Theatrical Trailer And TV Spot
• Radio Spots (U.S. And U.K.)
Even though “Rabid” has a few growing pains from the fledging directorial status of David Cronenberg, it is still a fantastically fun little body horror flick that is twistedly demented in all the right ways. The almost upbeat and optimistic air of the people make the movie all the more creepy when the monster that is within Rose comes to light, and the almost haunting score gives the flick a decidedly hollow and dread filled vibe to boot. The film has been given a nice new 2K transfer (supervised by Cronenberg himself with his preferred aspect ratio of 1.66:1) and the transfer looks simply AMAZING! Audio is not bad either, although a little bit dated. The real pull for this release comes from the massive amount of extras that Scream Factory has complied for this collector’s edition release. There are some archival extras from the old DVD era, but there are also several brand new interviews and commentaries that Scream has compiled to make this truly a special released. Definitely worth a watch.
Starring: Marilyn Chambers, Frank Moore, Joe Silver
Directed by: David Cronenberg
Written by: David Cronenberg
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA Mono
Studio: Scream Factory
Runtime: 91 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: November 22nd, 2016
Buy Rabid On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Recommended for a Watch
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