Rabid (David Cronenberg, 1977)
[originally posted 23Jul2001]
Marilyn Chambers was Cronenberg’s second choice to play Rose in this film. Sissy Spacek was his first. I’ve no idea how he got from point A to point B, but I’ve always found that thoroughly amusing.
The film itself is anything but. If you’re looking for the raw and bleeding edge of psychosexual terror, no one’s better at it than Cronenberg, and no one’s been better at it for the last quarter century, starting with the brilliant Shivers in 1975. Cronenberg’s early films are far more unrefined than his recent output, and the string that began with Shivers and ended with 1980’s Scanners (with Rabid solidly in the middle) may, arguably, be the best work he’s ever done.
Rose (Marilyn Chambers) is involved in a motorcycle accident that leaves her horribly mutilated. By coincidence, the accident happens three hours from the nearest major medical center, but just down the road from a rural plastic surgery center, the Keloid Clinic, which is experiemnting with some radical new techniques in skin grafting technology. Needless to say, as in all Cronenberg flicks, you can expect said technology to go wrong in the most disturbing of ways.
Cronenberg’s confrontational way of dealing with his subject matter makes his films, for the most part, very uncomfortable affairs, and there are a good number of people who just can’t watch them at all. They’re missing out on some great filmmaking. Cronenberg uses horror for the same savagely satirical attacks on modern society as does George Romero and (in his later movies) John Carpenter. For those with the stomach for it, this is one of Cronenberg’s less subtle jaunts. While it’s not as uniformly excellent as Scanners or The Brood, with Cronenberg, less subtle usually equates to more fun. ****