David Cronenberg’s Rabid is an odd film which sadly never justifies its oddness. At first a creepily Freudian shocker, the shocks never take control in any meaningful way. After a young couple have a horrific motorcycle accident, the driver remains unscathed. Luckily for his incredibly burnt and injured girlfriend Rose, they crashed near a recreational plastic surgery facility. The girl’s burns are so serious that doctors begin experimental skin grafting to save her. This is where fake science makes no real attempt to explain anything.
When Rose finally wakes up, her very first act is to kill a man. Slowly it is revealed that her armpit is the new home of a very vaginal opening containing a very phallic proboscis, which comes out of it and sucks people’s blood, resulting in some odd dry-humping endings to fight scenes. And then of course, her victims turn into zombies.
This weirdness is further compounded by a complete lack of character development. Poor Rose, who seems to inadvertently display her breasts a lot, also tends to use her good looks to draw victims in, and vacillates madly between wide-eyed victim of cruel fate and evil blood-lust vampire. She does try to eat, and regain her humanity, but each time the event fails she seems as remorseless as before in her desire to drain blood. And when I say remorseless, I mean utterly devoid of empathy toward anyone. She then weakens very quickly and becomes a squeaky innocent girl again.
It’s not so much unconvincing as totally confusing: does Cronenberg want you to pity her as a victim of freak circumstances, or despise her as she gives in to her monstrous urges? Other characters are equally inconsistent, as it seems you barely have the time to get to know them before she has drained everyone’s blood and the military and Word Health Organisation are involved. Even after her boyfriend catches up to her and reveals that she is in fact the cause of the zombie chaos gradually overtaking the city, she seems totally unrepentant and simply makes a run for it.
It doesn’t go anywhere, pretty much every character dies whether you cared for them or not, and generally, compared to the tension and pathos of his other works, Cronenberg let himself down on this one.
Review by Nicole Holgate
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