December 9, 2019 Rabid (Movie Review)
The mad world of fashion waits for no one in Rabid, the latest from the twisted Soska Sisters. Based off the 1977 David Cronenberg flick, the Horror/Sci-Fi blend opens to select theaters, as well as arriving to Digital and On Demand, on Friday, December 13, 2019 thanks to Shout! Studios Back 40 Pictures Inc., Telefilm Canada, and Ontario Creates.
Quiet and mousey Rose (Laura Vandervoort: Bitten series, Jigsaw 2017) dreams of being a fashion designer one day. For now, she’s stuck working as an assistant to the quirky Gunter (Mackenzie Gray: Legion series, Riverdale series), the owner and namesake of avant-garde fashion enclave Haus of Gunter. That is, until a horrible accident leaves her disfigured, out of work, and with little hope for her future.
At the Burroughs Clinic, the director (Greg Bryk: Shoot ‘Em Up 2007, Saw V 2008) offers Rose a whole new chance at life in the form of an experimental stem cell treatment. With the post-surgical support of two former co-workers, her best friend Chelsea (Hanneke Talbot: Star Trek: Discovery series, When Hope Calls series) and photographer Brad (Benjamin Hollingsworth: Code Black series, Cold Pursuit 2019), Rose begins to pick up the pieces of her life.
As Rose gets rehired and begins to reclaim all that was lost, a bizarrely mutated strain of rabies starts to spread across the city. With the outbreak hitting so close to home, the beautiful woman starts to question if she is somehow linked to the health crisis. Could she be patient zero?
Clocking in at 108 minutes, Rabid was directed by the Soska Sisters (American Mary 2012, See No Evil 2 2014), multi-talented twins Jen and Sylvia, who also acted in the film and co-wrote its script with John Serge (Veronica Mars series, Dead on Campus 2014). It also features the talents of Stephen Huszar (Faces in the Crowd 2011, The Flash series), WWE star C.M. Punk (Maron series, The Girl on the Third Floor 2019), Stephen McHattie (The Fountain 2006, Pontypool 2008), Lynn Lowry (The Crazies 1973, Cynthia 2018), and more.
Billed as a Horror/Sci-Fi blend, Rabid is science fiction based body horror with elements of the Psychological Thriller. A bizarre tale that deviates from the original, the Soska Sisters have crafted a wonderfully weird dip into unconscious desires, psychological monsters, the world of beauty, personal insecurities, and much more. So much more than a flat tale, Rabid provides a million layers to its story and coats them in dripping bloody goodness.
In the lead, Vandervoort does an exceptional job of bringing the main character of Rose to life. Initially a meek woman with a tragic past, her (surgical) transformation allows her the confidence to strike out and take risks, which ultimately pays off, career-wise. “We are the creators of our own reality,” the film notes (thanks to the work of Esther Hicks) and this is very much true of Vandervoort’s Rose. Through her newfound confidence, she achieves her greatest potential post-treatment, even if the consequences for this are ultimately dire. Her perfect counterpart, Talbot’s Chelsea is self-absorbed enough to overvalue her own beauty, but kind-hearted enough to be there for her foster sister/friend when Rose is most in need. She’s the beautiful runway model with a heart—flighty at times, but with the best of intentions.
Of the film’s actors, Hollingsworth does an excellent job of toeing the fine line between doting suitor and slightly too available friend. This adds a level of intrigue as viewers are continually forced to consider his motives. Similarly, Bryk’s director is a little too altruistic from the get-go, allowing the actor to deliver an exceptionally understated performance as a modern villain. As Rose’s boss, Gray’s Gunter is equal parts ridiculous and obnoxious, comedic at times, but always wonderful in his role. And while they are only given bit parts, Punk delivers a believable performance as the misogynistic douchebag Billy, and Huszar gets to be both sultry and wild in his role as Dominic.
Besides its reworked screenplay and excellent cast, Rabid can also claim wonderfully sullen and muted cinematography from Kim Derko (Land of the Dead 2005, Hollywoodland 2006) that flawlessly sets the eerie and ominous mood of the entire story. In addition to this, there is a superb attention to detail in the special FX makeup that truly makes Rose’s disfiguring injury grotesque. Much in thanks to this work by the film’s accomplished makeup and prosthetics team, we are fully able to grasp the severity of the situation and empathize with her keening cries.
All of this said, Rabid is definitely a film that is likely to polarize audiences. Some are apt to find themselves frustrated by its oddities and quirks that leave the viewer with many questions, along with its often bleak exploration of societal standards for physical beauty. “Nothing tastes as good as skinny looks,” Talbot’s character quips in one scene, while in another she notes: “You’re pretty now, so you don’t have to be nice.” In this, one might say that the Soska Sisters’ Rabid shares some commonalities with 2016’s The Neon Demon.
Of course, none of this is really the point of the film—at least in this writer’s mind, anyway. Rabid is not easy to summarize, as it’s definitely a film with layers. Some will walk away having viewed a body horror flick with a Sci-Fi bent, and they will see little more than the thrills of tentacles and a mutated infectious disease. Others are likely to delve heels over head into interpreting the film’s deeper layers, of which there are a multitude of haunting allegories to be had. Whatever the case, Rabid is an enjoyably bizarre ride through unconscious desire, bloody beauty, and monsters both real and imagined. For this, Cryptic Rock give Rabid 4.5 of 5 stars.