Rabid Blu-ray review: How does Cronenberg’s 1977 horror hold up?

Posted on 19 February 2015
By Jawa
  • Share:

David Cronenberg’s fourth film as a Director released in 1977 features many of the classic ‘Cronenberg’ elements. His tropes, tricks and techniques are on show.

The most well-known and repeated of these motifs is of course body-horror. Typically his films focus on the deforming or invasion of the human body. Rabid fits into this category because after experimental surgery to save her life our hero ‘Rose’s’ body begins to change and leads to her to creating a trail of destruction and chaos.

Opening with a beautiful girl sat on a motorbike parked at a garage. There’s something French about the image as, for me at least, it invokes memories of Brigitte Bardot astride her Harley Davidson. A man appears from the garage similarly dressed in biker leathers and the couple race off as the opening titles role.

Cutting to the Keloid Clinic (Keloid – an abnormal proliferation of scar tissue, as on the site of a surgical incision) we see patients recovering from plastic/cosmetic surgery. Inside, three senior figures are discussing franchising plastic surgery. They debate the ethics of such a decision. Once money becomes involved does patient care suffer?

The motorcycle couple crash. The girl ‘Rose’ requires life saving surgery, but with only 30 minutes to live, the doctors at the Keloid Clinic decide they will have to perform he surgery themselves. Dr. Dan Keloid thinks this is the perfect opportunity to try their new experimental technique of treating some of her intact tissue to become morphogenetically neutral. The tissue is grafted to fire-damaged areas of her body in the hope that it will differentiate and replace the damaged skin and organs.

The woman’s body unexpectedly accepts the transplants, but unbeknownst to the doctors she has been transformed. The experimental surgery has kept her alive but with strange side effects and dire consequences. This eventually causes the city to fall into chaos before she can be contained.

The film very much feels like a product of its time. A slasher/zombie horror with tones of exploitation, body horror, and a female predator using sexuality to lure victims in a future echo of Species.

The exploitation element is confusing, as at first I felt this was just a symptom of the era in which the film was made. Upon finding out that the lead Chambers was a pornstar trying to cross over to a mainstream film career the issue seems somewhat more clouded.

In this regard, you could feel Chambers is comfortable removing her clothes in front of the camera, but if wanting to leave porn behind, was she wise to be so willing to do so here, or was she being exploited for her past and felt she had to disrobe to keep her job? Whatever the reality, Cronenberg stated that Chambers put in a lot of hard work on the film and that he was impressed with her.

Also on a personal level, I’ve found a new film to add to my Alternative Christmas Movies list. Father Christmas receives some brutal treatment in this one. 

Another quite interesting fact is that Cronenberg had originally wanted to cast Sissy Spacek in the film lead, but the studio vetoed his choice because of her accent. Spacek’s film Carrie was released during this film’s production and proved to be a massive hit and a movie poster for the film appears when the main character walks by a movie theater.

All in all, an enjoyable bit of ’70s horror with all you would expect that to entail. 2.5 out of 5 for the film and if you’re a Cronenberg fan then with the remaster and additional features this will make an excellent addition to your collection.