Directed by The Soska Sisters.
Starring Laura Vandervoort, Stephen Huszar, Greg Bryk, C.M. Punk, Lynn Lowry, and Ted Atherton.
A woman involved in a traffic accident has facial reconstruction surgery, with some icky results.
It has been said before that anybody remaking a David Cronenberg film is incredibly brave, such is the stamp that the filmmaker puts on each of his movies, especially his early body horror works. So that makes the directing team of Jen and Sylvia Soska incredibly brave then, and they do have form in the body horror genre thanks to their body modifying breakout hit American Mary from 2012, they too are from Canada and… um… they are filmmakers, so lots in common with Cronenberg then.
Out of Cronenberg’s pre-The Dead Zone movies Rabid was his most straightforward, being a story about a woman involved in a motor accident who undergoes experimental plastic surgery and develops a taste for human blood, attacking victims with a stinger that emerges from her armpit. The Soska’s remake doesn’t deviate too far from that basic premise, with Rose (Laura Vandervoort – Jigsaw), a shy and slightly nervous fashion designer, getting knocked off her moped after an embarrassing incident at a works party.
Surviving the accident Rose is hideously disfigured, her jaw having being wired shut and her mouth a lip-less tear on the front of her face, but she is offered the chance of pioneering stem cell treatment by Dr. William Burroughs (Ted Atherton – Max Payne). Rose accepts the free treatment and the surgery appears to go well, her injuries all seemingly healed and no side effects as long as she keeps taking the vitamin drink that the good doctor has prepared for her, but after a while Rose starts to experience what she thinks are wild dreams where people she meets seem to die in violent ways, and Rose soon learns that her looks and new-found confidence actually come at a very bloody cost.
So not hugely different from the original in terms of plot but what the Soskas do is weave in social and gender politics, a commentary on the fashion industry, the nature of beauty and the cost of medical care and, of course, plenty of gooey gore effects. The problem is that whilst individually all of these ingredients are commendable subjects to tackle within the framework of a body horror movie, they don’t all gel together to make a cohesive whole, or at least a whole that is trying to say something rather than box-tick a list of contemporary topics to touch upon.
But along with the scattershot metaphors and commentaries there is also an incoherent narrative where it feels like there are two plot threads running alongside each other, one being Rose’s story and the other being the scenes of victims of the blood plague that Rose is carrying in the hospital where a doctor is trying to explain it as the police take down anyone that gets out of hand. Again, there are hints of the Soskas trying to say something about authority but it never goes beyond the basic ‘doctors are good, police/soldiers are bad’ idea we have seen in numerous outbreak movies before. It is also never made clear how all of the victims came to be infected, with the scale of the outbreak never explained and the scenes in the hospital adding a comic tone that doesn’t seem to sit comfortably with Rose’s darker timeline.
However, Rabid does also play out as a straight horror movie if you let it and on that level it is quite enjoyable, if a little long-winded. The gore effects are all suitably gruesome, reminiscent of the work of Screaming Mad George and those Brian Yuzna body horror movies of the late ’80s/early ’90s, and it does feel very slick and stylish, which goes against the grittiness of David Cronenberg’s original but why remake something from over 40 years ago and keep it exactly the same?
The disc comes backed with The Quiet Revolution: State, Society and the Canadian Horror Film – Part Two: An Emerging Revolution: New Territories & Diverse Fears, an overlong title for the second part of the documentary about the Canadian film industry, the first part being on 101 Films’ recent release of Cronenberg’s original Rabid. There is also an interview with Laura Vandervoort and a behind-the-scenes featurette with the Soska twins that give you the expected technical information and how great it is to be remaking a David Cronenberg film. Yeah, fluff pieces but at least they’re enthusiastic, which sort of sums up this film and it’s creators – enthusiastic and spirited but a little giddy and, ultimately, a bit underwhelming.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★