After bringing Shivers to Blu-ray last year, Arrow Video continues to release David Cronenberg’s early work in HD with his follow-up, 1977’s Rabid. Despite the success of the earlier (if controversial movie) it’s in many ways a simpler movie, although still an interesting and effective one.
After a horrific motorcycle accident Rose (Marilyn Chambers) is in need of plastic surgery. Her doctors decide to try an experimental skin graft technique, despite it never being tested before. However things don’t quite go as planned, as when Rose wakes up, she has an insatiable lust for human blood – in fact she can’t eat anything else.
It’s not just a case of her killing to survive, as those she bites become infected, and start exhibiting symptoms of a strange rabies-like disease, where victims go mad and become violent, before they die. With no one knowing Rose is behind it, the city turns to chaos, with the infected running rioting.
Rabid isn’t as good a movie as Shivers – indeed there’s a slight feeling that even the director isn’t as invested in the story as he was in his earlier tale, but it’s still a good watch for horror fans. That’s particularly true for those interested in the history of the genre, as in some respects the story is similar to many of the endless straight-to-DVD movies we get today, but in prototype form, as it was films like Rabid that helped create this sort of film.
You can feel it playing with both vampire and zombie tropes while deliberately avoiding being directly related to either, instead attempting to keep it stuck firmly in a real, modern (or at least 1970s) world. As with many more recent tales, it’s a story about the dangers of science and its inadvertent consequences. Throughout Cronenberg’s career he’s been fascinated by how modernity has the potential to suck the humanity out of people, and that’s very present here.
While effective and entertaining, it’s not Cronenberg’s greatest movie, and indeed if you’re interested in his early work, you’re definitely better off starting with Shivers. However that’s not to say Rabid isn’t a worthwhile and entertaining movie in its own right, and well worth watching.
It looks pretty good on Blu-ray too. As it’s a low budget Canadian movie from the 1970s you can’t expect a perfect picture, but it’s a good print with decent colours and a respectable clarity. And as we’ve come to expect from Arrow’s releases of cult classics, there’s a very good selection of features, including a new look at the film and the legacy of Cinepix, the company that made Rabid and helped revolutionise Canadian cinema. There are plenty of other bits and pieces, all of which are worth a look.
Overall Verdict: It may not be quite as good as Shivers, but Rabid is still and effective slice of horror and picking it up on Blu-ray is a good move for Cronenberg fans.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac