Rabid – 2 out of 5
I enjoy David Cronenberg’s films—Scanners is awesome, A History of Violence is incredible, Videodrome made me say, “What the fuck?” but I still found it cool and who doesn’t love The Fly? (Probably flies and people who hate Jeff Goldblum) Even though I would say I’m a fan of the guy, I still haven’t seen all of his work—I’m not an obsessed fan. However, there’s always been one of his movies on my list that I’ve wanted to see but have only recently got around to watching. That film is his 1977 zombie-esque affair starring a porn star trying to get legitimate work: Rabid.
|Yes, this woman who looks like she would be one of your friends' hot mothers is|
the porn star in this movie. Please refrain from Google-ing her past film credits
till after the review.
|"I see no reason why this would end poorly for us!"|
|The reason the experimental surgery went bad is because the doctor let his|
eyebrows perform the operation.
|Did I mention that the boyfriend character looks like the cousin|
of 1970s Christopher Walken?
|Seeing this man not breastfeed that child probably would have greatly improved the film.|
While I dug the unusual story (unusual stories being commonplace for Cronenberg), there were a lot of elements that prevented me from really getting into this film. First off, the thing under Rose’s arm was disturbing—granted it was meant to be but seeing an orifice that looks like the unholy hybrid of a vagina and a butthole complete with a barbed penis inside of it is really hard to look at. Thankfully the film doesn’t show it often.
|It doesn't show it often so I'm going to show it here!|
|And here's the penis-looking part of it! Enjoy!|
I realize that the goal was to make this thing give birth to a feeling of unease with the viewer and conjure up latent sexual repression within the audience but the symbolism of this orifice and the fact that Rose has to kill a person by getting close to them (often through a hug) is just a long spewing vomit of commentary about sex and intimacy that ends up making the film feel like a parody of Cronenberg’s usual commentary about sex and why we should be scared of it and being close to someone (this is the guy, after all, who clearly gets off from car crashes). This aspect didn’t feel layered into the story like the man has done in the past but rather felt like he was phoning this element in and decided that subtlety was just too difficult at the time. I can appreciate the symbolism about how intimacy can lead to a zombie outbreak (that was what he was going for right?) but I can’t appreciate how haphazardly he placed it within the film with little to no creativity behind it—but seriously, the symbolism behind the zombies…we get it, Cronenberg. They are meant to represent sexually transmitted diseases.
|"Just look cool...keep it together and no one will know you're a zombie..."|
The zombies were another weak element (and a poorly developed one, for that matter, in this film). They are suppose to be an epidemic that is terrorizing the city to the point the government sends out garbage men and snipers to take them out and pile them into the garbage trucks. The problem here is that aside from the news clips that are thrown in here and there throughout the film, we never really experience any sort of outbreak of this zombie virus. (And yes, it could be argued that they are not technically zombies.) At most, you see a single zombie attack someone at a time…my math may be a little rusty but I don’t think that qualifies as any sort of outbreak that requires a clean up crew to work all hours of the night to rectify. At most, they probably could have just waited till morning…after they had their coffee and a healthy and hearty breakfast.
|"Maybe if I stare at him, he'll say something about the coffee I made him..."|
The biggest detractor this film had that kept me from really getting behind it the way I have with other Cronenberg films was the acting (and don’t say anything about how I was talking about how the sexual imagery made me uncomfortable in the previous paragraph only to talk about “getting behind” Cronenberg’s film). To put it mildly, the acting in this film is just tremendously awful. There isn’t a single actor that is convincing. Extras, bit-parts and even the main players are all out to give a performance that would make the waiter in your Hollywood restaurant weep and cry out, "I could have done better if only someone would have given me the shot I deserve!"
|No, they killed Phil Dunphy!|
However, this terrible acting is exactly what makes this film fun to watch. Marilyn Chambers alone makes the film amusing as it’s clear that she doesn’t really understand that you don’t have to explode all your emotions to 11 to be convincing. Or how about the boyfriend character who is the exact opposite and looks like he swallowed an entire bottle of downers? Perhaps he was saving it up for a single emotive blowout at the end of the film when he decides to let out some emotions…and then one-ups Chambers and goes to 12.
|Here's Chambers in an adult theater in the movie...sadly, it wasn't playing one of |
her more popular films.
To call the bad acting a detractor was a misnomer on my part because it was the one thing I loved about Rabid. It made the film tolerable because it gave me something to make fun of and laugh at. The story is weak, the terror is as non-existent as the plot and the symbolism is so obvious that Cronenberg should have just walked in front of the camera and said, “Look at the penis-toting vagina under her arm! Doesn’t that remind you how dangerous free love and sex can be? And the zombies are meant to resemble STD's!” (Then he drops the microphone that mysteriously manifested itself in his hand and walks away.) So, if some bad acting gives me some joy in an otherwise joy-sucking film, I guess it isn’t so bad.