Rabid (2019) starring Laura Vandervoort, Stephen Huszar and Mackenzie Gray. Directed by The Soska Sisters.
Back in 1977 David Cronenberg unleashed one of the greatest horror movies of all time, Rabid. Of course nobody watched it because the whole world was going bat shit crazy for Star Wars, meaning I didn’t discover this absolute gem until a particularly hazardous trip by bicycle to the video store involving torrential rain, a flat tire and a drunken Irishman during the early 80’s.
But what we got was gold; a woman named Rose is injured in a motorcycle accident and undergoes ‘experimental’ plastic surgery at the hands of Doctor Dan. Of course being a horror movie there has to be side effects, most noticeably a phallic tentacle growing out of her armpit and a thirst for blood…(a winning combination that wouldn’t be seen again until Hideki Takayama unleashed the wonderfully disgusting anime: Urotsukidoji in 1989), throw into the mix the fact that everyone Rose bites turns into a rabid lunatic intent on biting people (this movie scores points for doing infected before 28 Days Later) and spreading the disease and the ensuing result is an awesome hybrid of vampire / zombie movie that still holds up today.
Fast forward to 2019 and The Soska Sisters, who you probably know from classics like Dead Hooker In A Trunk and See No Evil 2, decided to remake this masterpiece.
What we get is a remake that succeeds because it stays true to the original while still managing to slap a 2019 skin on top. Like 2004’s Dawn Of The Dead and 2006’s The Hills Have Eyes, you come away from watching the movie feeling it was made with unbounding enthusiasm and respect for the original.
The 2019 iteration differs in that we get a lot more of Rose’s personal life than in the original. She’s introduced as kind of a loser, arriving late to work and being scolded by her boss, being single while all her friends have dates, and going to a club and having the bouncer search for her name on the list while allowing her co-workers to just waltz inside.
Significant time is also spent on the trauma and psychological effects of Rose’s facial disfigurement and how she is cast from her job because of her physical appearance. Only after a full recovery is she welcomed back with open arms. Time is also spent on the recurring nightmares (or memories) as Rose’s transformation gets underway.
All of this means that the pace for the movie in the first two acts is slow, but I was so invested in Rose and her fake plastic world of the fashion industry that I never got fidgety.
Where the movie really comes into its own is the third act, where the outbreak gains momentum and gore and violence abounds. With just twenty minutes of the movie remaining we final get the beloved armpit tentacle during the fashion show from hell, where infected models and audience members clash in a fountain of blood.
The only negative from the movie is that they went for a happy ending. A cure is found and humanity continues as normal, apart from Rose who has been captured by the doctor. Cronenberg’s ending was way more bleak and apocalyptic; the outbreak has spread beyond control and the army cannot contain the populace. The 1977 Rabid felt like Dawn Of The Dead, mankind was on its way out, the final shot of Rose being thrown into the garbage truck by people in Hazmat suits evoked the same response as watching Ben being thrown on to the bonfire by the Good ‘Ol Boys at the end of Night Of The Living Dead. The 2019 Rabid only has Rose trapped in a prison as the doctor decides what to do next with her and as such, the ending doesn’t pack the emotional punch of the original and kind of fizzles out.
Rabid 2019 can easily join the ranks of one of the best remakes, if you loved the original there’s nothing here that will piss you off and plenty that will keep you interested. That third act is bananas!
Steve Barnard lurks in the Stygian swamps of South America. He divides his time between scouring ancient jungles for the lost City of the Monkey Children and watching horror movies. Literally any horror movie he can get his hands on. Especially Japanese ones.