Monday, April 20, 2009

Rabid (1977)
CANADA --- horror

Dir: David Cronenberg

We all know the dangers of modern medical science. One week some research study suggests something's bad for you, the next week it's good. The fact of the matter is, as the old adage goes, nothing is in exact science, this certainly goes for the practicing medicine. In this early directorial effort and companion piece to his debut film "Shivers", master of horror, David Cronenberg dives into his common theme of body horror once again. A young couple (played by the late Marilyn Chambers and Frank Moore) get into a terrible accident while on a country motorcycle ride in rural Montreal.

Rose and Hart sustain pretty bad injuries, but Rose gets the worst of it when the bike lands on top of her. They are rushed to the hospital, where the doctors must attempt a radical emergency surgery on Rose. The process basically involves taking skin tissue from one healthy part of her body and grafting it to her burnt and damaged skin. Being a new process, one can expect side effects, and this one is the crux of the film. As Rose begins to develop a hunger for human blood in which she sucks through a mutated growth of a stinger under her armpit which penetrates its victims even through clothes and with a simple hug. She in turn leaves the victims in an almost zombie-like state, in which they also begin craving blood. Soon enough, Rose is on a feeding frenzy and unlike "Shivers" where just an isolated apartment building is contaminated, the entire city of Montreal is on alert, and the military gets involved when the province of Quebec is threatened.

This is, of course, essentially the closest we may get to a Cronenberg vampire film. It is also a commentary on sexual disease, something Cronenberg seems to have been a prophet of. Here we get a couple of soon to be trademarks for the director with motorcycles (Fast Company), sex (explored in nearly every film), medical science (again in nearly every film), and of course body horror. Exploitative in nature, Rabid was to originally star Sissy Spacek of "Carrie" fame, but producer Ivan Reitman suggested porn star Marilyn Chambers who would make this her only starring role in a somewhat mainstream film. She was one of the first to do so until Traci Lords years later. Watching this film years later, you see the start of two careers, one of which sky-rocketed the other not so much.
Marilyn Chambers RIP (April 22, 1952 - April 12, 2009)