Rabid seems to be definite of Cronenberg’s early horror work. It shows flair and originality in both writing and direction, but never quite comes together, and fails to leave any significant impression. I’d even say, this film is the weakest of the three pre-1980s work of his I’ve seen. Relatively to his other work, it’s rather shallow… failing to really capitalize on Cronenberg’s unique thematic touch. There are hints of it here and there, the sex, the hospitals, and the anatomical fascination.
What I found most interesting about the film, has nothing to do with the horror at all… the film is really just a stunning portrait of Montreal during the mid 1970s, and I enjoyed comparing streets, malls and areas of then to how I know them now. It was even distracting, as I found myself trying to recognize a familiar location, struggling to place it… and ignoring the events of the scene itself. One scene, actually, my father has referenced beforehand. There is a shopping mall near my home where the film was partially shot and my dad says a co-worker was in the scene. I don’t know the man, so I obviously couldn’t recognize him… but that’s interesting I guess.
I do like Marilyn Chambers in the film, and she does bring some sex appeal to the film. Apparently Sissy Spacek was the first choice for the role, and though an excellent actress, I’m not sure she would have brought the same kind of weight to the performance. There is something about Chambers that makes her interactions with the men she meets ambiguous and suggestive, something I’m unsure Spacek could have done. She’s the type of woman I hate in a way, not on any moral level, but a kind of inbred jealousy of beautiful women who are effortlessly appealing, and as Cronenberg seems to suggest… effortlessly dangerous.