Rabid (David Cronenberg, 1977)


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.

3 responses to “Rabid (David Cronenberg, 1977)

  1. That’s a brilliant final sentence you have there . . . I didn’t appreciate its delicate ambiguity the first time I read it, but I just watched the trailer for Rabid on youtube a little while ago and had to re-read what you’d said.

    Well, Rabid is something I’ve wanted to see ever since I was a kid, and I still haven’t, and I must say the trailer looked kinda awesome! A bit Dawn of the Dead-ish; and of course it had that ominous voiceover trailer narration from the guy whose voice I recognize from so many home video trailers of my childhood– I think I’ll really enjoy if I finally get to see it! That said, your stance on its thematic deficiencies vis-a-vis Shivers and The Brood sounds plausible. Though I think you covered those 2 last year, you could always revisit them for a trilogistic analysis (esp. since they’re pillars of Canadian cinema?– I’m really impressed by the fact that Shivers was the highest grossing film in Canada in its time, though not sure if that meant Canadian-made or all-out most popular film IN Canada–)

  2. I ‘am a big fan of Cronenberg. I ‘ve got all his movies. His style and his philosophy cannot be compared with the contemporary directors.
    Rabid its a film with fantasy and interior terror. The woman with the iron pennis inside a porno-cinema hungry for victims, the prophecy of AIDS coming and the misty atmosphere make it en early masterpiece of a great mind.

  3. Thank you very much exile!

    I did review both last year, I have no immediate plans on reviewing the whole as a trilogy, but it could happen. Maybe as a different tangent on a different month. I’m guessing it’s the highest grossing Canadian made film, as American cinema dominates like 90% of theatres now, even less then.

    Done Michael Corleone. I definetely agree, he is a unique screen presence, his ideas and themes are completely incomparable. I wouldn’t call it a masterpiece, early or not, but it is somewhat prophetic… I’ll give you that. It is an intersting companion piece to his other work too.

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