The first time I saw the David Cronenbergs Rabid (1977) was perhaps the early to mid 80s, I saw it on VHS (thats an old plastic cassette to all you non physical media young un’s) I had seen Scanners (1981) a few years before and loved it so when I discovered that Mr Cronenberg had made films before Scanners, I started hunting them down on late night TV and video store. Over that year or two I checked out The Brood, Shivers and of course Rabid, starring Marilyn Chambers and whilst Rabid wasn’t my favourite Cronenberg filma(at the time) (that was still Scanners) I did love the coldness and clinical feel to the worlds he created in his early films
Zip forward a decade or three, and I read that a remake of Rabid was on the cards (Noo! dont remake Cronenberg) but those small pile of nerves vanished in the blink of my eyes and I learned that Jen and Sylvia Soska would be at the helm for this revision/reimagining/revist (choose your word) I was totally fine with that and my anticipation for Rabid (2019) grew.
I have been fans of Jen and Sylvia for a few years now, having first seen their work in 2012’s American Mary and then in pretty much any other project they tackled (I checked out their first film Dead Hooker In A Trunk after American Mary, how on Earth can you not be curious about a film called Dead Hooker In A Trunk- check it out if you havent) But this isnt a life story of Jen and Sylvia.
Lets talk Rabid. The heart of Rabid is a tale of a young woman who is involved in a horrific accident develops who is taken to a medical clinic and worked on by doctors. Seems like a simple enough plot doesnt it.Well never ever would David Cronenberg or The Soska Sisters tackle such a simple plot. So expect more and more you get. I dont want to keep banging out about the original 1977 film, so I will just say that for those who have seen it, if you think the 2019 film is a ‘remake’ then think again. The Soskas have kept the heart of the Cronenberg film, but they have brought along their filming talent, and wonderful style and injected it right into the story and supercharged it to a wonderful degree, giving it life, and a soul and a beauty.
We meet Rose (brilliantly played by Laura Vandervoort) who we see is a quiet, somewhat timid woman who dream of being a famous clothing designer in the super competitive fashion world and who does seem a little like a ‘fish out of water’ but her design talent keeps her afloat. When the near tragic accident occurs, and Rose is shipped to the Burroughs Clinic, its not just her face that changes due to some radical experimental surgery. Her life, and those of many others are about to change. For the better? Well youll find out.
The film is beautifully shot and The Soskas have turned up the temperature in this film with the gorgeous neon’s,the set design its music, clothing designs. In fact everything about this film is ramped up to a wonderful degree that for me showcases how great these two are when it comes to directing feature films. For anyone thinking ‘oh god not another remake’ please do think again. Rabid (2019) fits more in the upgrade version rather than a retread and for those who know Cronenberg films, and those who have seen Rabid (2019) there are so many wonderful nods to the work of Cronenberg that they will make you smile if you see them (but they dont detract from the story or the film itself, they are just there out of love the Mr C.)
You’ll notice I haven’t delved into the story or plot of Rabid too much, and thats on purpose. I had watched Rabid (1977) only a few days before Rabid (2019) and I was still surprised by the plot, the structure and the world that Jen and Sylvia have crafted As I said at the beginning of my comments. It still has the heart of Rabid )1977) but this is a whole new film, made by two of the most exciting filmmakers around and my god it was a treat not only to have seen this film on the big screen at Grimmfest with an audience but it was also a treat to see a revisit to a film that I love, actually being better than the ‘original’ film.
It doesn’t end there though. Once you’ve watched the film there are treats in store with some great special features including The Quiet Revolution: State, Society and the Canadian Horror Film – Part Two: An Emerging Revolution: New Territories & Diverse Fears, a brand new feature-length
documentary exploring the social contexts behind Canadian horror cinema from filmmaker and author Xavier Mendik, there are also some behind the scene footage featuring Jen and Sylvia as well as an interview with lead actress Laura Vandervoort, and finally FrightFest Presents The Soska Sisters’ on set message to the FrightFest 2018 audience, with Paul McEvoy.
Every month should be horror month, but make it a special October with Rabid, Directed by Jen and Sylvia Soska.
Here as a bonus is the conversation that I have with Jen and Sylvia at this years Grimmfest