Rabid (2019)


She’s got a bit of an overbite.

(2019) Horror (Shout! FactoryLaura Vandervoort, Benjamin Hollingsworth, Ted Atherton, Hanneke Talbot, Stephen Huszar, Mackenzie Gray, Stephen McHattie, Kevin Hanchard, Heidi von Palleske, Joel Labelle, C.M. Punk, Edie Inksetter, Tristan Risk, Sylvia Soska, Jen Soska, Vanessa Jackson, Joe Bostick, Troy James, Greg Bryk, A.J. Mendez, Dion Karas, Amanda Zhou. Directed by Jen and Sylvia Soska

 

The Soska sisters are a pair of Canadian identical twins who have turned into promising horror directors. Their latest, a remake of an early classic by their countryman David Cronenberg, walks a fine line between modernizing a classic and overpraising it.

Rose (Vandervoort) is a mousy wannabe fashion designer who works for the insufferable Euro-trash designer Gunter (Gray) who regularly bullies her. Her BFF Chelsea (Talbot) convinces her to come to the company party that night where hottie photographer Brad (Hollingsworth) flirts with her. When she discovers that Chelsea put him up to it, Rose storms out of the party, gets on her scooter and promptly gets into a horrific accident.

With part of her intestine missing and her face marred by a ghastly mutilation, she is certain her career is over. However, Dr. Burroughs (Atherton) proposes a radical new treatment – stem cell manipulation – that will restore her beauty and repair her injuries. It sounds too good to be true but what does she have to lose?

The treatment goes better than she would dare hope. Dr. Burroughs’ promises are kept and more; when Rose gets back to work, she does so with new-found confidence that impresses Gunter to the point that he invites her to work on his new collection. She’s living the dream now.

But not so much since it turns out there are side effects. You see, Rose has a massive craving for blood and a weird appendage growing out of her armpit. And it turns out that Rose is now carrying a kind of super-rabies that is spreading throughout the city. Living the dream has turned into a living nightmare.

This is a fairly faithful remake of the original which is best-known for being porn star Marilyn Chambers’ first legitimate screen role. There is a smattering of social satire here that is welcome and a few in-jokes; early on, an employee of Gunter’s wonders about his new line “Why are we remaking old trends?” The level of self-awareness in the film is clever and subtle.

Unfortunately, a lot of good ideas here go undeveloped and the Sisters – whose earlier films didn’t shy away from the gore, certainly seem to be a bit tamer here. There are a few gruesome scenes – the injuries to Rose’s face, as depicted above, among them – but for the most part, there is a curious lack of over-the-top gore which might have benefitted the film.

A little judicious editing might have always helped. The movie is 20 minutes longer than the original and feels long; by the time the movie reaches its denouement it feels more like a marathon than a sprint. A good horror film requires brevity. There’s none of that here.

Vandervoort, best known for her time on Smallville, does a fairly decent job although quite frankly when compared with Chambers that’s not a high bar to reach for. She shows some nice horror chops here and although I don’t think that a further career as a scream queen is necessarily in the cards for her but if she chose to go that route I think she could make some real inroads.

I had high hopes for this one given the pedigree of the Soska sisters and the original material so I was mildly disappointed. It’s still worth seeing, particularly if you’re into body manipulation horror, but this is far from essential. Still, I do believe the Soska sisters are on the verge of becoming big players in the horror genre.

REASONS TO SEE: Occasionally delves into social satire which it does with welcome subtlety.
REASONS TO AVOID: Way too long.
FAMILY VALUES: There is extreme and often horrific violence, disturbing images, drug use, sexuality and nudity not to mention plenty of profanity.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Producer Paul Lalonde is best known for his work o the Left Behind film franchise. This is his first non-faith-based film.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Amazon, AppleTV, Fandango Now, Google Play, Vudu, YouTube
CRITICAL MASS: As of 12/21/19: Rotten Tomatoes: 57% positive reviews: Metacritic: 41/100
COMPARISON SHOPPING: World War Z
FINAL RATING: 6/10
NEXT:
And Two If By Sea

Pick of the Litter – December 2019


BLOCKBUSTER OF THE MONTH

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

(Disney) Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, John Boyega.  The saga of Star Wars comes to a final conclusion after 42 years following 12 movies along with untold animated episodes, television specials, novels and comic books. Director J.J. Abrams returns to the big chair to bring this all to a conclusion but fear not fans: a new trilogy will begin on December 16, 2022! December 20

OTHER WIDE RELEASES TO WATCH FOR:

Jumanji: The Next Level, December 13
Richard Jewell, December 13
Bombshell, December 20
Cats, December 20
1917, December 25
Little Women, December 25
Spies in Disguise, December 25

INDEPENDENT PICKS

A Million Little Pieces

(Momentum) Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Billy Bob Thornton, Odessa Young, Giovanni Ribisi. A young writer, having hit rock bottom with his alcohol and drug addictions, checks into rehab. Based on the memoirs of James Frey (which he later admitted were largely fictitious), this is the account of a man who resigned to death, found hope instead. December 6

The Aeronauts

(Amazon) Felicity Jones, Eddie Redmayne, Himesh Patel, Phoebe Fox. An intrepid balloonist and a pioneer meteorologist ascend in a hot-air balloon to do weather research, but the ascent turns into a fight for survivor as they climb to the upper reaches of the atmosphere. December 6

In Fabric

(A24) Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Hayley Squires, Leo Bill. Who would have thought that the scariest movie of 2019 might just be this English film about a cursed dress? Check the trailer out…but not while you’re alone at night. December 6

Marriage Story

(Netflix) Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, Laura Dern, Alan Alda.  After a brief theatrical run, this Noah Baumbach film hits the streaming giant. Already creating a good deal of Oscar buzz, this movie chronicles the end of a marriage and the beginning of life. December 6

Portrait of a Lady on Fire

(NEON) Noémie Merlant, Adéle Haenel, Luána Bajrami, Valeria Golino. A young female painter gets a commission to paint the portrait of a prospective bride on a remote island in Brittany. The girl is terrified of her potential marriage and doesn’t want the painting to be completed, so the painter must work in secret, posing as a companion, a companionship that soon becomes genuine…and romantic. December 6

A Hidden Life

(Fox Searchlight) August Diehl, Valerie Pachner, Michael Nyqvist, Matthias Schoenaerts. The story of Franz Jägerstatter, an Austrian who refused to fight for the Nazis during the Second World War – and what his refusal cost him. December 13

Rabid

(SHOUT!) Laura Vandervoort, Ted Atherton, Mackenzie Gray, Stephen McHattie. A young woman, horribly disfigured in a terrible accident, undergoes a radical untested stem cell treatment. As it turns out, the treatment seems to have been successful but there are unforeseen side effects. December 13

Seberg

(Amazon) Kristen Stewart, Margaret Qualley, Zazie Beetz, Anthony Mackie. Actress Jean Seberg became a star of the French New Wave. Her support for civil rights activism brought the wrath of J. Edgar Hoover and the F.B.I. upon her and they set out to destroy her career and life. December 13

The Two Popes

The Two Popes

(Netflix) Anthony Hopkins, Jonathan Pryce, Juan Minujin, Sidney Cole. Pope Benedict, a staunch conservative, is the leader of a Catholic church in crisis. He soon develops a relationship with the cardinal who would one day become Pope Francis, one who has sought to reform the Church. This is the latest from acclaimed director Fernando Meirelles, Oscar-nominated for City of God. December 20

The Song of Names

(Sony Classics) Tim Roth, Clive Owen, Jonah Hauer-King, Catherine McCormack. A Polish boy of Jewish faith is adopted by an English family and becomes an amazing violin player. On the eve of his international concert debut, he disappears. His adopted brother spends the rest of his life trying to find him. December 25