Rabid (1977)

Another isolated edifice of the future, another case of science and technology gone horribly wrong; but unlike the last Cronenberg film Shivers, this time it’s by mistake.

Ooh, grafty.

She’s grafty.

I imagine it’s quite nice to ride a motorcycle in the Canadian countryside, far away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Nice, of course, until you smash into an idle van and your girlfriend is trapped under your burning bike. So begins the next Cronenberg feature Rabid.

Only in Cronenberg’s world would your girlfriend Rose get rushed to a “plastic surgery resort” for experimental, life-saving surgery. A “real” hospital is too far away, and so Dr. Dan Keloid of the Keloid Clinic (a home away from home for the well-off and self-conscious, a plastic surgery haven where the newly reconfigured can recuperate without the public seeing those embarrassing bandages) must graft skin from Rose’s thigh and apply it to her damaged internal organs, hoping that the “morphogenetically neutral” flesh will grow like the organs it is meant to replace.

Well, the flesh grows and then some. Not long after her beau Hart is sent home, Rose awakens from a coma with an insatiable thirst for blood. She seems to have recovered nicely otherwise (I mean damn, girl looks good), but a pesky little phallic sucker keeps poking out of the newly-acquired anus in her armpit and sucking blood from anyone she can get to come near her.

RabidBloodyMouthShe tries drinking cow’s blood, but that makes her vomit. She tries eating roast beef to the same end. And so Rose leaves the Keloid clinic to satiate her hunger on the mean streets of Montreal. Not long after Rose turns up, the government imposes martial law to deal with the spread of a rabies-like disease. I’m not sure if Rose is in denial about the fact that she’s the cause of the mayhem, or if she just doesn’t care – one of my beefs with this movie is that we’re given no glimpse as to what kind of person Rose was before she was infected with this vampiric thirst – we really only know her as a bloodthirsty maniac who abuses her feminine wiles to get the blood she needs.

Once again, Cronenberg reminds us how dangerous (and exciting!) experimental medicine can be. Also, twice in four movies he touches RabidLastVictimon the human need for physical perfection and how it will most likely result in our race going down the shitter: here, Montreal reaches near-apocalyptic status because there’s clearly a demand for easy-access plastic surgery, and in Crimes of the Future the entire female population is wiped out due to a disease caused by cosmetics. And like we’ve seen before (and will see again) Cronenberg delves into his obvious preoccupation with the changes the human body can go through after we use untested technology to tinker with it. In a word: radical, though in the grand scheme of Cronenberg films this one doesn’t rank so high for me – just seemed to lack the oomph of Shivers and some of the other films that come along after this one. Still, it’s a solid, entertaining horror flick.


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