Rabid (1977, David Cronenberg)

Interesting movie, pretty good. Funny how I can rent a movie looking for an entertaining horror one night, and it’s not scary or entertaining so it’s crap. Eight years later I can rent the same movie as an auteurist curiosity and it becomes “interesting movie, pretty good”. Was I right before, or am I right now? Fortunately it’s all opinion and nobody cares, so I can change my mind and justify things all I like.


Clearly one of Cronie’s body-horror origin stories. Porn star Marilyn Chambers was cast for financial reasons (not political/commentary as often supposed) because producer Ivan “Ghostbustin’-ass” Reitman thought she’d be a bigger funding draw than the unknown Sissy Spacek. Then as shooting was beginning, Spacek’s other movie came out (see shot above). Oopsie.

Chambers capably plays a car accident victim who has a medical procedure (see two quotes below) that somehow lead her to grow a very sexual-looking little bloodsucking rabies-zombie-virus-transmitting armpit-mounted appendage. It’s nuts, but still not nuttier than the ice cream man movie I just watched.


Nice looking movie, grimy and low-budget but well composed. When the characters have believable behavior, it always helps a horror movie… of course it’s one of the rarest things in the genre.

Chambers stays with a friend, goes out at night finding people to kill/infect. Is finally caught killing the friend (above) and gives herself up to one of her zombie victims in remorse, ending with the “night of the living dead” reminiscent close, an army cleanup crew tossing her body into a garbage truck.


Senses of Cinema’s A. Allinson, in his barely-decipherable Cronenberg piece, says “Coinciding with the AIDS outbreak, Chambers, walking virus, is an apologetic martyr of “very experimental surgery” going wrong”.


Film Freak interviews Cronenberg:

FF: “Rabid is home to your first major statement about body-modification–plastic surgery.”
DC: “Yes, and ironically enough what I invented in that movie has recently come to pass in stem cell research. Not that I think of prophecy as my métier, but we invented this neutral tissue that would become whatever tissue it came in contact with and that’s the basis of stem cell research, sort of the universal organic loam–so I have to take a little credit. (laughs) I suppose that there were some intimations even in my earliest work, Stereo and Crimes of the Future, about technology altering the body and there’s some of that in Shivers too. The plague in that film is an artificial one, of course, the result of an experiment gone wrong, and it occurs to me now that it was also meant to replace damaged organs. I hadn’t thought of that in years.”

Reminded me of the Dafoe scene in Existenz:

No interesting cast/crew stories besides Cronie and Ivan Reitman. The murdered friend turned to cartoon voice acting, and one of the cops tracking Marilyn co-starred in Shivers.

Watched this the same week we went out to Nightmare Before Christmas. Neither movie is kind to Santa.

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