Film Reviews

Rabid (1977) – Review

Rabid is one of David Cronenberg’s earlier films (his 4th feature length movie, actually), which came out back in 1977. There have been numerous releases on VHS, DVD and even Blu-ray, but the latest release is a 2K remaster from the original negatives, from 101 Films. How does it look? Bloody gorgeous. Colours are sharp and vibrant, especially in the night scenes as Rose prowls the town for victims.

The picture is crisp and detailed without being too sharp and losing that particular 70’s aesthetic; the film grain present, but not overwhelming, as it can be in some of these older films. The scene in the porno theatre, for example, is a beautiful example of the restoration job. Everything can be seen without anything being lost in terms of the ambience of the scene.

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What can be said about Rabid that hasn’t already been said in the forty-two years since its release? A film that most definitely does not go where an audience might expect given the title, and with a memorably bleak ending, Rabid tells the story of Rose, who is involved in a motorbike crash at the start of the film (that’s graphic enough to be unpleasant for me to watch, as I’m a biker myself – kudos to Cronenberg). Following some experimental and ethically dubious treatment to repair her burned and battered body she awakes from her coma with a thirst that can only be sated by hot, fresh human blood.

That she’s become some sort of freaky-deaky vampire is certainly enough to worry about all on its own, but it doesn’t end there, oh no. The ones Rose feeds on become a kind of 28 Days Later-style “Infected”, savagely attacking everyone around them to further spread their disease while Rose moves from victim to victim; an unwitting Typhoid Mary with her own uniquely Cronenbergian twist on the way the infection is spread. After all, what would a Cronenberg movie be without a sprinkling of body horror?

This new 2-disc release includes a variety of additional extras, and while most have been available on previous Blu-ray releases, new for this version, as well as the new 2K restoration of the film itself are: ‘The Quiet Revolution: State, Society and the Canadian Horror Film – Part One: Gimme Shelter’; audio commentary from Jen and Sylvia Soska (directors of 2019’s Rabid reimagining); and a limited edition booklet which includes ‘The Birth of Rabid’ by Greg Dunning, and ‘Stunned. Shocked. Exhilarated: Horror in the Early Films of David Cronenberg’ by Alex Morris.

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Any fan of Cronenberg’s work is going to find plenty to enjoy here, although ‘The Quiet Revolution’ is something of an odd inclusion and really only for hardcore cinemaphiles. At over an hour long, only the middle section is given to direct discussion of Cronenberg, with most of the running time focusing on the particular social and political environment in Canada at the time that both helped and hindered the production of horror films. It’s interesting enough, if somewhat dry, but does contain some quite amusing anecdotes and stories from those who worked with Cronenberg back in the day.

A worthy release for an excellent early work from Cronenberg’s catalogue, though perhaps not one that needs to be an immediate purchase if you already own one of the earlier releases.

Rabid is out now on Limited Edition Blu-ray release.

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