The Soska Sisters, Jena and Sylvia have made a name for themselves in the modern world of horror with such gory features as American Mary, See No Evil 2, and Dead Hooker In A Trunk. With a proclivity for body horror and deeper subtext (as well as being Canadian) they were the ideal directors to handle a remake of one of David Cronenberg’s earlier works, Rabid.
The film follows Rose (Laura Vandervoort) a shy woman attempting to work her way up in the fashion industry and become a successful clothing designer. Her only friend and support being her step-sister Chelsea (Hanneke Talbot) who encourages her to be more assertive. All while working under the obnoxious and arrogant fashion designer Gunter (Mackenzie Gray). After being grotesquely disfigured in a horrific accident Rose’s dreams appear to be shattered… until she receives an offer from the enigmatic Dr. William Burroughs (Ted Atherton) to receive a highly experimental stem cell procedure to regrow her flesh and mend her body. The operation appears at first to be a complete success, making Rose more gorgeous than ever before. But soon Rose finds herself overcome by a hunger for flesh that soon spreads like a pandemic…
The movie is in many ways an improvement on the original story. Giving the lead character of Rose more agency and a larger spotlight and arc throughout the film outside of being Patient Zero. It’s interesting to see Rose’s transition from humble fashion worker to tragically disfigured to a whole new person. The pandemic itself more in the background this time around, and keeping the focus more on the ground and with the immediate characters. As well, the Soska Sisters are clear fans of Cronenberg and don’t just update Rabid, but make the entire movie a widespread homage to the master of body horror. So keep an eye out for those easter eggs.
The greatest strength of the movie is its fast pacing. At an hour and fifty minute runtime, it could have easily felt overly long. But The Soskas direct the story into such a breakneck speed and with so many hard hitting scenes that I was hooked on every moment. From the scenes of fashion and iconography to the bites and dismemberment. Which is another positive for Rabid, an amazingly stomach churning level of practical FX. Said FX being so disturbingly real, The Soska Sisters were banned from twitter for promoting the movie with some screenshot gore. The film showcases the outstanding work their team did between bloody massacres and bone crunching body horror.
Unfortunately, Rabid is considerably constrained by a lower budget. As opposed to the original film that showed the pandemic level outbreak of the disease and the ensuing chaos, the scenes and number of characters are noticeably limited. The plus side to those constraints being a greater focus on Rose and grounding the story more. It does diminish the apocalyptic effect and some scenes trying to elevate the danger. And without spoiling, the ending did feel rather abrupt and anti-climactic.
Those flaws aside, Rabid is an impressive update on Cronenberg’s story of infectious madness and sure to attract an audience. With a memorable notch to their credits, I’ll be eagerly looking forward to what Jen and Sylvia Soska do next.