By Nick Durham
Before David Cronenberg took the horror world by storm with Scanners, Videodrome, The Fly, and Dead Ringers; his exercises in body horror more or less began with 1975’s Shivers (AKA, They Came From Within). While that film is certainly rough around the edges in terms of technical aspects, those shortcomings are more than made up for in terms of scale, vision, and being able to creep you the fuck out. Cronenberg would follow up Shivers two years later with Rabid, another film that is fairly rough around the edges, but manages to overcome whatever flaws it has and winds up being a pretty damn chilling flick. The film has been long out of print on any kind of home video format here in the States for quite some time, so thankfully Scream Factory has decided to bless us with a pretty good Blu-ray release of the film.
Adult film legend Marilyn Chambers stars as Rose, a young woman involved in a motorcycle accident along with her boyfriend Hart (Frank Moore). Due to the severity of Rose’s injuries and literally being out in the middle of nowhere, an experimental procedure is done on Rose to save her. The end result leaves Rose with a strange growth under her armpit that emits a stinger-like appendage she uses to feed on blood. Victims of said appendage end up becoming blood-thirsty maniacs, resulting in a frantic search for Rose, and a public health nightmare across Canada.
As I mentioned earlier, Rabid like Shivers before it is nowhere near a technical masterpiece. Cronenberg hadn’t really started coming into his own as a filmmaker just yet, but his vision and scope even here are unparalleled. He has big ideas here that don’t always get capitalized on due to the various limitations of the film itself, but despite that, the film manages to pack a punch. It was a big deal back in the day when Marilyn Chambers was cast in the lead, but she’s actually not too bad in terms of acting chops, and she’s definitely easy on the eyes. The effects work hasn’t aged so well, but given the film is almost 40 years old, this isn’t really much of a surprise.
Scream Factory has packed some decent features into this Blu-ray release of Rabid, as well as presenting the film in a new 2K scan. There’s a commentary track from Cronenberg as well as one featuring Cronenberg historian and author William Beard. There’s interviews with Cronenberg, producer Don Carmody, and executive producer Ivan Reitman, as well as a handful of trailers and radio spots. There’s also a video essay from Caelum Vatnsdal, which is more or less a retrospective on the early days of Cronenberg’s career.
All in all, Rabid is far from David Cronenberg’s best work, but it’s an early almost-gem that laid the groundwork for the kind of nasty body horror he would become known for. It’s definitely worth checking out to be sure, and Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release is a worthwhile pickup, so give it a shot. If you’re new to Cronenberg’s work, this is also a pretty good place to start.