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John’s Horror Corner: Rabid (2019), the Soska sisters’ more monstrous remake of David Cronenberg’s 1977 classic.

March 4, 2020

MY CALL: A perfectly enjoyable and gory remake serving as a monstrous update of Cronenberg’s 1977 original. MORE MOVIES LIKE Rabid: For more movies about women unknowingly slowly becoming monsters, try Contracted (2013) and Bite (2015).

After a serious traffic accident, young fashion designer Rose (Laura Vandervoort; Jigsaw, V, Bitten, Smallville) is left gruesomely disfigured with her jaw wired shut, much of her upper lip torn off, and her lacerated gums and teeth partially bare. Right away I’m pleased with the brazen special effects. Rose looks monstrous, feels unsightly and credibly horrified by herself, and we see her wounds quite a bit.

With her medical leave rendering Rose temporarily jobless and homeless, her childhood foster sister and former co-worker Chelsea (Hanneke Talbot; Ready or Not) moves her in for her long recovery from her injuries. Utilizing an experimental technique in regenerative medicine called stem cell manipulation, Dr. Burroughs (Ted Atherton; Max Payne, The Expanse, V-Wars) treats Rose and literally erases her scars. Additionally she is more beautiful than even before the procedure… and suspiciously no longer needs her glasses. Little does Rose know, her procedure comes with abnormal side effects and leaves her with an infectious condition.

After a night out, Rose’s “infection” spreads like an outbreak virus carried by an Ebola monkey! Among those who came in contact with her, a man goes ballistic and zombie-bites a colleague’s face, tearing chunks of flesh from his cheek. Apparently, those infected by Rose ultimately become blood-craving rage zombies; mindless and rabid. To such end, many scenes play out like 28 Days Later (2002).

Overall, I enjoyed this remake (a lot). But it definitely had its weak points. This film’s weakest suit is the depiction of widespread panic of the rabies’ spread. The editing, the clip montage, the delivery of the imagery… the assembly of the scene felt weak. Similarly unengaging was the chaos at the local hospital as rabid patients convulse tied down to their beds and one gets shot by security growling down the halls. But this criticism is limited to about 5-10 minutes of an otherwise solid movie which finds itself belabored with scenes attempting to capture grand scope. This film otherwise plays well when focusing on Rose and her immediate victims.

REMAKE/REIMAGINING SIDEBAR: For more horror remakes, I strongly favor the following: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), An American Werewolf in London (1981), The Thing (1982), The Fly (1986), The Mummy (1999), The Ring (2002), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003), The Hills Have Eyes (2006), Friday the 13th (2009), Let Me In (2010), Evil Dead (2013), Carrie (2013), The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014), It (2017), Suspiria (2018) and Child’s Play (2019). Those to avoid include Body Snatchers (1993; the second remake), War of the Worlds (2005), The Invasion (2007; the third remake), Prom Night (2008), Night of the Demons (2009), Sorority Row (2009), Patrick: Evil Awakens (2013), Poltergeist (2015), Cabin Fever (2016), Unhinged (2017) and The Mummy (2017). I’m on the fence about An American Werewolf in Paris (1997), The Grudge (2004), Halloween (2007), It’s Alive (2009), My Bloody Valentine (2009), A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010), Fright Night (2011), The Thing (2011; a prequel/remake), Maniac (2012) and Pet Sematary (2019), which range from bad to so-so (as remakes) but still are entertaining movies on their own.

Rolling into the finale we find some satisfying monstrous creature effects. They seem a bit over-the-top when compared to the 1977 original, but they also seem waaaay more fun! If anything, I expected directors Jen and Sylvia Soska (American Mary, ABCs of Death 2) to have more gore and monstrosity and shock value—strong suits for these filmmakers. But there was plenty to please fans of monstrosities.

The acting, writing, photography, production and effects all served us well. Because this was a remake of Cronenberg’s lower tier 1977 film, I feel it managed to contemporize and even revitalize the story. Whereas a “great film” this is not; a very good horror movie in general it is and a really fun contemporary monster movie! As a fan of remakes (yes, I just said that) and Cronenberg, I enjoyed it.

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