FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

May 8, 2016

VHS Week Day 7: RABID (1977)

After a horrific motorcycle accident, Rose (Marilyn Chambers) is brought to a nearby plastic surgery clinic to treat her life-threatening wounds. As Rose is unconscious, doctors say "Eh, why the hell not?" and perform an experimental skin graft, treating her excised thigh tissue before transplanting it inside her abdomen. There's a chance for cancerous tumors to develop, but when the patient finally wakes a month later, the result is much worse: instead of sprouting tumors or rejecting the graft, Rose now has a sphincter (or a vagina, depending on the results of your Rorschach test) under her arm, from which a needle-tipped phallus occasionally protrudes. Human food no longer cuts it for Rose, so she goes around hugging people and poking them with her armpit-sphincter/vagina-needlepenis, which allows her to drink their blood for sweet sweet nourishment. If the victims don't die, they quickly become frothy and leaky and bitey and murder-y–"rabid," if you will. Before long, Montreal is collapsing in violent (and gross) chaos, while Rose, largely unaware of her condition even when she gets her hug o' death on, attempts to reunite with her boyfriend.

"I thought you said the results were worse than cancerous tumors," you say. "An armpit-sphincter/vagina-needlepenis sounds awesome and quite useful."


I mean, I'm not really sure what else to call what's going on here besides armpit-sphincter/vagina-needlepenis

The good times can't last forever, though, and Rabid ultimately has one of the more depressing, nihilist, empty endings I've seen in a horror film. Gotta love that David Cronenberg and his love of humanity!

While Rabid may not rank with Cronenberg's best–it's a bit bloated in the midsection and hews a bit too closely to its predecessor Shivers–it's still got that delight(fully disgusting) sleazy/cerebral combination that only he can deliver.

While she wasn't the director's first choice for Rose (Cronenberg wanted Sissy Spacek but producers balked at her accent, of all things), the stunt casting of porn star Marilyn Chambers in her first leading mainstream role turned out to be a genius move if you want to give Rabid a feminist read: Rose dispatches plenty of men–who assume they have a right to her body–with something akin to passionless sex.

Spacek makes an appearance in the film regardless

Of course, you don't have to get all hoity-toity with it. Rabid is quite satisfactory as a straight-up virus/body horror film, no metaphors or analysis required! After all, if there's one thing I learned in Psych 101, it's that sometimes an armpit-sphincter/vagina-needlepenis is just an armpit-sphincter/vagina-needlepenis.


Kensington said...

You know what I miss? I miss the days when there were horror auteurs like David Cronenberg just churning them out year after year, and you'd get a thrill of anticipation when the next one was announced.

Are there any artists filling that void now? I hoped maybe Ti West would, but his output has been too dodgy and inconsistent.

Who else? To some extent maybe Eli Roth, but, again, maybe too dodgy (although damned if I haven't enjoyed most of his films).

CashBailey said...

Aren't the Soskas supposed to be remaking this?

They could probably do a decent job of it, too.

Stacie Ponder said...

Kensington, I thought the same thing when I was watching this. I think there are some amazing recent horror films, the kind of films that will absolutely be hailed as classics and will be discussed in the years to come–films like THE WITCH, THE BABADOOK...we'll be treating them the way we've treated films like ROSEMARY'S BABY as far as I'm concerned. But despite that, I don't think any "auteurs" have emerged. Either the directors move on to other genres, they only make one or two films regardless, or they move quickly into the "mainstream." Where's our new, say, John Carpenter? Most of his misfires still feel like John Carpenter movies.

And yeah, I guess the Soskas are remaking RABID. Can't say I'm excited about that...not that RABID is sacred to me or anything, I'm just not particularly a fan of theirs.

Eliot Blades said...

I thought Excision was superior to American Mary, so I'm also not too excited at the prospect of a Soska remake.

Of current horror auteurs I really like the group of filmmakers grouped around Larry Fessenden (including Fessenden himself, of course).

Also Adrian Garcia Bogliano - Here Comes the Devil is my favourite horror film of the last 10 years.

There's a lot of people who either don't want to pigeonholed or find it difficult to get things made (Plaza and Balaguero seem to have struggled to have anything other than [REC] sequels made - which is real shame when you consider how great Sleep Tight is).

crazycanuck said...

Cronenberg rules! Videodrome, Scanners,The Brood, and although this doesn't rank up there with his best- this is still a pretty good horror film. Too bad he left the genre, wonder what he would've made lately?? Probably more disgustingly brilliant films..

Unknown said...

I don't know what it is about this era of movies (70s/80s,) but there is something so atmospheric about them. Rabid is one of the best examples. I always feel pulled into the world. It's an escapist feeling I can't accurately describe. Glad people are still watching them!