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.