RABID / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: JEN SOSKA, SYLVIA SOSKA / JOHN SERGE, JEN SOSKA, SYLVIA SOSKA / STARRING: LAURA VANDERVOORT, MACKENZIE GRAY, STEPHEN MCHATTIE, JOEL LABELLE / RELEASE DATE: OCTOBER 7TH
“Why do we keep remaking old trends?” It’s a pertinent question, and the first line posed by bad-haired fashion designer Günter (Gray). “Do we cater to the masses or do we create art only for the few who dare experience it?” he poses, and it’s almost the mission statement of the Soska Sisters’ reimagining of fellow Canadian David Cronenberg’s Rabid. It’s different enough to be valid in its own right while boasting many familiar beats that bring the seventies classic up to date for people too blinkered to discover anything older than double figures.
As brash and obnoxious as Günter is, his assistant Rose (Vandervoort) is timid and soulful; the butt of the office jokes, she feels an outsider as she doesn’t partake of the usual ‘party’ lifestyle. Unfortunately, on the one night she thinks she’s being accepted, she suffers a horrific accident, resulting in her suffering horrific injuries. Shockingly deformed, she is offered an experimental stem cell cosmetic surgery that changes her life for the better. She’s more beautiful, confident, and - ultimately -successful. She also has an insatiable taste for blood and appears to be passing the rabies virus wherever she goes.
Although this version of Rabid has an individual identity, it keeps many of the same beats of the original. Cronenberg’s shadow hangs heavy over the film, with numerous references and nods to the low budget classic. The spirit of William Burroughs also permeates the Twisted Twins’ film, from quotes to the unsubtle naming of one of the characters. It takes the idea of transhumanism to the extreme, as something that instead of helping mankind could well bring the end of it.
Biting commentary on the cut-throat fashion world and vanity in general ends up being overshadowed by the visceral horror of the final act. For all the body horror and mayhem, some of the most horrific moments come from the bitchiness and cruelty of the society Rose chooses to work in. It might miss the bleak, underplayed climax of the original but the one we’re presented with takes it to a place just as dark. While comparisons are unavoidable, the Soskas’ Rabid manages to become a beast of its own and stands on its own merits. Whether it holds up as well remains to be seen.