Jen and Sylvia Soska (director)
26 August 2019 (released)
31 August 2019
Remakes are a tricky business for writers and directors as they are generally in a no-win situation. Go too far away from the original and you risk the ire of certain segments of the audience for whom it is sacrosanct but stick to close to it and you are open to the charge of a lack of imagination and it being a pointless exercise.
What Jen and Sylvia Soska have done with Rabid is take a middle route in that they are reasonably faithful to the core of the original 1977 film but then taken it very much in their own direction. That could feel abrupt but is somewhat tempered by them strewing references to David Cronenberg’s films throughout the film.
There’s the crimson red ceremonial robing of surgeon Burroughs (Ted Atherton) before Rose’s (Laura Vandervoort) operation, straight out of Dead Ringers, and at the end well that could spoil it, children! Intentional or not, that device has given the Soskas and co-writer John Serge some flexibility to shift the story, bring it right up to date and peer into haute couture and the people that inhabit that world.
Rose has ambitions to be a fashion designer but is struggling to make any sort of impression on the owner Günter a stereotypical dandy played with flamboyant relish by Mackenzie Grey. Keeping with the original film Rose has a horrific motorcycle accident that leaves her almost without half her face, her teeth and jaw exposed down to the bone and roots. Rose is offered under the counter experimental stem cell grafting and surgery which restore her looks and then some.
It’s also stimulated her imagination, creativity and ambition with Gunter now taking an interest in her art and designs. Urged on by flatmate Chelsea (Hannake Talbot) she pushes on and lands a design role at an upcoming show. What has also been stimulated is Rose’s bloodlust, triggered by terrible pains in her stomach. which has to be satisfied, via vicious attacks that in turn infect the victim who then go on, and so and so forth and soon there’s an epidemic.
The film has a neon crystalline gleam about it that naturally suits the catwalk and couture settings as the models and dressers prepare the garments. There is however some of the original’s grubbiness as the humans become infected, raging attackers and carrion in the streets and the hospital.
Laura Vandervoort is very good in a role that asks her to go from a meek and mild vegetarian dresser to raw meat chewing, blood drinking high fashion designer, and still retain some sympathy. Atherton is a slithering malign presence from his first moment he’s on the screen while Brad (Ben Hollingsworth) as Rose’s erstwhile suitor is little more than a clean-cut cypher.
This Rabid while having plenty of body-horror, blood and violence is less concerned about the earlier films urban nightmare and more on teasing the fashionista elite and their narcissism. Such a fundamental change allows us to look at the film very much on its own merits and not look back, too much. On that basis it more than holds its own against most recent genre output.