RABID Review – Magnificently Gruesome Practical Effects Enhance The Soska Sisters’ Fierce Remake
Starring Laura Vandervoort, Benjamin Hollingsworth, Ted Atherton
Written by John Serge, Jen Soska, Sylvia Soska
Directed by Jen Soska, Sylvia Soska
Jen and Sylvia Soska’s much-anticipated remake of David Cronenberg’s 1977 film Rabid was fittingly released, in theaters and on VOD, on Friday the 13th. The Soska Sisters accomplish more than just crafting a remake; they also fantastically pay homage to Cronenberg in their film. Laura Vandervoort gives a memorable performance as Rose, a fashion designer with drab skin and dull designs who dreams of being successful in high fashion. Hanneke Talbot plays Chelsea, a model and Rose’s best friend. When Rose is the victim of a gruesome traffic accident that cost her part of her large intestine and half her face, she decides to undergo an experimental stem-cell treatment at a clinic run by Dr. William Burroughs (Ted Atherton). The SFX makeup in Rabid is frighteningly realistic, especially the scenes where Rose’s jaw is protruding with her teeth exposed, and the accompanying practical effects are quite literally jaw-droppingly magnificent.
Dr. Burroughs and his red-draped surgical staff perform surgery on Rose in a scene straight out of Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers (1988). Throughout Rabid, the Soskas’ use of color, especially the color red, is outstanding and sets the aesthetic and tone for the film. After undergoing the radical, secretive procedure, Rose is shocked when she looks in the mirror; not only is her face restored; she is much more beautiful than she was before. Rose also notices that she is hungry all the time and she is having difficulty controlling basic urges. While recovering at the clinic, she has an encounter with another patient, Dominic, in the pool, which results in Dominic being bitten. Dominic is a daytime television star, and shortly after his rendezvous with Rose, he is unable to control his anger and experiences a meltdown on set that doesn’t end well for another actor. You can read my interview with Stephen Huszar, who plays Dominic here.
In addition to being ravenously hungry and uncontrollable urges, Rose is experiencing blood-soaked imagery of herself killing men in a frenzy. Dr. Burroughs blames her medication and tells Rose she is suffering from hallucinations. Rose is finally thriving professionally and achieving success as a fashion designer, but she finds herself questioning her sanity because she suspects the hallucinations might be real. Benjamin Hollingsworth plays Brad Hart, a fashion photographer who secretly agrees to keep an eye on Rose for Dr. Burroughs, while helping with a fashion show spotlighting Rose’s designs, some of which are to be modeled by her friend Chelsea. Chelsea arrives for the fashion show sick and what ensues is an unforgettable, nightmarish, bloody runway sequence featuring transformation and tentacles. Just like the makeup and practical effects, the sound design is excellent and integral in making Rabid an effective horror movie.
Brad helps Dr. Burroughs transport Rose to his clinic, but he realizes too late that he and Rose are both in danger. In the process of searching for a cure to his wife’s deadly disease, Dr. Burroughs created something new that led him to perform Rose’s experimental surgery, which led to him locking Brad and Rose in a room with his creation. This leads to a terrifying finale. One of the few complaints I have with the film is that there are a couple of scenes that feel like they could have been shorter, but overall the pacing is good and the awe-inspiring SFX makeup and practical effects nearly make up for the runtime.
With Rabid, the Soska Sisters honor Cronenberg and manage to make the story feel fresh by putting their own twisted spin on it. Laura Vandervoort gives an arresting performance as Rose, but it’s clear the real star of Rabid is the special effects team.
Rabid manages to beautifully pay homage to Cronenberg and jaw-droppingly brilliant makeup and practical effects allow The Soska Sisters to also put their own unique body horror thumbprint on the film.