Brandon Cronenberg, son of David Cronenberg (The Dead Zone, The Fly), made his debut at the Cannes Film Festival with Antiviral. Now, IFC Midnight has obtained the rights to distribute the film in the United States. Cronenberg, the younger, also wrote the screenplay, and the film stars Caleb Landry Jones, Sarah Gadon, Douglas Smith, and the ever-terrifying talent that is Malcolm McDowell.
The plot is, well…disturbing. Yes, that is a word tossed around the same way “adrenaline-pumping” or “edge of your seat” is for action films, but I am not using this adjective lightly. Jones plays Syd March, who works at a clinic that offers injections of virus cultures collected from ill celebrities to their obsessively adoring fans, for a price. The practice is described as a sort of “communion”.
On a remote stretch of Canadian road, Rose (porn megastar Marilyn Chambers) and her boyfriend are involved in a terrible motorcycle accident that leaves her pinned under the vehicle when it explodes. Fortunately, the incident occurs very close to a boutique hospital specializing in plastic surgery. The head of the facility, Dr. Keloid, determines that only an experimental new skin grafting technique can save Rose’s life. It turns out he is correct but the procedure has unintended consequences, mainly in the form of a sharp phallus that protrudes from Rose’s armpit and her newfound thirst for human blood. As Rose reluctantly feeds her new hunger at opportune moments, the men she has already attacked begin displaying rabies-like tendencies towards violence and their victims, in turn, become infected. Soon, the virus reaches Montreal.
Rabid, Canadian director David Cronenberg’s follow up to They Came from Within aka Shivers, explores similar themes as that previous film (and would explore in many other films to come) but manages to make it more personal (by focusing on a beautiful and sweetly innocent protagonist) and far more widespread (instead of They Came from Within‘s contained apartment set, Rabid takes the horror to the streets). The layers of subtext are rich and Rabid could be used as a handy guidebook to the Cronenbergian ideas found in the rest of his filmography- there is the perversion of expected sexual politics, violent consequences of experimentation, body horror, epidemics – all while it touches on some unique themes such as the pitfalls of socialist medicine.
Aloha, beasts of madness! Monday has again arrived and it is once again time to take a quick peek at what is playing at Terror Tuesday this week. I’ve seen David Cronenberg’s Rabid and, being a die hard fan of the man, I quite like it. While part of me is positively beside myself with excitement to see it in 35mm, there resides in me a trepidation going into this week’s screening. Cronenberg is one of the masters, of that there is little debate, but his films do not constitute the traditional Terror Tuesday fare. Those who attend the evening’s festivities in the hopes of witnessing wretched cinematic disasters are completely bewildered by legitimate quality. When Terror Tuesday featured The Brood, the audience grew restless and chatty due to the film’s deliberate pacing. This is not specific to Cronenberg as all manner of great films have received similarly cold, awkward receptions. I’ll remain hopeful for this week’s screening, but history is against us.
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