Shy wannabe fashion designer Rose (Laura Vandervoort) is held back by a tragedy from when she was younger. Filled with potential, she works at a fashion house for demanding and eccentric boss Gunter (Mackenzie Gray) and dreams of bringing her fashion creations to life. An accident leaves her with life-altering injuries and in desperation to repair the damage done, Rose agrees to experimental stem cell surgery that promises to rid her of her scars. Delighted with the outcome, Rose starts to have vivid hallucinations and develops an inexplicable thirst for blood.
Rabid is easily one of the most anticipated films at this year’s Arrow Video FrightFest. Based on the classic David Cronenberg film of the same name, horror fans were treated to early clips during last year’s festival courtesy of directors The Soska Sisters. A year on and the film received its World Premiere on the final day of this year’s extravaganza. Film fans always approach remakes with caution and when a film as loved as Rabid gets the remake treatment, there’s plenty to be nervous about.
The Soska Sisters have completely reimagined Rabid and I’m pleased to say that they’ve created something radically different from what Cronenberg did with his film. They haven’t tried to match the original shot-for-shot and in some areas, they’ve improved on the original in my opinion. Firstly the character of Rose is fleshed out much more than she was in the 1977 film allowing the audience to get to know her before her accident, creating a much stronger feel of empathy. Secondly Rose has a completely different career aspiration and a fair amount of the film follows her pursuing that, with The Soska Sisters drawing interesting contrasts between achieving your dreams while losing everything at the same time.
At times this Rabid is more vicious than its predecessor. The special effects, which infamously caused The Soska Sisters to be suspended from Twitter on multiple occasions, are pretty incredible. The violence here is more primal and shocking but at the same time it’s used sparingly for maximum effect. There’s more of a psychological edge to the film with Rose not knowing whether she’s dreaming about committing acts of violence or actually carrying them out.
Laura Vandervoort’s portrayal of Rose is nothing like Marilyn Chambers either, and that’s a good thing. Vandervoort is magnificent to watch as she transforms from shy wallflower to confident beauty. She’s able to draw out the pain of Rose’s recovery and relish in the film’s darker moments. This is by far the best performance I’ve seen her give. Benjamin Hollingsworth is strong too as Rose’s love interest and colleague Brad, who tries to watch out for her even when she doesn’t want him to.
By creating a completely new interpretation of Rabid, The Soska Sisters have delivered a must-see film. It’s so different to Cronenberg’s that it’s hard to compare them as they are totally different beats. The Soska Sisters bring an eye for design and a vivid imagination to the table and they paint their canvas with nightmarish ferocity. There are nods to Cronenberg along the way but The Soska Sisters have ensured that they put their own stamp on Rabid and it’s sure to garner them plenty of positive attention.
Cast: Laura Vandervoort, Benjamin Hollingsworth, Mackenzie Gray, Hanneke Talbot, Ted Atherton, Stephen Huszar Director: The Soska Sisters Writers: John Serge, The Soska Sisters Certificate: TBC Duration: 107 mins Released by: 101 Films