Rabid (1977)

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  • Writer: David Cronenberg
  • Director: David Cronenberg
  • Starring: Marilyn Chambers, Joe Silver, Frank Moore
  • Medium: Shudder (Streaming)

Synopsis

After a motorcycle accident (conveniently right outside a plastic surgery center), Rose (Marilyn Chambers) is in a coma, and her injuries are worked on by Dr Keloid (Howard Ryshpan). When she wakes up, she has an unexplained mouth in her left arm pit, which is thirsty for blood. Everyone who gets bit turns rabid and seeks out other victims, creating an epidemic in Montreal.

Review

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Marilyn Chambers is on the phone – she wants to start making mainstream movies

David Cronenberg’s early work is a good view into what was to come with his engagingly weird imagery. Like ShiversRabid has a sexual undertone that leads to the outbreak that puts the city in peril. In tone, it acts like a sequel to Shivers, even though the stories are different. It’s been a while since I’ve seen Shivers, but, to me, this film seems a little more polished. Then again, that just may be the long layoff since watching Shivers, a movie I wanted to like more than what I did. This film, I had no expectations going in, so maybe that helped me like it a little more.

Marilyn Chambers was looking for a mainstream movie after working in porn. Looking into it, Cronenberg originally wanted Sissy Spacek for the role. I didn’t think Spacek would have been a good choice, but, then, it got me thinking. Maybe Cronenberg did not intend for the sexual undertones in this film. Maybe Chambers, with her porn star notoriety and natural sexual appeal, brought that into the movie. On second thought, the arm pit monster does appear to come out of a vagina. With the sexual tones, I doubt that was actually a coincidence.

The joke is always about porn and soap opera actors not being able to make the leap to feature films, but I thought Chambers actually did a pretty good job, even if much of the non-horror pieces were a bit melodramatic. There are also very realistic actors supporting her, especially Joe Silver as the business partner behind the plastic surgery center and Frank Moore as Rose’s boyfriend. I felt the bit players all did their roles quite well, too.

A part of frustration for some viewers will be the appearance of the arm pit monster. Why did it appear? No one knows, and the movie never attempts to theorize about it. The closest is when Dr Keloid examines Rose and asks if it hurts. It doesn’t. Soon after, he is victimized. Things just happen, and it spreads.

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The Rabid Zombie attack

Kind of like the last film I watched, Blood Car, the scenario gets a bit repetitive, and you wonder how close to the end you are getting. However, for me, it took longer to get to that repetitive feel in this movie (probably because the characters or the actors playing them were more engaging), and, when the government tries to make things right, I had not yet checked out, like I had with the other film.

Whether or not you understand what is happening with this outbreak, the film normalizes everything. Sure, I don’t know what the arm pit monster is all about, but, once accepted as this film’s reality, everything progresses in a logical manner, so it is pretty easy to follow. There is not too much in effects work needed. The monster looks fine. Everything else is pretty much just makeup work and alka seltzer foaming out of people’s mouths. Without the extravagant effects, it kept the story real and believable.

Film Rating: 7 Rapid Zombies out of 10 | Would like to watch back-to-back with Shivers to see how the two compare.

Black Christmas (1974)

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  • Writer: Roy Moore
  • Director: Bob Clark
  • Starring: Olivia Hussey, Margot Kidder, John Saxon, Andrea Martin, Keir Dullea
  • Medium: Shudder (Streaming)

 

Synopsis

It’s Christmas time. a 13-year-old girl has been found dead in a local park, and a sorority house is receiving distressing telephone calls, as some of the girls start to disappear. Is it Jess’ (Olivia Hussey) boyfriend (Keir Dullea), who does not want her to abort their baby? Is it someone else entirely (the caller keeps referencing “Billy” and telling “Agnus” not to tell what they have done)? The police put a trace on the phone to try to find out where the calls are coming from, only to find out they are coming from…inside the house.

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If someone comes up your trellis in this movie, RUN!

Review

 

Although not the first film to do so, Black Christmas is credited as one of the original “call from inside the house” films. The idea is considered cliché now, but it was still pretty fresh when this film was created. The film itself, although dramatic when the police discover where the calls are coming from, does not make the premise a secret, as you know from almost the beginning where the killer is. The calls are unnerving as the killer uses multiple voices in what is the only insight into the killer’s mind, allowing the viewer to come up with his/her own back story.

The film is well-made. The acting is great with Olivia “Juliet” Hussey, John Saxon, Margot “Lois Lane” Kidder (who plays her part very well – of course, her character is drunk most of the time she is awake…), and Andrea “Aunt Voula” Martin. The story keeps moving with plenty of levity at the expense of Sergeant Nash and real concern from the police once the complaint of the caller is taken seriously. For humorous purposes, maybe Marian Waldman (as Miss Mac) camps up the character a little, but I think she was even believable as the House Mother.

The tense scenes are built-up more by waiting for those phone calls and the bizarre exchange from the other end. The kills themselves are not too shocking and tense. It’s everything around the kills that builds the atmosphere, and I think it is a perfect blueprint for what’s going to come in future slasher films, with a few of the scenes seemingly to influence the “greatest slasher film” of all-time…that being Halloween. The John Carpenter film has the seemingly perverted phone call to the heroine (we find out later it was just her friend eating an apple) and then being on the phone while a friend gets strangled…sounding like a dirty phone call instead. There is another scene where Jess’ boyfriend emerges from the shadow, which I think is Halloween’s greatest visuals, as Michael Myer’s mask suddenly becomes visible from the shadows. Also, there would be many holiday-themed horror films to come after.

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10 years later, it’ll be his daughter, Nancy, giving him a call at the station

Some people will complain about the open-ending, but I think it works. On the one hand, I’d love to know Billy’s story. Why was he there? Just a random house to be at? What did he do in his past? I have my ideas. Of course, with the motives not explained, I get to come up with my own back-story for him, which is great. You don’t always need to have the killer explained. The randomness of it can make it even more frightening.

 

The styles are fun to watch. The rotary telephones. There is the ’70s kitsch while watching it, but I feel like the film still holds up well. While you may put on films from a previous decade and laugh at its cheese factor, I didn’t catch that at all in this movie. Bob Clark (who would go on to direct another holiday classic – A Christmas Story) knew what he wanted, and the final result shows that he was able to get the performances he needed from his actors and was able to display just the right amounts of the story.

Film Rating: 8 telephone calls out of 10 | Another example of how the 70s may have been the greatest decade for horror. I have not yet seen the remake but think I may see how much integrity they were able to keep.