Rabid (1977)


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


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.


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.

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.