REVIEW – We take a look at the Soska Sisters’ remake of Rabid
This isn’t steelbook review unfortunately, but as a fan of David Cronenberg, I was keen to take a look at this remake of one of his early films. So – with apologies for the delay getting this online – away we go…
How on earth do you remake Cronenberg? How would you even dare? Ok, one of his best films, The Fly, is itself a remake, but all of his films are so infused with such a singular vision, that any attempt a remaking one seems doomed to embarrassing failure.
Well, someone should tell that to Jen and Sylvia Soska, because they’ve gone and bloody done it anyway.
Thankfully, rather than a slavish remake, their version of Rabid, one of Cronenberg’s early movies, neatly updates the central concept within a modern context.
The basic setup is the same – lead character Rose suffers terrible injuries in a motorcycle accident. Working in the fashion industry (though here upgraded to designer status, rather than being a model in the original), Rose is painfully aware of the value of beauty, so agrees to undergo experimental surgery at a private clinic.
Rose is soon back to work, more determined than ever to be a success, but it goes without saying that things quickly go awry, and, well, let’s just say that Rose’s strictly vegetarian diet goes out of the window pretty quickly.
There’s a lot to like in this new take. In updating the story for the modern era there are obviously some points made on the pressure placed on women, especially in the fashion and beauty industries, while Rose’s medical treatment gets an upgrade from the now rather passé plastic surgery to the latest and greatest stem cell therapy.
Rose feels like a much more rounded character here as well, when compared to the original film’s version, and that’s helped by a great performance from Laura Vandevoort. Far from simply resorting scream-queen clichés, Vandevoort brings real depth to Rose as she goes from devastation at her accident, through elation at her recovery, and onto confusion and growing horror as her new reality takes hold.
The supporting cast is good too, especially Stephen McHattie as Dr Keloid, playing things just the right side of moustache twirling.
As a horror movie, Rabid definitely delivers, with some great physical gore and prosthetic effects, that are all the more impressive given the film’s obvious low budget. There’s a little bit of CGI here and there, but nothing too distracting.
There are plenty of references to Cronenberg’s work dotted throughout, including one Dead Ringers homage that’s as subtle as a brick, that I must admit had me groaning. I’ll forgive the Soskas that one though, as it’s done with obvious affection, and the film as a whole is an assured, solid piece of work.
Video and Audio
101 Films brings Rabid to Blu-ray in the UK with a very good video presentation, with a clean, sharp image throughout.
As the film opens, the cinematography feels a little flat – almost dull – but as the story progresses, and the horror ramps up, a bolder visual slowly but surely takes over.
Skin tones appear natural, while colours pop, which works really well for showing off some of the striking costume designs, and contrast and black levels are strong, with good shadow detail.
The film’s soundtrack is equally pleasing. The disc includes a DTS-HD MA 5.1 track, alongside a PCM 2.0 stereo option, however, on my review disc at least, there’s no way to choose, and the disc defaulted to stereo. I had to go through my player’s audio options menu to pick 5.1. That may be fixed on the retail disc, but it’s something to check for.
The stereo track is actually pretty good as it happens, with clear dialogue, and good separation for music and effects, but once you’ve switched to 5.1 things step up considerably. As you’d expect, the soundstage is much wider, with great use of the surround channels during club and fashion show scenes, and a good, but not over powering bass presence.
Rabid arrives on Blu-ray from 101 Films with a decent selection of extras, the highlight of which is the documentary ‘The Quiet Revolution, Part 2 – An Emerging Revolution: New Territories & Diverse Fears’, which runs just over 50 minutes. This is a continuation of the 70-minute doc on 101’s recent release of the original Rabid, and continues the deep-dive look at the birth and evolution of Canadian horror. It’s a great doc, but definitely benefits from the context that Part 1 provides, and the two together are superb.
Next up is a short (just over mins) behind the scenes look, showing the Soska sisters at work on set and behind the scenes.
Then we get a 4 minute interview with lead actor Laura Vandervoort, and finally a short message from the sisters to their fans at Frightfest 2018
So, a small but good quality selection of extras, with the main documentary complimenting 101’s Rabid 77 release nicely.
So yes, in case you were wondering, it is possible to remake Cronenberg and not make a complete fool of yourself.
Rabid 2019 really did defy my expectations, proving itself to be a worthy update of Cronenberg’s original concept.
Jen and Sylvia Soska have thankfully avoided gratuitous CGI, and stuck mainly to old-school prosthetics which, while sometimes betraying the film’s low budget, certainly fit better with the B-movie aesthetic.
If you’re a fan of Cronenberg, the Soska Sisters, or horror in general, you should definitely check this out.