Rabid (1977)

The tax shelter years in Canada brought horror fans some cult favourites, and one of the most acclaimed is David Cronenberg’s 1977 film, Rabid.

After a fiery crash on her motorcycle, Rose (Marilyn Chambers) and her boyfriend Hart (Frank Moore) are rushed to the nearby Keloid Clinic, a cutting-edge plastic surgery clinic. The head doctor there, Dan Keloid (Howard Ryshpan), decides to use an experimental treatment for her severe injuries. His wife and fellow doctor protest, but he is sure he can create a better skin graft with his radical technique. One month later, Keloid tells Hart that she can’t be moved yet and isn’t fully conscious, so she’s left at the hospital for more care.

That night Rose wakes up screaming, confused and attacks a fellow patient. The radical surgery has turned her into a bloodthirsty killer, feeding off her victims with a pseudo sex organ probe under her arm and infecting them with the same murderous urges. Looking for more victims and making it back to Montreal, Rose starts to spread what authorities call a new strain of rabies. She’s patient zero of a highly contagious disease that transforms everyone into a spreader. The city of Montreal enacts martial law, and officials try to handle the infection before the point of no return.

Rabid, once thought to be a commentary on sex and sexuality, especially with the film’s star Chambers’ former life as a porn star, has new meaning since the pandemic of the last two years. With an unsettling speed, the disease born out of a lab that turns victims into blood craving maniacs, leading to martial law and curfews, is all too familiar today. Rabid was once reviled but is now considered a horror classic.

Review by Carolyn Mauricette




Cronenberg, Horror

Canadian connection

Written and directed by David Cronenberg
Montreal, Quebec
Despite criticism for David Cronenberg's early films, Rabid, along with his first feature, Shivers, were high-grossing films at the time, both making 1 million US dollars.