It makes sense to remake David Cronenberg’s Rabid. The original film – the director’s third – filtered robust ideas about sexuality, medicine and martial law through the budding zombie sub-genre, but execution fell short of intent.
Sadly, the Soska sisters’ take is much the same. They have the right idea, opting for an approach that – despite references to the likes of Dead Ringers and Shivers – is neither reverential or revolutionary. They eschew allusions to Canada’s October crisis in favour of their abiding interests: a subversion of the female body and beauty, an attack on male misogyny and – above all – bucketloads of gore.
But the Soskas’ Rabid betrays the same problems that plagued their best-known work, American Mary: primarily, a lack of substantive structure. The ideas are all there, but they’re wrapped up in a clumsily-configured storyline dominated by underwhelming dialogue and clichéd characterisations. As in Mary, their budgetary limitations are apparent; they too often opt for realism rather than leaning into their production design’s inherent artificiality.
Still, if you’re gonna do Cronenberg, there’s one thing you’ve gotta get right: the body horror. The old-school horror effects here are gruesomely grotesque, justifying paying the ticket price …if not quite justifying the entire enterprise.