This flick was written and directed by David Cronenberg, and was his first film with an actual budget. It stars Marilyn Chambers –yes, that Marilyn Chambers — in her first mainstream movie, and she is actually quite good. The fact is, the movie itself is actually rather enjoyable in the realm of zombie/vampire/virus/pandemic movies.
Marilyn is Rose, a young woman who is horribly injured when her boyfriend Hart crashes their motorcycle in rural Québec. The only medical facility nearby is a plastic surgery center run by a Dr. Keloid (yep, Cronenberg does cop to that pun), who is experimenting in making skin “neutral” for plastic surgery purposes; that is, he is essentially using what would later be known as stem-cell technology. Who says wacky horror movie writers aren’t visionaries? Rose’s intestines and abdomen are destroyed, so Dr. Keloid pulls grafts of healthy skin from her thighs, treats the grafts with his secret ingredient, and implants them in her body. Well, this is a horror movie so it goes terribly wrong. Instead of recreating her intestines, Rose’s body instead creates a symbiotic parasite that leaps from her armpit to suck the blood of hapless human victims as human blood is now all Rose can digest.
Goofy as that may be, Cronenberg somehow elicits pathos for his leading lady. She is a victim as well as a perpetrator, and I at least wanted Rose to somehow prevail, even though her victims do develop a full-blown kind of rabies about 6 hours after encountering her. In a way, Rabid sets the stage for later zombie/vampire type movies like 28 Days Later, and the way that Montréal falls under martial law is almost copied indetically in Shaun of the Dead, but Rabid is more inventive in how the “virus” was created.
Wait. Was the origin of the “zombie apocalypse” in Shaun of the Dead ever explained?
So anyway, the movie is rather good. Marilyn Chambers does a lovely acting job as a reluctant purveyor of death and evil, and it’s a shame she wasn’t able to escape her porn roots because I think she could have been quite a good legitimate actor. Marilyn passed away in 2009 at the age of 57, poor girl.