David Cronenberg’s “Shivers” and “Rabid” are pseudo-erotic statements based around violent anomalies rooted in science fiction that are metaphors sexual elements of civilization. While “Shivers” was a lot about a parasite that unleashes taboos of human sexuality, “Rabid” is a very eerie metaphor for STD’s and what happens when a very promiscuous woman with a lust for blood begins spreading it around Canada. The late great Marilyn Chambers is enticing and alluring in the role of Rose, a buxom and beautiful young girl indulges in motorcycle riding with her boyfriend Hart. One day while riding the country side, the pair gets in to a vicious accident that leaves Rose deformed.
Opting to perform an experimental surgery on Rose to save her life, the results end up successful but absolutely nightmarish. Rose is alive but garners a hunger for blood that she can’t satiate. From within her armpit, she develops a phallic projectile from her armpit that stings unwitting victims and paralyzes them as she drinks their blood. While the aftermath is grotesque, Cronenberg has a knack for depicting the process in an almost erotic vein, depicting Rose as seducing many of her victims before stinging them, prompting an almost euphoric moan from them as she pets their heads, sapping their blood. After fleeing the hospital and preying on more victims, the stings have a horrific effect, as soon those stung become violent and vicious monsters that bite and maim their victims.
Filled with the uncontrollable urge to attack others, soon Rose’s victims begin spreading their disease all across Canada creating a surefire epidemic. “Rabid” is a definite creepy and often spooky tale of a pandemic that creeps up on Canada before they can ready themselves for the fall out. Cronenberg creates drastic tonal differences in both storylines. One instance finds Rose prowling for men in movie theaters, while another see rabid growling victims chasing after their victims, and wreaking havoc on crowded trains. Rose is almost like a nymphomaniac with thirst she can’t quite settle, and before long her quest to fix her lust creates a chain of victims she’s transmitted her horrific disease to. Chambers is very good here, alongside Joe Silver and Frank Moore. “Rabid” is one of Cronenberg’s grittier and creepier body horror movies, and it’s still an effective cult gem.
Scream Factory compiles a great edition for fans, offering some archive extras, and brand new bells and whistles for fans, as well as from the Arrow UK Release. Featured is an eighty two minute series of interviews, one of which involves a twenty one minute conversation with David Cronenberg from years ago who discusses the result of “Shivers,” the scale of “Rabid’s” script, and how Sissy Spacek was his first choice for the lead role in the film. It’s a wonderful and very informative look at the master’s process and working with smaller budgeted films. Among the extras from the Arrow release, is a twelve minute interview with producer Ivan Reitman and a sixteen minute interview with producer Don Carmody. Here they speak about what inspired them to cast Chambers, nearly working with Cronenberg on a “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” adaptation, the budget for “Shivers,” and how “Rabid” was five times more expensive to make.
Mainly for Scream Factory, there’s a thirty three minute interview with actress Susan Roman, who briefly discusses her time making “Rabid,” and delves in to her career as a voice actress for “Heavy Metal” and “Rock & Rule.” It’s a very neat interview, with Roman explaining how it’s not a good idea to play Backseat Director, and what it was like to wear those hideous glasses. “From Stereo to Video” is a twenty six minute video essay by Caelum Vatnsdal who explores Cronenberg’s life, his art from his first feature Stereo, and all of his work right through “Videodrome.” Caelum Vatnsdal focuses mainly on Cronenberg’s mid-film work, avoiding a lot of later modern works, and very early works. Among the audio commentaries there’s one with David Cronenberg, which originated from the 2004 DVD, and it’s been a constant extra ever since, since Cronenberg is a wonderful speaker who explores the affliction Rose suffers from, the freedom horror grants storytellers, and his lack of interest in the supernatural.
As an added bonus, Cronenberg has such a love for motorcycles, he can make out which engines are which during the film. There’s William Beard, the author of “The Artist as Monster: The Cinema of David Cronenberg” who is the focal point of the second commentary. This was originally in the Arrow release, and discusses the parallels of Rabid and Shivers, the difference between Canadian and American screen heroes, and the slick mix of horror an satire in “Rabid.” It’s a thorough and well done analysis for film buffs. There’s also the odd track with Jill Nelson and Ken Leicht which only runs for about an hour, and gives a different approach to the former commentaries. Here Nelson and Leicht focus mainly on Chambers, and her rise to stardom during the porn era, her near rise to mainstream fame, her small library of adult films, and the low profile she kept in her later years, which included rejecting a small role in “The Devil’s Rejects.” Finally, there’s a photo gallery with a montage of stills, lobby cards, and poster art, and four minutes of promotional material with trailers, TV commercials, and three radio spots.