A brother and sister who run away from home find sanctuary in a deserted nature reserve. When the sister falls into the trap of a psychopathic killer, the brother sets out on a race against time to find help. In a twist of fate the rescue of the sister becomes inadvertently intertwined with the lives of a group of young tennis players, a ranger and his dog, as well as a team of policemen.
Many films are misleading in certain ways. Usually that tends to be due to marketing but in the case of the film “Rabies” (known as “Kalevet” in its country of origin, Israel) the title and the premise lead you to believe that it is two separate types of film but quickly becomes something else entirely. When I heard the title I was thinking maybe some sort of virus gone crazy type of film. Wrong! Then when the film started I was thinking that it was going to be a kids getting lost in the middle of nowhere being stalked by a madman type of film. Wrong again! So I was pleasantly surprised to see the direction the film took was nothing like I had expected. The film wasn’t without its problems but directors Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushadu created a film that is refreshing and entertaining.
The film opens with Tali (Liat Harlev) and her brother Ofer (Henry David). She is stuck in a trap and he is trying to rescue her from the clutches of a maniac. The only thing he can do is leave her there and go for help. At the same time Menashe (Menashe Noy) and his dog are out in the same woods. Ofer is off and running while Menashe saves Tali and takes the maniac out with a tranquilizer dart. Meanwhile, a group of young adults, Adi (Ania Bukstien), Shir (Yael Grobglas), Mikey (Ran Danker), and Pini (Ofer Shechter) are on their way to a tennis match. Ofer darts out into the road and they hit him. He is alright but wants help rescuing his sister. The two men, Mikey and Pini leave with Ofer to save Tali. The two gals, Adi and Shir, stay with the car. Two police officers, Danny (Lior Ashkenazi) and Yuval (Danny Geva), show up only to cause the young ladies problems. Danny likes to harass and things begin to spiral out of control. Not just with the girls but the others as well, who find themselves in incredibly intense situations.
“Rabies” is being hailed as the first slasher film from Israel. I have a really hard time looking at this film as a slasher. There are plenty of people who end up on the chopping block, just not exactly how we expect them too. It was a nice touch to set the film up one way, taking a sharp left turn to throw you off the trail. I can honestly say that once I figured out how the film was playing out, I couldn’t predict what would happen next. Those woods were like a melting pot and anyone who entered them was pretty much screwed.
I enjoyed the film but I still have no clue as to how the title actually relates to it. I would have preferred to think of the film as “Kalevet” (though now I know that the translation is basically ‘rabies’ so, whatever). One thing for certain, the characters in this film REALLY overreact to the situations they find themselves in. Almost to the point it that is unbelievable but it is a horror movie after all.
The cast was terrific, especially Ania Bukstein and Lior Ashkenazi. Mostly because I felt that their characters were the most fleshed out and three dimensional. The film looks much more expensive than it was and shot beautifully. It’s a little light on the gore but there are a few nice effects.
“Rabies” was a much better film than I had anticipated. A very refreshing change of pace that keeps you guessing as to what will happen next. If some of the other characters had been more fleshed out, maybe it could have been something more. As it stands, “Rabies” is a ***1/2 (out of 5) film. Take note that the film is in Hebrew with English subtitles. Don’t let that stop you, this is a thriller well worth investing your time in.