Five recent college grads go for one last vacation in the woods during the summer of 1984 and one of them is infected with a mad scientist’s synthetic rabies virus.
One of the most intriguing areas of horror film making is the low budget horror film. These are moves that end up being either complete garbage made solely to make a movie, or a calling card for aspiring artists who want to show what they can do with a budget of $100,000 or less. It is within this subsection of horror that you can find both the worst of horror and the most fun, experimental horror out there. I have never been more excited than when I am about to watch a low budget horror flick that the majority of people would write off as being crap.
The excitement I get out of watching low budget horror has made me a go-to guy when it comes to movies that are considered crappy. That is why I was given the task of watching Rabid Love, the debut feature film of Paul J. Porter. Since 2008, Porter has produced twenty-three short films which include seven that he has directed. One of the short films was 2012’s Rabid Love. It was about four friends who went on a hunting trip. The trip got disastrous when one friend came down with a sickness similar to rabies. I have not seen the short, but by all accounts, Porter’s feature length film is a remake and expansion of that premise.
In 2013s bigger version of Rabid Love, John and Heather (played by Porter and his wife Hayley Derryberry) are heading to a cabin in the woods for a good, old fashioned camping trip during the summer of 1984. They are accompanied by three friends: John’s sister Julie (Jessica Sonneborn), John’s best friend Adam (Josh Hammond), and Adam’s girlfriend Summer (Hannah Landberg). As they approach the cabin, the group is bombarded with reports of missing hunters and bear attacks. They are even given a bear trap for protection; however, the bear trap does not protect them from the real danger that is hiding in the woods. After meeting a photographer named David (Brandon Stacy), John begins exhibiting strange behavior and it leads to deadly consequences.
Although the story is derivative of horror tales seen numerous times in the past, there are some good aspects of Rabid Love that stand out. First and foremost is the camera work. I would not say that the cinematography is exceptional. It is not. It suffers from the quality of the camera that was used. The lackluster digital characteristics show in the very slight amount of motion distortion that happens when people move. This small issue is easy to ignore after a few minutes. What does work are the shot compositions and camera movements. The way that everything was arranged in each shot and the different motions that the camera operator made gave the movie a professional feel. It counteracted the camera quality to enhance the experience.
Moving on from the visual traits of Rabid Love, the aural side of the production is even better. The story is a throwback to 1980s horror and the music perfectly encapsulates that feeling. The two songs by Gene the Werewolf harken back to hair metal of the 80s and early 90s. Ruby Faith and the Waiting World are reminiscent of a Pat Benatar style. Racecat has an early 80s synthesizer pop-rock to their single song on the soundtrack. Though it sometimes feels like Rabid Love is more akin to a music video than a film, each song gets its turn to shine. The use of these throwback style songs helps to solidify the 80s throwback elements that are being presented.
The other fun part of Rabid Love is the actors. Their delight in the material that they are performing comes through the screen loud and clear. Hayley Derryberry holds her own in the leading role and shows that she has the potential to become an anticipated actress in the coming years. Brandon Stacy chews up the scenery with both the meekness and threatening sides to his character. Everyone is simply having a good time with the material they are acting out and it rubbed off on me while I was watching the movie. Their demeanors made Rabid Love more enjoyable than saying the lines and not caring about what was going on. Their good time became my good time.
For a movie that looked from the outset like it was going to be crap, Rabid Love did nothing but impress me and give me a joyous time. Is it high art? Not at all. I would be lying if I told you that it was. It is quite the enjoyable ride, though. With solid performances, music, and camera work, this throwback to the 1980s horror films that we adore makes for an entertaining hour and a half thrill ride. Rabid Love is worth a watch.