The quiet Rose works in women’s fashion clothing, hoping to be a designer. A traffic accident damages her face. She gets experimental stem cell treatment, leaving her stronger and prettier than ever – but there’s a side effect.
Rabid (2019) is a satirical, mildly gory remake of the original Rabid produced and directed by David Cronenberg in 1977. Admittedly, I never saw the original, but this new take directed by Jen and Slyvia Soska (The Soska Sisters) intrigued me enough to watch the original Cronenberg release. The 2019 remake has some different plot elements and characters, but it maintained the basic storyline of its 1977 predecessor. Both movies focus on a central female character named Rose (Laura Vandervoot 2019, Marilyn Chambers 1977) who is horrifically deformed as a result of an accident and undergoes questionable, experimental facial reconstruction surgery. The surgery restores her to an even more beautiful version of her former self, but also leaves her with a pretty inconvenient side effect. As a result of the experimental surgery she develops a violent streak, which causes her to attack people and spread a rabies-like virus to her victims.
In Rabid, Rose is a struggling fashion designer working for an egotistical and comic book like character named Gunter (Mackenzie Gray). Due to some very mild facial scarring incurred in a car accident when she was younger, Rose has some serious self-esteem issues, which this along with the barely visible scars has held her back in her job and life. Rose also has a good friend named Chelsea (Hanneke Talbot) whose parents took Rose in when her own parents were killed in the same car crash. Chelsea works as a model at the same place as Rose and you can see from the beginning that Rose is a bit envious of her looks, or at least this is the type of message the movie wants to drive home. Rose is invited to a party by a good-looking photographer/love interest but finds out later that it was setup by Chelsea. Upset by the idea that she is someone’s charity case, Rose runs from the party into the street and gets hit by a car.
When Rose wakes up, she finds her face hideously injured and disfigured from the crash. Props to the makeup artist who truly went all out in making Rose’s face grotesque and hard to even look at. Her jaw was displaced in the crash and had to be wired shut. One whole side of her face is a gaping wound from her ear to her mouth. Not wanting to live like this, Rose decides to get experimental stem cell surgery from Dr. William Burroughs (Ted Atherton). The surgery is a success and Rose looks even better than before she was disfigured. Apparently, the surgery also fixed her vision because she no longer needs glasses. New Rose resumes her life at work and starts to get noticed by people around her, including her boss Gunter. Gunter finally recognizes her design work and then chooses one of her dresses to be featured in an upcoming fashion show. The notion that removing some subtle scars and losing the “nerdy” glasses will suddenly make you a star at work is utterly ridiculous, but I think that’s part of the satirical message of the movie.
Everything is going great until Rose starts getting some wicked, noisy hunger pangs that make her crave raw meat and human blood. Unable to suppress her hunger she prowls the streets in a dream-like state in search of victims to feed off. She takes her concerns to Dr. Burroughs, who assures her she is just having bad dreams and encourages her to continue drinking the special “protein” shakes he provided. At a few points in the movie we see Rose in the shadows with some snake-like appendages sprouting from her head, but we later find out it’s coming from her armpit. Choosing her armpit as the source of her hungry little snake monster is so random, but it keeps with the original 1977 Rabid, which at least explains the reasoning behind this…sort of. The people she feeds off start to turn into psychotic zombies that attack anyone in sight and can spread their infection through a bite.
Chelsea is bitten on a train ride to a fashion show and is gunned down and killed after she turns rabid and starts attacking people. Rose eventually makes her way back to Dr. Burroughs after she realizes she is the one spreading infection. Dr. Burroughs reveals to her that her transformation is the answer to curing death and locks her up in a room with his wife, who also received treatment and turned into a monster. Rose kills his wife and then slits her own throat to end her torment. *Spoiler Alert* The end of the movie shows Rose alive and well and still trapped in a room. She is all cleaned up and “Ave Maria” is playing in the background. In the final scene Dr. Burroughs explains to her that she is immortal while Rose screams in frustration and horror.
The 2019 Rabid concentrates far more on a satirical message that it can be dangerous to focus too much on physical beauty and superficiality than the 1977 original. This is where I believe the remake fails. Instead of subtle commentary on life choices based only on vanity and looks, we are force fed this message throughout the movie and it distracts from the parts that work.
There are some great human-to-monster transitions, special effects, and tense moments when one of Rose’s victims is turning rabid. The acting was also not too bad for a B movie. There’s plenty of truly ridiculous dialogue and explanations throughout, but this added some unintentional humor to the movie. Toward the end of the movie the CDC makes an announcement that the virus turning people into mutated, violent, zombies was just a strain of rabies, which gave me a good chuckle. Granted, there were many scenes where I did some serious eye rolling, but as far as B horror movies go, this one is still worth a watch…that is if nothing better is available.
- Audio Commentary With Directors & Writers Jen & Sylvia Soska
- Interview With Actress Laura Vandervoot