Rabid stands as one of David Cronenberg’s most political, and most explicitly Canadian, horror films. It’s a tale of medical experimentation gone wrong, resulting in a parasite-borne plague rapidly spreading from an isolated rural medical clinic to the big city of Montreal, along with concomitant anarchy. The film initially gained its notoriety for featuring Ivory Snow soap box model/porn star Marilyn Chambers in one of her short-lived attempts to ‘go legit’. She is actually one of the film’s strongest features, putting in an unsettling performance as the plague’s ‘Typhoid Mary’ who infects the male populace of the city with the insanity-inducing parasites.
Astute viewers will note that Rabid offers a jaundiced view of Canada’s society as one in which powerful institutions, both public, and private, cannot be trusted to fulfill their duties without some measure of negligence and/or incompetence. With the Quebec setting of the late 70s there are naturally echoes of the earlier October Crisis, an event that will always have some place in the psyche of Canadians when considering issues of social order and governmental authority.
Rabid is the only Cronenberg film that wears its Canuck identity proudly on its sleeve. French accents, wintry locales, and rural farmlands reaffirm the sheer Canadian-ness of it all. The Canadian location is paramount, since the threat posed in Rabid is most effective in a society with a concentrated governmental control of services. Rabid proposes a broad examination of the cautions of state control…It is an effective film, biting, clever, dark, timely and ultimately Canadian.
This screening is part of the Canadian Cult Revue film series at the ByTowne, presented by the Lost Dominion Screening Collective.