'Rabid' Review: A Bloody Fresh Remake That Surpasses The Original [FrightFest 2019]

It has been said that the best movies to remake are bad one – the reasoning being that they could actually benefit from a fresh set of eyes. In a year that has given us plenty of disappointing sequels, remakes and reboots, here comes Rabid. More of a reimagining than a straight remake, The Soska Sisters present us with a fun, violent, gory movie that not only brings Cronenberg's original to modern times, but even improves it.Rose (Laura Vandervoort) is a fashion designer, but in such a competitive business she finds that she's quieter, more reserved person in both looks and action compared to her co-workers. Her boss never pays attention to her designs, the other women at work pity her, and while going to a work party the bouncer takes his sweet time looking for her name in the guest list while just signaling every other woman in line to just walk inside. After leaving the party, Rose gets involved in a serious accident, which results in gruesome injuries to her abdomen and her face, resulting in the doctors having to sew her mouth shut.From the very beginning, The Soska Sisters want to make sure you know this won't be a shot-for-shot remake, but more of a film inspired by Cronenberg's original. For one, the body horror is much more based on the medical element and aftermath of Rose's accident – for instance her inability to eat solids, together with some fantastic sound design, results in a ghastly scene that will make you think twice about drinking smoothies. The film also spends more time exploring how the accident affects Rose's personal life and her own psyche by using her very physically noticeable injuries to project her self-image.Where the original Cronenberg Rabid was more about plastic surgery going bad, the new movie comments on experimental medicine and "transhumanism", the belief that through advancements in medical technology will lead to the evolution of the human race. Rose agrees to an experimental procedure using stem cells, which not only repairs all physical damage to her face, but apparently gives her Spider-Man-like heightened senses as she no longer needs glasses. She does have to drink a mysterious "super-protein". The script, by The Soska Sisters and John Serge, give Rose more agency and uses the difference in how people treat her after her surgery to comment on double standards for women and the fashion industry as a whole. Laura Vandervoort is 100% along for the ride. Vandervoort not only portraying Rose's vulnerability, and her sudden happiness once she gets her due and everyone starts paying her the proper attention after the surgery – but also sheer terror once she starts having terrible nightmares and waking up covered in blood with no knowledge of how she got there. Of course, this is still a vampire story. Though Rabid takes its sweet time getting to the epidemic action, the spread of a strange disease that follows Rose wherever she goes is still a key part of the movie. The virus that gives the movie its title makes for some violent scenes, as the virus instantly makes people aggressive and even somewhat cannibalistic. The special effects and makeup team do a great job and are clearly having a blast coming up with more creative kills, with a third act that brings to mind the pool scene in Annihilation as well as other disturbing Cronenberg and Cronenberg-esque creations.In many ways Rabid is to be a direct response to the original 1977's sex-negative story that robs its star of most agency. The Soska Sisters are very interested in exploring Rose's newfound uncontrollable sexual appetite as not instantly negative but look at it through the lens of her newfound confidence post-surgery. Rose is finally accepting of her sexuality and starts to embrace it, though it brings pain and blood to those she encounters.The bigger focus on Rose's personal journey compared to the victims that encounter her may disappoint those who go in expecting to go straight to the vampiric part of the story and the spread of the virus. Indeed, even if it builds Rose as a character, the movie drags just a bit too much, introducing a couple of sub-plots that don't add much to the main story. That being said, the movies does lead towards a violent and gruesome third act that will satisfy fans of Cronenberg and The Soska Sisters' filmography.By the time Rabid draws to its blood-soaked conclusion, you're either fascinated with Rose's journey or you were bored halfway through due to the movie's slow pace. But those who stick by the movie's exploration of self-worth and sexuality will find a poignant if not completely subtle commentary on the fashion and healthcare industry. Make no mistake, this movie is as infectious as the virus that Rose carries./Film Rating: 7.5 out of 10