It never ceases to amuse me that comedy mogul Ivan Reitman produced a couple of David Cronenberg’s most shocking pictures, which seems incongruous until one remembers the messed-up body horror of Junior.
Continuing the Fucking-Crazies vibe of his breakthrough Shivers, Cronenberg delivers another vital venereal horror in 1977’s Rabid. Our Typhoid Mary this time around is Rose, a role originally meant for Sissy Spacek (a Carrie poster does appear in the film) but aptly taken by porn actress Marilyn Chambers.
Following a motorcycle accident and experimental plastic surgery, Rose grows an orifice under her armpit not unlike Videodrome‘s James Woods with the vagina in his chest (or the cunt in his house). Having developed a taste for blood that today’s doctors might consider unhealthy (as well as a sexual fluidity suggested by the phallic stinger protruding from her armslit), Rose stalks the streets of Montreal feeding on men. And one cow.
With its lady predator and motorbike combination, this is like a body horror version of Under the Skin. So gory and bizarre is Rose’s hugged-to-death routine that it borders on Garth Marenghi-style parody, but Cronenberg’s tone is so assured that you never doubt his twisted vision. His Canadian feeding frenzy wastes no time, while dissecting his usual preoccupations involving bodily modification and faceless corporations. Which would itself be a good name for a plastic surgery: The Faceless Corporation.
A remake is underway from Canadian directing duo the Soska Sisters, whose scalpel-sharp American Mary proved them worthy Cronenbergian successors who also bring a distinctive and fresh approach to horror. The prospect of seeing their feminist take on Rabid is so exciting it has even a purist like me foaming at the mouth.