The Soska Sisters (Jen and Sylvia) have been gifting us their own unique vision of horror for over 10 years with their latest film, Rabid, having debuted in limited theaters and On Demand on December 13. Each film that they have directed has been dark, has had humor, a lot of blood, and a powerful message.
“The idea of Cronenberg’s film is apparent and honored, but Jen and Sylvia [Soska]’s take on the material elevated that idea.”
When word broke that they were directing the very first remake of a David Cronenberg film, there was a frenzy. When they shared images from the finished project on their Twitter, they were deemed too gruesome for the platform resulting with the sisters being Twitter banned. When the film saw its release, the response seemed to be cut right down the middle.
For this review of the Soska Sisters’ Rabid, no comparisons will be made with Cronenberg’s Rabid (1977). The Soska Sisters’ film is a creature of its own. The idea of Cronenberg’s film is apparent and honored, but Jen and Sylvia’s take on the material elevated that idea.
Rabid begins with asking us, “Why do we keep remaking old trends?” The line leads into a short monologue questioning what many have said about remakes in the past. Should there be more added upon, aspects taken away, or ideas melded together to give any meaning to a new iteration? The monologue ends with asking “… do we cater to the masses or do we create art only for the few who dare experience it?”
A bit meta, isn’t it? For this viewer, it is a representation of the film’s creation while also a representation of Rose (Laura Vandervoort) as she experiences a “remake” of herself. Much like the loud outcry that results at the breaking news of a remake, Rose experiences a righteous event that eventually leads to her remake. She is hit by a car that mauls her face and digestive system.
“When [the Soska sisters] shared images from the finished project on their Twitter, they were deemed too gruesome for the platform resulting with the sisters being Twitter banned.”
A promising clinical trial for a procedure that will recreate her face and piece back together her digestive system is presented to her, and she takes the risk. What results is a promising new life for the once shy, closed off, and self-tired individual that she was. With a perfectly reconstructed face, she begins to thrive in her creativity with the fashion world where she designs as well as with her self esteem.
The new Rose may be thriving, but the world around her begins to tear apart at the seams. A strain of supposed rabies has begun to take over the public in close association with her. Infected individuals are tearing people apart. Rose’s realization of this comes slowly but surely, and she begins to trace the infection back to her.
Rose’s “remake” had a promising start, but the infection tore her world apart. It’s similar to a remake of a beloved genre film is shredded by the general public before it has its chance to prove that it can be a separate entity from its predecessor.
The finale of the film takes place on a runway in front of a crowd of people where the infection comes to a climax during the debut of Rose’s first closing show design. The design makes it down the runway worn by her best friend / foster sister, Chelsea (Hanneke Talbot) who is experiencing her first walk in closing a runway show. You get where I’m going with this, yeah? This is the actual debut of a remake to the public. The Soska Sisters’ interpretation of this is spot on as the heightened response found within the rabid individuals during the runway show mirrors the response given when a remake makes it debut.
“[…] the effects in Rabid are wonderfully practical.”
Then it’s down to the creator of the infection to finally face the music. Mum’s the word on the finale of Rabid, but it does allow Rose to come face to face with the cause of the infection. In my eyes, she succeeds at giving a big ol’ f*ck you to it.
Now that I’ve gotten my perception of the film out of the way, it must be said that The Soska Sisters know how to make a horror film as well as know how to respectfully take material and lay their own style upon it. Rabid is a film that introduces us to the world that they’ve created, and takes no time in setting the wheels in motion. The anxiety that scenes build up always has a proper explosion, and the quiet moments had by Rose as she deals with the trauma – both internally and externally – are effective.
Laura Vandervoort’s portrayal of Rose manages to allow a grasp on the humanity of the shy and closed off Rose as well as the newly reinvented Rose. The filmmakers – as well as Vandervoort’s talent – kept Rose’s personality the same. Even with the new Rose, Vandervoort never loses that aura that we were presented with before the accident. Although she has a brand new lease on life, we aren’t thrown into the cliché that she is an entirely different person. Vandervoort continued to give us the Rose that we were a part of for the first 13 minutes of the film throughout the remainder of the film, just with a few new and unwanted upgrades what with all the blood sucking and creature making.
Speaking of, the effects in Rabid are wonderfully practical. The image of Rose’s mauled face that led to the Twitter banning of the Soska Sisters was just a slight taste of what we receive throughout the film. These effects are never shoved into our face nor are they presented for shock. The practical effects are presented in motion with the story, and play out wonderfully as a part of the narrative.
“The anxiety that scenes build up always has a proper explosion, and the quiet moments had by Rose as she deals with the trauma – both internally and externally – are effective.”
The Soska Sisters made a film that showed the journey of a film remake as well as the journey of a new and terrifying life for a woman. They made a film that showed that they have staying power within our genre. Their voices, their eyes, and their ideas express that they know and love horror, and will continue to use those to showcase absurd yet wonderful worlds that they have waiting for us.
Rabid is currently On Demand on many digital platforms. It makes its physical media debut on Bluray and DVD via Scream Factory on February 7th. The physical release includes a feature length commentary (!) with the Soska Sisters as well as an interview with Laura Vandervoort. Support the Soska Sisters, and click the rent button or make your purchase!