Reading the first few chapters of Junji Ito’s Tomie put me in the mood for some good, old-fashioned body horror. Fortunately, the Criterion Channel provided exactly what I needed to sate my appetite: Rabid.
Director David Cronenberg has always excelled at making his audience squirm; pulsating tumors, blood-gushing gashes, and pus-oozing sores are his forte, and this grade-A B-movie from early in his career is no exception. Indeed, many of the core themes that would come to define his later work—the dangers of corporate greed and unchecked scientific ambition (Scanners, The Fly), the interplay between physiology and psychology (Videodrome), the gradual erosion of humanity on both the literal (biological) and conceptual (spiritual) level—are already firmly established here, albeit in a rough, unrefined, imperfect form.
Cronenberg’s artistic vision occasionally exceeds his modest budget, but Rabid remains a solid genre effort. In fact, I would argue that the film’s plot—which revolves around the outbreak of a mysterious, rapidly-spreading disease—is more relevant now than ever.