‘Rabid’ – A Chilling Cronenbergian Fable of Bodily Corruption

Rabid is a film directed by David Cronenberg (The Fly, The Dead Zone). It stars Marilyn Chambers (yes, that one) as Rose. Frank Moore plays Hart Read, Roses’ boyfriend.

Years before ‘The Fly’, director David Cronenberg was already obsessed with bodily transformation and contagion, as seen in his 1977 viral thriller ‘Rabid’. When an experimental surgery leaves a woman with a blood-craving stinger under her armpit, an entire city descends into rabies-like madness, serving as metaphor for the horrors we carry within.

After a motorcycle crash, Rose undergoes radical grafting surgery that heals her wounds miraculously fast. But the experimental procedure causes shocking side-effects – Rose develops a phallic stinger that injects victims with rabies-like rage viruses when she seeks blood to quench her new thirst.

As the mysterious attacks spread like wildfire, the film evolves into a broad social metaphor about the rapid spread of violence and unrest. Rose is patient zero, a vessel leaking inner darkness into the world. But the horror comes not from an outside evil, but from the medical corruption of Rose’s own flesh.

With its singular biological spin on vampirism and themes of bodily contagion, ‘Rabid’ crystallizes Cronenberg’s obsession with the fragility of our physical forms. We violate natural laws at our own peril, as science warps the sacred into the profane.

Gleefully exploitative while steeped in big ideas, ‘Rabid’ proves a seminal work in Cronenberg’s early filmography. Like a spreading pathogen, its imagery and concepts burrow under the viewer’s skin, hinting at the career-defining masterworks to come. David Cronenberg is a director whose central theme in his films has always been the monster within us, not the monster without. He is known as the Director of Venereal Horror. Rabid is his second feature film and was preceded by Shivers aka They Came From Within.