When it comes to the body-horror sub-genre, there’s nobody quite like David Cronenberg.

Whether it be James Woods stuffing a video cassette in his gut in Videodrome, organic gaming devices in eXistenZ or Jeff Goldblum going all gooey in The Fly, the Canadian director sure knows what he’s doing.

And it’s his early 70s work where this flair was honed, which is why Arrow’s latest lush release of Rabid is such a treat.

A thrilling filmic sibling to his 1975 flick Shivers, Rabid grabs right from the get-go and rarely lets go, rather like its central character Rose (played by porn actress Marilyn Chambers).

Involved in a nasty motorbike accident over the film’s opening credits, Rose is whisked off to a nearby medical facility, one that specialises in cutting edge plastic surgery.

Deciding Rose is unlikely to survive the three-hour trip to the nearest hospital, surgeons elect to carry out a radical procedure to save her, which appears to go well.

But ‘appears to go well’ doesn’t really exist in Cronenberg’s world, and before long Rose is sprouting vicious-looking spores from her body, as well as developing an unhealthy taste for human blood.

From there on it’s carnage all the way, as Rose’s ‘victims’ have the unfortunate habit of becoming infected, and then passing on the virus/disease via attack in what comes across as a zombie apocalypse of sorts – on the streets of Montreal.

Filmed on a small budget, Cronenberg does a remarkable job in translating the scale of what is going on, with chaotic scenes on subway trains and the like transmitting a very real sense of a city under siege.

There is also some stunning effects work throughout, with plenty of claret splashed across the screen for those that like that type of thing – like me.

An exploitation film this may undoubtedly be, but performances are also fine (if not awards-worthy – but what do you expect) across the board, with Chambers herself offering up a stirring mix of innocence, fever and downright bloodthirstiness.

Able support comes from the likes of Frank Moore as boyfriend Hart, Joe Silver and Murray Ryshpan.

But this really is Cronenberg’s show, producing a nightmarish vision of a city spinning out of control – even if the film does end a bit too abruptly for my tastes.

As we have come to expect from Arrow, the Rabid disc comes stuffed to the gills with bonus treats, with commentaries and interviews with the likes of Cronenberg himself (and many more), as well as documentaries on the director and the Canadian film industry – and much more.

In short, a film that any horror fan should want to check out (if you haven’t already) and a disc that demands purchase.

DVD Review: Rabid
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About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.