The Soska sisters’ Rabid (2019) isn’t so much a remake of David Cronenberg’s 1977 film as it is a respectful and very effective reimagining.
The bare bones of the story are the same. Laura Vandervoort plays Rose, a vaguely nebbishy assistant to a mercurial fashion designer. After an accident leaves Rose disfigured, she agrees to undergo radical treatment at an exclusive clinic. The treatment appears to be successful; Rose emerges from surgery even more beautiful, even more vibrant, than she was before.
But with her miraculous recovery comes a terrible curse. Rose is not the person she was before. She is tormented. She is aggressive and haunted. And the thing inside her is very, very hungry.
Vandervoort shines as Rose, and Mackenzie Gray is a hoot and a half as fashion designer Gunter. Veteran character actors Stephen McHattie and Ted Atherton are excellent, too, as they usually are. The script is tight (there are few wasted words) and the direction is surefooted: the Soskas, twin sisters Jen and Sylvia, clearly understand what Cronenberg was going for forty-odd years ago, and how those themes can be effectively explored today.
Even though the story is fantasy, Vandervoort’s performance anchors the movie in the real world. It is a subtle performance, small where other actors might have gone big, vulnerable where other actors might have gone tough.
A word about the gory and disturbing special effects: superb. The visuals are completely convincing, mostly because they are so understated. Except for a glorious, lingering look at something truly disturbing near the end of the movie, most of the effects are of the fleeting-glimpse variety: a brief view of a yucky thing here, a hint of something nasty over there.
An excellent updating of a classic horror film.