Rose Miller (Laura Vandervoort) is something of a wallflower, a shrinking violet if you will, who hides her light under a bushel and is only noticed at her fashion house job in the morning when she shows up habitually late. Her boss (Mackenzie Gray) humiliates her in front of her colleagues, but she simply shuts up and takes it, so when the handsome co-worker Brad Hart (Benjamin Hollingsworth) invites her to the latest fashion exhibition and won't take no for an answer, she is a mixture of flattered and intimidated, though she does go. Alas, after initial enjoyment she overhears two bitchy colleagues reveal this date she is on only happened as part of a bet, and she storms out...
...hops onto her motor scooter, and gets rammed by a passing lorry, smashing up her face. Will her luck ever change? Not if the Soska Sisters had anything to do with it in this, the first movie remake of a David Cronenberg work, a concept that had many of the more precious horror fans of a certain vintage throwing up their hands at the thought of these two upstarts getting their hands on a fellow Canadian's cult favourite. There was a measure of cheek from the inception, re-adapting their countryman's work in their own particular style, but the Soskas were not really upstarts and while they were not household names, they were assuredly well established by the stage of this Rabid.
What they did not have was access to vast reserves of funds, and somewhat worryingly for some had the reactionary producer of the Left Behind franchise on board as well, though it had to be said there were no fundamentalist Christian messages to be detected here, a relief in itself. What there was turned out to be the directors' obsession with vintage shockers from the nineteen-seventies and eighties, the fashion world and turning the tables on the male directors who routinely made women the victims in their slasher flicks - the female lead here was a neat excuse to present a monster movie from a female perspective. And Vandervoort was definitely a better actress than Marilyn Chambers.
That said, Chambers was a subversive item of casting that the Soskas did not have at their disposal: no porn stars in prominent roles here, so they decided to rely on their plotting for the body horror cum anarchy effect both the sisters and Cronenberg aimed for. Part mad science, part fast zombie outbreak movie once the rabid of the title began biting chunks out of people, this kicked off when the facially ruined Rose is admitted to an exclusive clinic looking for guinea pigs for their revolutionary new synthetic skin graft treatment. Suddenly, once the bandages come off, our heroine looks a million dollars and gets her old job back, plus Brad is now interested in her romantically for real, though that may be partly his guilt at being responsible for her accident in the first place talking.
Rose’s pal Chelsea (Hanneke Talbot) also had a hand in that mishap, though she meant well thus is forgiven... for a while. There was also workplace drama, digs at fickle trendsetters, the hypocrisy of the supposed sisterhood that is actually lacking in too many women, a wrong-righting reaction to men who try to pick up uninterested women then act aggressive and entitled when they are politely spurned, and eventually a return to the clinic where the staff notably fail to explain precisely why they are pioneering a cosmetic surgery treatment that transforms its recipients into rampaging maniacs. Either they were not interested in big setpieces or they had blown the budget on the makeup effects, including a rubbery appendage for Rose that looked like it belonged in a dodgy anime, yet there was a strange lack of attention paid to some areas and a contrasting sharp focus on others, but that was the Soskas for you, they loved their work but did not quite have a classic in them yet. It was entertaining, but it was also a bumpy ride. Music by Claude Foisy.