Israel’s “first slasher film” (as it’s being touted) is also (they don’t tell you this) supposed to be a comedy. It’s actually neither – not really slashing ala Freddy or Jason, and if it’s supposed to be funny maybe something’s lost in the translation – but Rabies is still a well made film worth a look. It’s sort of like Cabin Fever meets Hansel and Gretel meets Wrong Turn as we follow a brother and sister through the woods where they run afoul of not a witch, but a wicked flesh-eating virus (possibly – or is the rabies metaphorical? Hm. Deep).
Calamity separates the good-looking adult siblings, putting her in a shallow grave and him wandering the lonely roads in search of rescue. He soon finds salvation of sorts in a carload of sexy students driving through the “fox reserve” on their way to a tennis match, and then they in turn encounter two patrol cops, whose story then dovetails into the tribulations of the resident park ranger and his trusty German Shepherd. Add a forest-dwelling loon with a long knife, and it’s a dead man’s party. Once all of our players are in play, we are invited into their respective back-stories (some of them reasonably complex and refreshingly worthwhile) while bloody mayhem unfolds in the foreground.
While I can’t say I really enjoyed Rabies (the story is just too tired and the characters too stock, for someone raised on horror movies), I do respect its fine filmmaking (good acting, nice score, solid cinematography, great gooey special effects) and I liked the resolution quite a bit.
There are some fun set pieces involving bear traps, mine fields, and weaponry gone awry; and what’s more, when somebody dies the tragedy is actually acknowledged in a human way (given the constraints of the genre, and without being at all maudlin).
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson