Follow TV Tropes


Film / Rabid

Go To
A theatrical release poster

Young Rose (adult film star Marilyn Chambers) is severely injured in a freak highway accident in the countryside, necessitating an experimental grafting procedure to save her life. Rose appears to make a full recovery, but soon develops an unusual, phallic stinger on her armpit that feeds off of human blood, and infects those it touches with a highly potent rabies strain that renders the infected an insane, zombie-like creature. Rose, unbeknownst of her own condition, begins spreading the epidemic across the countryside and into a nearby urban centre as the situation spirals further and further out of control.

Rabid (1977) is director David Cronenberg's second feature film after the controversy and success of Shivers (1975). It was his first film to receive a wide release in the United States, being co-produced by Roger Corman's New World Pictures, and Cronenberg's second collaboration with producer Ivan Reitman. The cast is a venerable Who's-Who of Canadian character actors, including cameos by future Queer as Folk (US) and Call Me Fitz star Peter MacNeill and Empire Records director Allan Moyle.

This film was given a remake in 2019, starring Laura Vandervoort as Rose.

The 1977 film contains examples of:

  • Ambiguous Situation: It's dubious how aware Rose is of her actions. When not driven by the insatiable bloodlust of her condition, she behaves normally and seems just as confused and terrified by the outbreak as everybody else.
  • Armor-Piercing Response: When Hart finally finds and confronts Rose after her transformation into a plague carrying vampire.
    Rose: I'm still me. I'm still Rose.
    Hart: You're still Rose? You're not Rose!
  • Artistic License – Biology: A human body can't grow a whole new organ and digestive system out of the blue, even after an invasive skin graft surgery and a person can't become a disease carrier without any previous exposure to the pathogen.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The epidemic appears to be somewhat under control, but at the cost of hundreds, possibly thousands of lives. Rose, who may be the only hope for a vaccine, dies and her body is casually tossed into a garbage truck to be disposed of alongside dozens of other victims. However, it’s certainly a less outwardly bleak ending than Shivers (1975).
  • Blood Is Squicker in Water Judy Glasberg's blood mixes with the water in the hot tub after she's penetrated by Rose's stinger.
  • Body Horror: Rose heals beautifully after her cutting edge skin graft surgery, aside from a slight side effect of a fissure in her armpit that shoots out a grotesque phallic stinger, which she uses to drain her victims of blood, at the same time infecting them with a deadly new strain of rabies.
  • Creator Cameo: Producer Ivan Reitman and director David Cronenberg appear as soldiers patrolling the streets.
  • Deadly Hug: Rose has a spike that allows her to feed on her victim's blood in her armpit. She, therefore, kills by hugging them.
  • Dirty Old Man: The farmer who tries to force himself on Rose, and gets stung and infected for his troubles.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The process of Rose's blood feeding and infection bares more than a passing resemblance to rape.
  • Driven to Suicide: When she finally realizes she is the cause of the rabies outbreak, Rose purposely locks herself in a room with a man she infected.
  • Eye Scream: Rose stings her would be rapist right in the eye.
  • Fingore: Dr. Keloid turns rabid just as he was about to cut the thread after stitching up a patient's ear and attempts to cut the tip of an orderly's finger off with a pair of surgical scissors before attempting to bite it off.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Rose goes from a pretty young Badass Biker to a plague spreading vampire.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: An experimental skin and organ grafting procedure results in the patient developing a phallic, vampiric stinger that spreads a zombie-like infection to whomever it comes into contact with.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Rose and Mindy.
  • Ironic Name: Dan and Roxanne Keloid's name comes from a type of scar.
  • Killed Offscreen: True to the real-life variant of rabies, those infected are briefly driven mad before going into a coma and dying from hydrophobia.
  • Kill on Sight: Once the spread of the rabies virus reaches Montreal, the city is put under extreme martial law, one condition of which has armed soldiers patrolling the streets with orders to kill any rabid people they see. Some soldiers are shown using garbage trucks as patrol vehicles as a means of quickly disposing of the bodies of those infected.
  • Lesbian Vampire: Mildly invoked in the scene where Rose attacks Judy Glasberg in the jacuzzi.
  • Meaningful Name: The protagonist's name Rose is not an accident.
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Averted by Dan and Roxanne Keloid, who performs an untested, experimental procedure on Rose, but only to save her life after a life-threatening injury caused by a freak accident.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: A soldier guns down an infected person in a mall but due to the infecteds close proximity and the gun's power, the bullets pass through the man and end up killing the mall Santa who was behind him. Once he realizes what's happened, he holds his hand to his forehead and says "Oh, Christ!"
  • No Kill like Overkill: Lloyd goes rabid while in the backseat of a taxi headed home and he attacks the driver who proceeds to swerve around the road until sideswiping another car, resulting in an explosion. The car then flips over, rolling over several times until it tumbles off the side of an overpass, falling 50-60 feet before crashing down on a lower road... only to get T-boned by a semi and shoved into a ditch, just in case you thought both occupants could have survived the rollover and fall off the bridge.
  • Never My Fault: Rose keeps convincing herself that she's not the one who is spreading the disease until she can no longer deny it after confronting Hart at the film's climax.
  • Not Using the "Z" Word: The infected are effectively zombies with a particularly nasty strain of rabies that causes intense bloodlust and insanity before eventually killing them through hydrophobia.
  • Obliviously Evil: Rose is either unaware or is in deep denial that her new feeding habit is spreading the plague.
  • Open Heart Dentistry: Rose has her accident within spitting distance of an experimental plastic surgery clinic, and figuring she won't live long enough to get to a "real" hospital, they decide to use their techniques to save her life. Unfortunately, they succeed.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Rose doesn't drink blood like a classic vampire, she grows a whole new retractable appendage under her armpit for her feeding needs.
  • The Plague: The rabies outbreak first spread throughout the countryside by those bitten by Rose, who in turn infect others and eventually spread the outbreak into downtown Montreal.
  • Puppeteer Parasite: Rose's newfound orifice, possibly. How much she is in control of or aware of her actions remains ambiguous.
  • Queer Flowers: Inverted in the case of Rose and Mindy, who have a mild romance between them. Mindy is determined to take care of Rose, and even stripped Rose naked when she was ill, and suggests she takes a hot bath. For Rose's part, she was vehemently against Mindy being her next victim, even before she realized it was lethal.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Dr. Keloid left the United States after being laughed out for his (ethically dubious) idea of creating a franchised chain of branded plastic surgery clinics. His skill with grafting procedures, however, are enough for him to be ingratiated by the Canadian medical community and receive a steady stream of grants.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Shivers. Both films feature an attractive young woman who infects multiple people with a disease, the infection is passed from person to person and soon spins out of the control. Essentially, Rabid is just Shivers with the sex parasites and the apartment building swapped out for a new strain of rabies and the Quebecois countryside. Both films also have Joe Silver in a supporting role.
  • Tragic Monster: Rose gradually turns into one, especially towards the end when she realizes she has just killed her best friend and is responsible for the citywide rabies outbreak.
  • Typhoid Mary: Rose is technically the Patient Zero of the outbreak, but she seems largely unaware of her actions, and remains outwardly normal unlike those she infects.
  • Unlucky Extra: One man turns rabid inside a shopping mall close to where a little girl is having her picture taken with a mall Santa. He runs at full sprint towards them snarling which prompts a soldier nearby to open fire on the man from behind. While the little girl is rushed to safety by the Santa's helper elf, the power of the gun results in the bullets going through and killing the infected man, but also killing the Santa.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Hart causes the motorcycle accident that sets off a chain of events leading to Rose's deadly predicament and the citywide rabies outbreak.
  • Was Once a Man: Dan Keloid is infected by Rose and the rabies come to the surface while he is finishing a surgery and he attacks a nurse. When Murray arrives to find the hospital crawling with cops, he is informed that it took multiple officers to restrain Dr. Keloid, some of whom were bit. He asks where Keloid is, only for the officer to respond "You mean that?" and points to a nearby armored transport van. Once Dr. Cypher approaches the window, Keloid lunges at him, snarling and foaming at the mouth, having been driven into a feral rage by the infection.

The 2019 remake contains examples of:

  • Asshole Victim: Rose’s only deliberate victim was the wife of the doctor who transformed her, and while the wife’s mental state was unclear Doctor Burroughs certainly deserved to lose something for what he had done.
  • Body Horror: Rose eventually manifests multiple tendrils as her body tries to "feed".
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Rose’s parents died when she was a child and she was raised in a foster family.
  • Driven to Suicide: Rose slits her own throat to stop herself causing a further outbreak, but it doesn’t kill her.
  • Exact Eavesdropping: Rose’s self-confidence takes a particular knock when she overhears a couple of people talking dismissively about her at a party, driving her out of the party and leading to the accident.
  • Facial Horror: Rose’s accident cost her a sizeable portion of her intestines, but the real damage is her face, with her lips practically torn off and her jaw wired shut so that she cannot talk on her own and can only take sustenance through a straw. Rose’s operation cures all those ailments, but brings a whole new set of problems…
  • Fingore: An early victim of Rose’s plague (not one she attacked herself) initially bites off the fingers of his nurse before he attacks her more brutally.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Doctor Burroughs performed a controversial procedure on his wife that saved her from being killed by the cancer that was killing her, but turned her into a new kind of mutation after the cancer itself became immortal.
  • Happily Adopted: Rose was raised in a foster family, with her foster sister Chelsea still her emergency contact and treating Rose like an actual sister.
  • Hope Spot: Rose and Chelsea talk about their joy at how their dreams have come true, with Chelsea about to be the closing model of a fashion show wearing a dress Rose designed… and then Chelsea succumbs to the infection and is shot by the CDC operatives trying to contain the outbreak before she can do her walk.
  • Horror Hunger: Rose starts to experience intense unexplained hunger pains after the surgery.
  • Ignorant of Their Own Ignorance: Rose is completely unaware of her role in the pandemic even as it spreads around her as she didn’t know she had any contact with the initial cases.
  • Insecure Love Interest: Rose is immediately upset when she learns that Chelsea encouraged a co-worker Rose liked to talk to her rather than him doing it on his own.
  • Karma Houdini: Doctor Burroughs survives the outbreak with nobody aware of his role in events, with Rose now his prisoner and future test subject.
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Doctor Burroughs notes that he’s bending the rules considering the nature of the operation, but he claims that he’s just bending these rules for the benefit of his patients and assures her that she’s not the first subject, even dismissing her dreams as hallucinations caused by the medication she’s on. Ultimately confirmed when he reveals that he knew what was happening to Rose all along.
  • Not-So-Well-Intentioned Extremist: Doctor Burroughs claims he’s doing it to eliminate death, but his dismissal of the victims of Rose’s infection makes it clear that he doesn’t care about the side-effects so long as he gets more material.
  • Out-of-Character Alert: Rose was a vegetarian before the accident, but after the operation she finds herself craving meat juices and contemplates eating a raw steak.
  • Patient Zero: Rose demonstrates no sign of the disease herself, but everyone she bites starts to manifest a mutated form of rabies provoking a feral insanity, which is then passed on their victims.
  • Shout-Out: Chelsea compares Rose to Spider-Man when a side-effect of the treatment is that Rose no longer needs glasses.
  • That Was Not a Dream: Rose initially assumes that her attacks on her victims are just dreams, as she wakes up with no trace of blood on her and never ‘attacked’ anyone she knew well (early victims were another patient at the clinic and a stranger she met at a club).
  • Tragic Monster: As in the original, Rose’s transformation was the result of an attempt to help her after a terrible accident, although in this case she genuinely didn’t know she was doing anything.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: As the film ends, Rose is left trapped by Doctor Burroughs, unable to even kill herself to escape his plans to use her as a test subject.