Young Rose (adult film star Marilyn Chambers) is severely injured in a freak highway accident in 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. 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 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.
This 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, its certainly a less outwardly bleak ending than Shivers.
- 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.
- From Nobody to Nightmare: Rose goes from a pretty young Biker Babe 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.
- Lesbian Vampire: Mildly implied when 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.