Feminism and Body Horror have combined forces and the result is a beautifully gory amalgam.
Remakes have always been a dime a dozen and especially the horror genre have been littered by reboots, remakes and re-imaginings. From The Blob (1958, 1988) The Thing (1951, 1982) Dawn of the Dead (1978, 2004) Halloween (1978, 2007, 2018) and more recently Child’s Play (1988, 2019) and Pet Semetary (1989, 2019), there have been numerous iterations that have either been hailed as genius or divided opinion right down the middle. However they are viewed, a new interpretation and change of direction can often be a refreshing change, and certainly The Soska Sisters’ version of David Cronenberg’s 1977 body horror Rabid has its charm.
Jen and Sylvia Soska have built a reputation as shrewd and savvy filmmakers since their film school project Dead Hooker in the Trunk (2009) which lead to more polished and better funded projects American Mary (2012), See No Evil 2 (2014) and the segment “T is for Torture Porn” on ABCs of Death 2 (2014). Although David Cronenberg appears to have left his body horror years behind him, he will always been seen as one of the original modern day horror masters with seminal films which include Scanners (1981), Videodrome (1983) and The Fly (1986). Rabid (1977) was Cronenberg’s first significant exploration of visceral body transformation, viral infection and the interlinking connection of technology with the psychological and physical aspects of human existence and experience. Over four decades later – fellow Canadians – The Soska Twins pay tribute to the horror icon’s cult classic whilst also attempting to give his original story a modern, feminist update.
Rose (Laura Vandervoort) is a meek and mild, aspiring fashion designer who is mostly dismissed by her fashion mogul employer Gunter (Mackenzie Gray) and most men for that matter, until her work crush, Brad (Benjamin Hollingsworth) invites her out. Once Rose discovers that this invitation was manipulated by her close friend Chelsea (Hanneke Talbot) she flees the date and gets into a road collision that causes catastrophic and life-changing damage to her face and psyche. Obviously devastated and depressed, Rose is fired from job and moves in with her friend to get back on her feet again.
When plastic surgeon, Dr Burroughs (Ted Atherton) reaches out and offers an experimental stem cell treatment, Rose accepts the procedure without much consideration. This decision proves to pay off as the damage to her face is reversed completely and even damage from a childhood accident is removed to reveal an unblemished and newly invigorated Rose. Her newly found confidence and sexual appetites come at a cost however.
The most decisive and significant contribution made to this narrative, is the agency and volition given to the female lead. Rose is the driving force of her own accident, recovery and ultimate destruction. She controls the trajectory and focus of every decision even though she is oblivious to the repercussions and resulting damage. Cronenberg’s lead had no such insight as her motivations were mainly driven by the impulses and determinations of the men in her life. Laura Vandervoort’s Rose is given ambition, drive and cognisance and is rarely passive in the chaos that surrounds her. Even the relationship between Rose and Chelsea is explored and developed more than the initial love interest that propels the plot into motion. There is no personal or professional jealousy or rivalry and both women seem genuinely happy at the success and growth shown by the other. There is empowerment here that is palpable and refreshing. The Soska Twins have succeeded in injecting new points of view to a story and film they obviously admire.
Aside from the main feature, Jen and Sylvia Soska explore their love for Canadian Cinema – Cronenberg films in particular – in a feature- length documentary called The Quiet Revolution: State, Society and the Canadian Horror Film – Part Two as part of the informative and exclusive extras on the Blu-ray. Other filmmakers, producers and Author Xavier Mendik share their experiences in creating content in the struggling environment outside of the Hollywood system.
Behind the scenes with Jen & Sylvia Soska also gives a wonderful insight into the motivations and drive of these indie filmmakers and the ambitions they still aim for. They discuss the trajectory of their fledgling career and pay homage to the inspiration supplied by David Cronenberg and his influential body of work.
An interview with Laura Vandevoort is another illuminating addition, as the Jigsaw and Ted actor shares her own preparation and trepidation in approaching the challenge of leading a remake of such cult significance as Rabid.
A short FrightFest Presents the Soska Sisters’ on-set message to the FrightFest 2018 audience, with Paul McEvoy completes the extras and once again strengthens the Canadian filmmakers’ sincere approach and love for the medium.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
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