The problem with older horror movies, especially body horror films, is that the special effects that impressed so much at the time of the film's release have problems aging. There are of course exceptions (The Thing being a prime example) but a lot of older special effects do not age very well. Prime example, the otherwise solid horror film Rabid has more than few special effects that clearly do not hold up as well as they clearly used to. But ignoring that it's still a solid piece of cinema.
The plot is concerned with a woman named Rose who is horribly maimed in a motorcycle accident and given an experimental skin graft inside her body (not sure how that works, but we'll roll with it). When she wakes from a month long, she's lusting for blood that she gets by giving people death hugs (you'll see what I mean) and the victims who survive the hug end up with a bad case of a zombie.
This is, put simply, one weird movie. Half the movie is given over to Rose's bloodlust in what is a fairly tame body horror plot (by Cronenberg standards, this guy did The Fly and Videodrome). The other half is a well executed, if formulaic, zombie outbreak storyline (although this was in 1977, so the formulas of the zombie genre were still getting set down, so it can be forgiven).
That earlier statement about the special effects aging is probably the closest the film comes to a real problem, because most of it's technical details are great. Okay, the soundtrack is still a little too loud and jarring like many 70's and 80's horror films, but it never hurts as much as it could. The cinematography is nice and bleak, the gore and makeup well applied and well used. As I said, the effects used to realize the body horror haven't aged very well, but they never look so bad to detract from the film as a whole.
The acting is mixed, Marilyn Chambers does a solid job despite being primarily known for Behind the Green Door a full on porn movie. The main male character is the big drag, he spends most of the film in a coma until the last few scenes where he tries to act...and fails miserably. The other actors are mostly competent if a bit bland, but that's more than you usually get with horror films.
The screenplay is a solid piece of work, with most of the dialogue and character actions being well thought out and believeable. One part of the film that gets shoved off to the side is the gradual move to martial law to contain the zombie outbreak (they never get called zombies, but shut up I'm making a point) which is interesting but mostly gets relegated to the margins. The pacing is mostly good, though I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that the ending comes out of fucking nowhere. Not even exaggerating, the plot just sort of stops and moves on the denoucement.
What's weirdest to me is that the zombies themselves have no real metaphor attached to them. While vampires can only ever be a metaphor for sex, zombies can be (and often are) metaphors for essentially anything, from AIDS to pandemics to consumerism to even rape in one movie. But with the exception of the obvious rabies metaphor, there seems to be a suspicious lack of symbolism involved with these zombies.
I'm not gonna say that Rapid is anywhere near as good as most of Cronenberg's work, but it is a solid 70's horror flick and has very few ambitions beyond that, so if that appeals to you, give it a look. And I'll see you next time.
Next time on Second Age Reviews: Troll 2
Elessar is a 21 year old Alaskan born cinephile and his favorite part of this movie is when the mall Santa gets shot.