Who would have thought it would take two debuting Israelian directors to breathe new life into the sub-genre of slasher horror? Right from the claustrophobic opening of Rabies, where we're caught up in the desperate situation of a girl trapped in a dark confined space, you get the impression this terror flick will tear the tried and tested shock-horror formula apart. Keeping audiences equally shrouded in the dark Rabies,(the title is an apt metaphor for the carnage that lies ahead rather than any palpable human epidemic) offers few comforts in the proceeding onslaught. And don't be fooled by the familiar batch-of-good-looking-youths-stalked-in-a-nature-reserve premise, this genre effort eradicates any fleeting notion of predictability favouring relentless narrative twists and turns that ensure the nervous system is given an almighty workout. The story follows an attempt to rescue said mentioned girl in a remote forest. Her brother runs into (quite literally) a group of youths who are en-route to a sports camp. Leaving behind their female companions the two boys of the group are led into the forest to locate the incarcerated sibling. The film then flips back and forward between these individual groups of people and a pair of cops with unorthodox methods of policing and a couple with relationship worries who come into contact with a sinister stranger. Writer-directors Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushadoare employ a loose, uncomfortably close camera style throughout, which utilises the remote corners of the frame for maximum suspenseful effect. The creepy forest locale is used to conjure up an unsettlingly feeling of geographic disorientation, ensuring you're never quite prepared for what's round the next corner. Ultimately this is a tale of lethal misunderstandings, as characters depart in various unexpected and usually preventable grisly ways. There's a moral compass at the heart of this immoral tale too - the sting in the tale being that the accusing finger is pointed directly at us. The question is posed: given the circumstances are all of us capable of inflicting equal acts of astonishing violence against our perpetrations? Although this is not a fresh concept (see the 70s originals to both The Hills Have Eyes and Straw Dogs) it's handled with enough attention-grabbing impact to make for engrossing and thought-provoking cinema. While, for some, the ending is perhaps a little too smug for its own good there's enough raw material and social commentary in this intelligently put together flick to make a nasty but worthwhile impression on even hardened horror aficionados. Rabies is expected to be available on DVD in 2012.
Oliver Pfeiffer is a freelance writer who trained at the British Film Institute. He joined OWF in 2007 and now contributes as a Features Writer. Since becoming Obsessed with Film he has interviewed such diverse talents as actors Keanu Reeves, Tobin Bell, Dave Prowse and Naomie Harris, new Hammer Studios Head Simon Oakes and Hollywood filmmakers James Mangold, Scott Derrickson and Uk director Justin Chadwick.
Previously he contributed to dimsum.co.uk and has had other articles published in Empire, Hecklerspray, Se7en Magazine, Pop Matters, The Fulham & Hammersmith Chronicle and more recently SciFiNow Magazine and The Guardian. He loves anything directed by Cronenberg, Lynch, Weir, Haneke, Herzog, Kubrick and Hitchcock and always has time for Hammer horror films, Ealing comedies and those twisted Giallo movies.
His blog is: http://sites.google.com/site/oliverpfeiffer102/