Rabies (Kalevet, 2010)

Opening with a scene indicative of your average torture-porn – a bloodied woman trapped and later drugged by a deranged killer, harbouring a grudge against dogs – the rug is quickly pulled from beneath your feet as the filmmakers take an inspired wrong turn into largely unexplored territory. We meet the usual hapless teens, the obligatory bumbling police officers and a forest ranger husband and wife, yet not once do your undoubtedly informed predictions come to pass.  To say any more would be to do the innovative and incidental script a gross disservice, needless to say Yaron Motola’s “killer” may be cinema’s most incompetent yet.

It’s not every day you take your seat in anticipation of an Israeli slasher movie, billed in fact as the country’s first, and with such limited experience in this death-defying genre you could be forgiven for having expectations that are anything but stellar. Given the misnomer name (rabies are never mentioned) and over-familiar woodland setting, you may even think all signs point to disaster. Good thing, then, that writer-directors Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado are such easily underestimated masters of misdirection.

Like an earnest Scream, a softly-spoken The Cottage or a ruthlessly efficient Severence, Rabies is less a horror than it is a gore-soaked comedy. If this particular tonal balance is one of the hardest in cinema to achieve – Black Sheep anyone? – you wouldn’t know it thanks to the assured – and apparently effortless – direction and enthused performances that make Rabies what it is: a darkly comic joy. At times hilarious, at times uncomfortable, but always relentlessly engaging, the movie is such a constellation of memorable characters, moments and dialogue that genuinely seems the result of some serendipitous planetary alignment – a prodigal son in a genre overwrought with cliché and contrivance.

It is difficult to single out a particularly noteworthy performance (though Ania Bukstein and Danny Geva are both great), so packed is Rabies with capable actors and well-drawn characters. Trying to show that life doesn’t stop just because your being chased through a forest by a flick-knife/stone/axe wielding maniac, each character is wonderfully humanised to frequently juxtaposed and unexpected effect. Considering just how contrived the narrative might have appeared in less confident hands, it is a real joy to note how naturally it ultimately flows.

Beautifully shot, entertainingly written and edited to perfection, Rabies is a wonderfully rare beast: a horror-comedy which makes its mark not with pop-culture references, post-modernism or Simon Pegg, but with a delightfully ridiculous mastery of scare tactics and originality. Utterly brilliant and hugely accomplished, Rabies was – in my opinion – film of the Edinburgh Film Festival. The trick now, of course, is to keep Platinum Dunes at bay while the original gets the attention it deserves. Get yourselves to whichever festival it’s playing at, I’ve got the first watch.

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

One Response to Rabies (Kalevet, 2010)

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