Archive for the ‘horror’ category

Verotika

May 17, 2020

verotika A word of caution before we proceed. Some bad movies are, as they say, “so bad they’re good.” Others are just excruciatingly bad. And then there’s Verotika, the directing debut of metal musician Glenn Danzig, based on his comic books. And I’m realizing that there’s no way to describe this film that will not make some of you want to see it. I could list the endless parade of inept choices, the dialogue, the acting, the effects … Even viewed with a drunk crowd of friends, Verotika will cause pain. It was made with a great deal of sincerity, that much is clear. Danzig believes in his film. That it has become a cult film begging for the Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment does not make it less hazardous to your brain and soul. You have been warned.

Verotika is a horror anthology, meaning that instead of making one unwatchable short film, Danzig has made three and glued them together like a cinematic human centipede, shitting and eating shit. If the stories have a common thread, it is the kind of story one can film with a cast largely made of sex workers or similar purveyors of meretricious cheese. Most of the killing is done by female beasts; two out of the three villains are female, preying mainly on other females. It’s all part of the movie’s sub-Heavy Metal aesthetic that drenches well-endowed horror vixens in gore. None of this is uncommon in low-budget horror, which so often has to make do with what it has, and if what you have is a band of strippers and literally vats of fake blood, the result is Verotika. What’s different here is that Danzig doesn’t seem to know we’ve seen all this before. He thinks he’s really showing us something.

The first story, “The Albino Spider of Dajette,” concerns a prostitute with eyes for nipples. Her nipple tears transform a spider into a six-armed killer the police dub “Le Neck Breaker” (the story is set in Paris). Le Neck Breaker breaks les necks, all women victims, before the police finally catch up to him and plug him with lead. How anyone can make a bonkers premise like this so flat and stupefyingly dismal is beyond me, but Danzig manages it.Next up is “Change of Face,” about a stripper with a scarred face; she deals with this by killing pretty women, removing their faces, and hanging them on her wall. The press calls her either the Face Collector or the Face Ripper — Danzig apparently couldn’t decide. Finally, there’s “Drukija, Contessa of Blood,” wherein the titular woman bathes in virgins’ blood (pronouncing “virgin” to rhyme with “Bergen”). The virgins are always nude, of course, and Drukija is often topless. A virgin tries to escape, gets caught, is beheaded; Drukija adds the head to her collection of heads. Oh, and all the segments are introduced by Morella, who plucks out women’s eyes and calls us “darklings.”

If you wanted to imagine a movie fed on adolescent fantasies grounded in comic books and movies flooded with gore and T&A, what you imagine will undoubtedly be more entertaining than Verotika. That’s because Danzig takes his material so grindingly seriously he drains the fun out of it along with the blood. Danzig hasn’t learned that you have to insert comic relief or the audience will laugh at whatever else presents itself, and that’s why the movie is gaining purchase as a doofus party item. There are problems with camera movement — one time you can see the camera jiggle — and the middle segment, about the face-stealing stripper, is often bisected by harsh horizontal flare beams, sometimes three or more in a shot. I don’t know why. Neither will you.

Something like Verotika really tests me, because I have grown to believe that there can be value in even the most moth-eaten, bereft crap. Someone cared enough to make it, and there can be accidental moments of art and revelation. I refuse, for instance, to call Ed Wood’s films “bad”; no films so passionate, and with so much to express, can be called bad. Verotika might be passionate in that it scratches Danzig’s itch for babes and blood, but it really doesn’t express anything except that itch, over and over — the movie is repetitive and, finally, dull. It takes a lot of doing to take a movie full of the sort of things teen hetero boys love and make it so lifeless and dreary. Was Danzig even aroused by his own film? Russ Meyer filled his movies with buxom women, and you could feel he loved them so much it hurt, and therein lay the art. What does Glenn Danzig love so much it hurts? Women covered in blood, apparently. But he doesn’t have the art to make us love it, too. He just pulls it out again and again, flaccidly.

Peeping Tom

May 3, 2020

peeping tom Perhaps the most shocking thing about Michael Powell’s notorious Peeping Tom, sixty years now after its premiere in England, is that it looks respectable and classical and almost sedate — until it doesn’t. The movie genuinely appalled critics of its day, who must have assumed they were getting a delectable, harmless thriller from the director who, solo or with Emeric Pressburger, had presented many of England’s most prestigious films. (Critics already knew pretty much what to expect when Alfred Hitchcock unveiled his near-contemporaneous Psycho.) But no. Peeping Tom, written by Leo Marks, may look and play “normal” but is drenched with the flop sweat of sexual mania. I think if it had been made by anyone else, possibly in America, in the poverty-row style of something like The Brain That Wouldn’t Die, it might still have kicked up a fuss, but not as much rage.

Peeping Tom turned out to be part of a wave of thrillers in the ‘60s, including the better-known Psycho but also movies like William Castle’s Homicidal, that focused on a killer’s psychological damage inflicted by cruel parents. Here, our subject is Mark Lewis (Carl Boehm), who acts as a focus puller on movies and takes naughty photos for a local bookshop. He also has an elaborate fetish involving women looking frightened. He films them at the moment they realize they’re going to die, and he adds a vicious touch that should remain unspoiled for newcomers to the movie, though the most horrifying moment in Kathryn Bigelow’s 1995 Strange Days owes most of its punch to it.

Mark has been doing his thing unimpeded for a while now — in the opening scene, he disposes of a prostitute, who screams in her room though nobody cares enough to look in until he is long gone — but when he meets Helen (Anna Massey), a tenant in the building Mark inherited from his father, his thing deflates a bit. He shows the kindly Helen footage his demented shrink father (Powell himself) shot of himself tormenting the young Mark at night. She feels for him, and part of him responds to her sympathy. He promises he will never photograph her. He seems to want to cordon his psychosis off from her, but we and he know that’s not going to work. He has a run-in with Helen’s blind mother (Maxine Audley), who senses what he is but can’t do much about it. Helen, who has just turned 21, may be falling for Mark precisely because of his pain.

I imagine part of the vehemence of the response to the film was due to Powell’s pre-punk indifference to what his more monocle-dropping viewers would think. For instance, Powell takes Moira Shearer, beloved star of his The Red Shoes and The Tales of Hoffman, and contrives an undignified fate for her comparable to Janet Leigh’s. Yet always, the filmmaking is smooth, assured, suffused with cinematographer Otto Heller’s sumptuous palette. Powell shows us pretty pictures but uses them to lure us into a dark, seedy alley where two-quid whores loiter and warped men get them alone. It’s a classic bait and switch, and the trope of the voyeuristic beast locked in the city with his own misery until a beauty comes along may have informed Taxi Driver, directed by Martin Scorsese, whose reverence for Powell almost matched his reverence for Christ.

We also sniff a Scorsesean element in the finale: a beauty cannot redeem the monster; only submission to the same treatment he has given his victims might do that. Roger Ebert mused that Peeping Tom’s real crime in the eyes of its early haters was that it implicates the viewer — it uses its own medium to wrench us into complicity with a killer. It wasn’t the first film to pull this rug, but it did it with such blunt-force trauma that it has been called the first slasher film. I don’t know about that; proto-slasher, maybe, or even proto-giallo — it predated Mario Bava’s seminal The Girl Who Knew Too Much by three years. In any event, Peeping Tom survived its initial shower of spit and rotten tomatoes — largely due to Scorsese, who spent some artistic capital to restore and re-release it in 1979 — to become a feverish cult object among horror acolytes and classic film buffs alike.

The Wretched

April 19, 2020

wretchedAnyone who’s been watching a lot of horror movies during the shutdown because they prefer to be frightened by something fun that has an end in sight may want to know about The Wretched. A second effort by the brother filmmaking team of Brett and Drew Pierce (2011’s zombie comedy Deadheads), the movie is about as comforting as a film can be that deals with an ancient witch that steps into people’s skins, kills their babies and makes them forget they ever had babies. Perhaps the grim premise is mitigated by its young heroes, who — along with Conor Murphy’s handsome widescreen compositions and Devin Burrows’ robust score — remind us of the ‘80s as seen through the magic-hour filter of Steven Spielberg. It’s all confidently crafted, even if some of the plot points could be better laid out; if you have to stop to remember why a character would have a gun, it hinders the momentum of the thrills.

The setting is both soothing (a lakeside marina where some of the characters work) and eerie (a forest that hosts a dreadful-looking tree whose existence seems conditional). Our young anti-hero is Ben (John-Paul Howard), a typical teen, smart but emotionally turbulent, moping over his parents’ divorce. This summer Ben is assisting his dad at the marina, lining up the boats at the dock just so, giving the little kids sailing lessons, along with pal-and-maybe-more Mallory (Piper Curda). Next door to Ben and his dad lives a family with mysteriously dwindling numbers. The Wretch, you see, has gotten into one of them, and … Well, the Wretch lives in the aforementioned ghastly tree, and likes to kidnap children, probably for food. I mean, why else would a Wretch want kids around?

Again, some of the storytelling leaves us in the lurch. If we’re wondering why a father seems unaware his infant child is missing, it takes us out of the movie momentarily, even if it’s explained later. When a baby is gone and his father doesn’t know or care, we need the context now or the fragile, fragile imaginative contract is broken. The explanation arrives alongside the movie’s twist, and it isn’t my favorite aspect of The Wretched, although it does pull us inside the confusion of the affected character. But much of this gets a pass from me because the leads, Howard and Curda, are so low-key appealing; Mallory is funny and sometimes seems to be tickling the film’s somber lore on its tummy, and Ben is realistically wounded but not obnoxious. We are (there’s that word again) comfortable in these kids’ company. Not only do we root for them to prevail over skin-shedding, baby-munching evil, we want them to be happy. And some of the relationship stuff — say, between Ben and his dad’s new girlfriend — feels authentic enough that we expect it to continue, until the movie reminds us it’s a horror movie and pulls us up short.

At just over an hour and a half, The Wretched doesn’t presume our patience. You didn’t ask, but my feeling is that the best horror movies work along the lines of a good horror short story — punchy, potent, to the point. And one thing the recent mode of season-long arcs in television has taught us is that if you want the equivalent (or a successful adaptation) of a horror novel, it’s best accomplished now as a season of TV, or at least a miniseries. (This isn’t new, of course; 1977’s Roots was an early “novel for television” whose story couldn’t have been told in a feature film’s two hours.) You can do things in that elongated medium that you can’t do in movies; you can develop dread in depth, and layer your characters. But pacing is as important at length as it is in works of greater brevity, and there’s a reason Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (146 minutes) is more fondly remembered than the one Stephen King himself wrote for television (273 minutes of po-faced fidelity to the source, in word if not in tone).

Anyway, The Wretched is a fine horror short story. It confines itself to a few locations and a few people; if converted to prose, it would fit nicely in an anthology alongside, say, Let the Right One In and It Follows and The Babadook and, if you insist, Hereditary. Oh, and the original 1981 Evil Dead. That this film seems to have some Sam Raimi in its quiver, in terms of theme and milieu but not style, is probably no accident; like Evil Dead, it was shot in Michigan, and the directors’ dad is Bart Pierce, who was on Evil Dead’s FX crew. So we have here a film that more or less successfully channels Spielberg, Raimi, Grimm and Dahl. That’s not bad company to be in, either.

Come and See

February 23, 2020

come-and-see“My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity,” wrote World War I poet Wilfred Owen, not long before he was killed in action at age 25. This also is the subject of the 1985 Russian World War II film Come and See, now touring the country in a newly restored print. Come and See, the fifth and final movie by director Elem Klimov, has a reputation for being hard to endure, but not because of any violence. There is some, near the end, and it is repulsive. But most of the film zeroes in on the grime and filth and desperation of war, the despairing moments in between the spasms of brutality, and the intolerable dread of inevitable apocalypse.

We’re in Belarus, 1943, and the ragtag resistance is doing what it can against the Nazi machine. We experience almost all of the nightmare through the eyes of Flyora (Aleksei Kravchenko), a 14-year-old who gets conscripted into the partisan ranks. Flyora doesn’t say much, but his features, dumbstruck with terror and disbelief, speak eloquently for him. He meets, and for a while accompanies, a girl named Glasha (Olga Mironova). They seem to bond solely by virtue of the agonizing and absurd reality they share. There’s no romance or even infatuation in store. War steamrolls over everything warm and comforting. Glasha may or may not even exist, except as a phantasm of grace and innocence in Flyora’s head.

Again and again we are shown how war reduces victims and victimizers alike to animals, except that animals are generally not so cruel. The narrative is anecdotal and splintered, though smoothly photographed (largely via Steadicam); there’s a bit towards the end, when an SS brigade goes from being boisterously evil and triumphant to being sniveling captives of the partisans, that takes us out of the movie — the part where the Nazis actually get defeated, which happens outside Flyora’s view, is just skipped over. I think Elem Klimov is ruthlessly efficient about what precisely he wants to show and convey. The important part of that whole section of the film — which incorporates the semi-climactic genocidal rage directed at a Belarusian village — isn’t who wins or loses, and how. Everyone loses. It’s the pity of war.

Shot in a squarish aspect ratio, with no concessions made to our need for catharsis or narrative tidiness, Come and See attempts no stylistic dazzlement whatsoever; it barely even has a style. The camera just stares at human faces creased in disgust or fear or devastation. “That is war,” Klimov might be saying, “no more, no less.” It shares more DNA with Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc than with any standard war picture (at times, young Aleksei Kravchenko exudes the same frozen torment as Maria Falconetti in the Dreyer film). It’s not overtly political, either. Nobody sits around discussing how inhumane Hitler is, because the entirety of the film’s two hours and sixteen minutes is devoted to moment-to-moment survival. And yet all this stylelessness resolves into a stubborn vision of war as filth and waste, something to be strenuously depicted as the polar opposite of macho, righteous, cool. At its showiest, the filmmaking recreates an idea put forth in Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, probably the most unheroic WWII novel ever written, and probably the greatest.

Aside from its 35th anniversary this year, we might wonder why Come and See is being revisited now. It may be a tale of Russian revolt against fascism, but it’s certainly not pro-Russia (or pro-anything). It paints the Nazis as degenerate primate sadists, which is fine, but seems to go a little past the usual such portrayal into caricature, almost. Then you find out the Nazis in the film are based on the real Dirlewanger Brigade, whose atrocities were so extreme that even some fellow Nazis found them over the top. These psychos burn an entire village alive inside a church, then get drunk or stuff their faces, as if at a tailgate party, in between bouts of rape and other assorted cruelties. When the tables are turned, they promptly throw each other under the bus and beg for their lives, while the saturnine partisan leader (Liubomiras Laucevičius, looking like Oscar Isaac in a bad mood) glowers — there are not very fine people on both sides here. The stoic commander is the one instance that Klimov allows himself some conventional war iconography, but at that point, I have to say, he has earned it. Most of the movie comes as close to what war must be like for the civilians caught in its midst as we would ever want to get.

Doctor Sleep

February 2, 2020

doctor sleep Few, I imagine, will be surprised by the news that Doctor Sleep — based on Stephen King’s novel, a sequel to his The Shining — packs a heftier emotional punch than does Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. That doesn’t mean Doctor Sleep is the better movie; very few films can touch Kubrick’s The Shining. It does mean that the new film’s source material grapples with very human concerns — enduring childhood trauma, addiction, predators, the cycle of abuse, the fear of death. (Kubrick’s The Shining was imperiously disinterested in King’s own themes, chiefly alcoholic demons literalized as vicious spirits; like most Kubrick films, it had a broader target in mind, the hubris of mankind’s delusion of control.)

Still, Doctor Sleep is less a horror movie than a supernatural drama — only intermittently frightening, but engaging and saddening. It feels like the deep dull pain of a slowly forming bruise. The story’s protagonist, Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor), still has the telepathic gifts he had as a boy in The Shining; in his forties now, he is a recovering alcoholic, having turned to drink to blunt his visions (as his father Jack also may have). King’s narrative has three prongs. The second deals with an itinerant band of psychic vampires called the True Knot, who feed off the “steam” exuded by dying people who, like Danny, have “the shine.” The third follows a teenage girl, Abra (Kayliegh Curran), who may have more intense powers even than Danny, and whose steam is coveted hungrily by the on-their-uppers Knot monsters, headed by a demon known as Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson). Abra contacts Danny for help, and we’re off.

I haven’t seen them all, but Doctor Sleep may be the most morose Stephen King adaptation since The Dead Zone. That’s not a criticism; the film’s writer-director Mike Flanagan pauses from time to time to take the full measure of death and pain. A ghastly sequence has to do with the Knot’s sacrifice of a little boy; Flanagan stages it as an atrocity that we need to see to understand the stakes, not as a gory tickle for Saturday-night horror fans. It’s not especially graphic, but we feel the boy’s pain and terror. This, I have to say, is not an effect Kubrick attempted (or was interested in). And a horror director with a healthy respect for human frailty and a cold revulsion for dealers of pain is not to be sneezed at. I have questions about a morally cowardly choice Danny makes near the beginning, in his pre-sober days, which after one ghostly visit is never referenced again; perhaps Flanagan’s longer cut, reportedly clocking in at three hours, acknowledges it more deeply. Otherwise, what Flanagan does here is decent in the ethical sense, and a fine tribute to both King’s and Kubrick’s The Shining. (King’s Doctor Sleep, on the other hand, I remember enjoying, but have forgotten most of its specifics. It cuts more mustard as a redemption narrative for an alcoholic; King wrote the sequel after many years sober, while he penned The Shining as very much an active alcoholic.)

I’ll be curious to see that longer cut; I appreciated Flanagan’s Doctor Sleep for its solidity, its commitment to the raw emotions of the situation. McGregor more or less can’t help conveying virtue even when his character wallows in the dregs — whether the worst toilet in Scotland or George Lucas dialogue — and he gives us a Danny who squares with the Danny we know from the Shining book and movie, fearful but taking peril full in the face anyway. The real hero, though, is Abra, whom Curran imbues with a certain equipoise that comes from serious abilities. In contrast, we’re catching Rose the Hat and her pack at a low ebb, from a shortage of “steam,” and Ferguson shows us hints of the lioness Rose once was and how her desperation and weakness have made her, if anything, more dangerous than ever. In part, Doctor Sleep is a meditation on power and those enhanced or burned out by it. I respect it and feel warmly towards it. Like The Shawshank Redemption, it’s somber and oblivious to hot-shot cleverness, and it deserves a home cult like Shawshank’s.

Before the Night Is Over

January 26, 2020

before night is overIf there’s anything you can be sure of, it’s that any film offering a clip from the indescribable silent oddity Dementia/Daughter of Horror has its cult-flick priorities squared away. That was true of The Blob back in 1958, and it’s true of Before the Night Is Over, the new horror film by Rhode Island director Richard Griffin (Flesh for the Inferno, Code Name Dynastud). There’s a bit when confused protagonist Samantha (Samantha Acampora) sits in the living room of an all-male bordello, watching Dementia on an old Sylvania TV, and she is joined by one of the house’s studs (Ricky Irizarry), who puts his silk bathrobe on her. Since this is also an erotic mood piece, wherever you think this act leads is probably correct.

Dementia is in there, I think, because it proceeds almost entirely through stark image and twisty dream logic, and that seems to be the direction Griffin increasingly wants to go. Before the Night Is Over is chockablock with more mystery and heavy breathing than anything this side of a David Lynch thriller, and I think I need to see it again to catch some of the plot. Or do I? The story here is not nothing — it’s firmly in the tradition of southern gothic, with intimations of the inferno — but I suspect Griffin tells the story as much because of the eerie tone it affords as anything else. It’s possibly no coincidence that many of the men who live in or frequent this house are contending with the shame of the closet in various ways. When one of the young studs goes missing, so does everything in his closet, as if…as if he’d never existed (spooky laughter).

What’s real in the movie and what isn’t? If you need that nailed down for you, I’m not sure this is your cup of mint julep. The movie’s influences include ‘70s made-for-TV horror, but it feels to me like the sort of R-rated ‘70s horror film you used to see on TV in the afternoon (on Dialing for Dollars, say), cut for time and content. Before the Night Is Over runs just 73 minutes, including credits, and I wonder if it could’ve stood to be a reel or so longer, if only to luxuriate in the morbid decay of the setting, with its locked rooms and peeling wallpaper. Samantha Acampora makes a solid, wide-eyed navigator through the sinister goings-on, and when the madams of the house start cooing over an imminent guest by the name of Wheatstraw, we have a better idea where we are. This bordello is a place of shadows where secrets — sexual or homicidal — squirm and fester. There’s a whiff of the eternal here, as in The Shining, and it seems as though the houseful of figurative vampires and zombies are here solely for Samantha.

The rare filmmaker equally indebted to Lucio Fulci and James Baldwin, Griffin has, in recent years, felt himself pulled towards more queer-positive subjects, in answer to the current regime. The horror in Before the Night Is Over, as in William Friedkin’s Cruising, has less to do with gayness than with the type of violence to body and soul that a closeted atmosphere makes possible. The movie is set in 1973, and well-to-do men show up at the door to scratch an itch they can’t legally scratch out in the world (sodomy laws were big and bad in the ‘70s, especially down south). There may or may not be a murderer picking off studs and clientele, and the house itself may or may not be a limbo for the unquiet dead, but all of the narrative uncertainties drive towards the subtext of secrets guarded with steel and blood. This is the sort of gothic that, back in old Tennessee Williams’ prime, might have been coded so that the hot action was nominally hetero but in spirit very much not. Griffin gets to promote the subtext to text and empty the closets.

Rabid (2019)

December 8, 2019

Rabid-2019-3If you’re going to remake a David Cronenberg film, you’d better not try to ape his ideas, because Cronenberg’s ideas are inextricable from his filmmaking. They are the source of the horror: in much of his work, a disease is a misunderstood monster, just doing what it has to do to survive. Jen and Sylvia Soska, who like Cronenberg are Canadian, have now remade Cronenberg’s 1977 cult favorite Rabid, and they have filled it with their own notions about surgery and transhumanism and fashion. The Soska sisters don’t try to be Cronenberg, but they sure pay tribute to his films throughout their own. Their Rabid, a project that was offered to them and possibly would have been made with or without them, expresses more than anything their deep and abiding love for Cronenberg’s work. As Cronenberg is one of my movie gods, I’m on board with that.

The new Rabid takes off from a premise similar to the original. A woman, Rose (Laura Vandervoort), is badly disfigured in a motorcycle accident. Her case is taken up by a surgeon (Ted Atherton) who applies experimental skin grafts. Rose’s looks are restored; the procedure even smooths out scar tissue from a previous, less extreme accident. But Rose is also left with a craving for blood, and when she feeds off of a victim, that person in turn is infected with the blood delirium. It all boils down to the doctor trying to cheat death (aren’t they always?) by developing this grotesque parasite that perpetuates itself violently. But in the Cronenberg aesthetic, the horror is that this new thing — this new flesh — brought to life is not in itself evil. It just evolves incidentally into a threat to humans. In the Soska playbook, it’s simply one of many things that twist mind and flesh, generally to the detriment of women.

The script, by the Soskas and John Serge, puts Rose to work for a fey, decadent fashion designer. The Soskas seem to liken the fashion world to the moviemaking world: in both, art and transgression are possible — a post-infection Rose produces some tormented gothy dress sketches that her boss flips over — but so are body dysmorphia, drug abuse, and a self-destructive quest for perfection. The Soskas’ interests and emphasis deviate from Cronenberg’s own, but the end result honors his work. There are any number of Easter eggs for Cronenberg fans, such as a wink to the famous “college of cardinals” scene in Dead Ringers, and others I will leave you to discover. Eventually the action leaves the realm of Cronenberg and incorporates elements of, if I’m not mistaken, Re-Animator and John Carpenter’s The Thing. Like many young filmmakers, the Soskas like to pile everything they’ve been obsessing about into the latest film because there’s no guarantee they’ll be granted the keys to another.

Ultimately, Rabid has a warmer center than the original — Cronenberg had to make do with adult-film actress Marilyn Chambers as Rose (he’d wanted Sissy Spacek), and about the most you could say about Chambers was that she was surprisingly competent. Laura Vandervoort brings a lot more vulnerability and pain and spiky anger to Rose, and when the action around Rose gets outlandish, Vandervoort grounds it all in credible female angst. When Rose feeds on a loutish, abusive man, it’s partly you-go-girl revenge, but it’s also pragmatic: a dude this stupid and single-minded makes the perfect prey. Vandervoort doesn’t play it like Zoë Tamerlis in Ms. 45; Rose is driven by her need for blood, and this idiot makes himself known to her.

There was a certain way-before-its-time non-binary/intersex thread in Cronenberg’s Rabid — his Rose was left with what read as male and female sex organs in her armpit (!), with which she fed on blood. We see a bit of that in the new film, but since it deals far more organically with a female point of view, the threat is mainly and viscerally phallic. The Soskas’ 2012 body-horror original American Mary showed they had more on their minds than grrl-power snarls and splatter, and Rabid confirms it. It ends on an image comparable to the bleak nihilism with which Cronenberg sealed his film, only with a distinct nightmarish Gilead tinge to it. As in Alien: Resurrection, perhaps the most Cronenbergian (and most underrated) of the Alien films, a woman isn’t even going to be allowed the peace of death if her existence will benefit men.