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Ben Austwick [Film Festival 09.06.11] Israel movie review horror

Year: 2011
Directors: Aharon Keshales, Navot Papushado
Writers: Aharon Keshales, Navot Papushado
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Ben Austwick
Rating: 6 out of 10

[Editor's note: Projectcyclops also reviewed Rabies and loved it.]

Rabies was this year’s Frightfest’s sleeper hit, a low budget foreign language film playing on the smaller Discovery Screen, getting a second screening the following day due to high demand from patrons. It’s a thriller of twists and turns that keeps you guessing at its meaning, not least that of the title, and this sort of intricate, high concept, low budget horror reflects well on the directors, especially considering the lack of support and funding given to genre movies by the Israeli Film Council. It’s dogged by a lack of focus though, its targets too broad and its methods unspecific.

Different groups of characters cross paths in a forest somewhere in Israel, where a young woman has been imprisoned in a pit in the forest floor. Her assailant is first spotted by local ranger Menashe, who begins to track him. The woman’s brother, fleeing his sister’s kidnapper, is hit by a car containing four youngsters on their way to play tennis, the two boys heading off with the brother, the two girls staying behind to deal with a pair of leering policemen. These separate strands all head off in their own directions. They’re fascinating and well paced, and it’s exciting wondering where they’ll lead.

These plot strands diverge rather than come together, as each story spirals off into puzzlingly violent acts built on a preposterous level of overreaction. The directors told us afterwards that this was the idea, that they were exploring Israel’s uniquely uptight and violent society by showing how quickly disputes get out of control. It’s an interesting approach, but the point doesn’t really come across. In a genre where films that lurch into violence without explanation are common, this commendable message needs to be spelled out a little more clearly.

This is a bit of a problem for Rabies as it moves towards its conclusion. There is a nice pay off at the end that goes part way to mitigate its rather vague allegory, but too much of it is unfocused and opaque. The title itself refers to the attitude of the Israeli citizens depicted, but it doesn’t quite work, carrying meanings irrelevant to the film - where are the animals? The virus? The infection? The hydrophobia? As shorthand for societal madness the term Rabies doesn’t really fit, and this is representative of the film’s scattergun approach.

Having said that, it’s an ambitious and original way to try to examine a society, and on a technical level Rabies is slick. The characters’ rather smug humour feels a little old-fashioned, and there are only two you feel any emotional attachment to, but they deal with the complicated storyline well and are always believable. It’s a well-made film and an impressive debut, but has tried to tackle a theme too big and nebulous for a low budget horror comedy.

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soma (10 years ago) Reply

Where's the kill list review???? Did you miss it? bummer!


Ben Austwick (10 years ago) Reply

Yeah, missed it unfortunately. Loads of people have been asking if I saw it :(


Daverat (10 years ago) Reply

The chicks were hot and the movie eventually delivers on the violence & gore but beyond that I thought the film kind of sucked ass.

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