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Chicago International Film Festival 2011

Rabies Directed by: Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado Cast: Lior Ashkenazi, Danny Geva and Ania Bukstein Running Time: 1 hr 30 mins Rating: NR Release Date: TBD

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PLOT: A group of strangers are brought together through terrifying circumstances in a remote, isolated area in this interweaving horror story from Israel.

WHO'S IT FOR? Horror fans will really appreciate this import, but fans of dark comedies like Severance or The Tripper.


Rabies bears the unfortunate burden of being a movie that is, somehow, beyond description. When I first heard about it, it was described as an Israeli slasher film. While Rabies is certainly Israeli, to call it a slasher is to set one’s self up for disappointment.

The other distinct disadvantage that Rabies must make up for is its unusual title. The name conjures up a certain imagery or an expectation of sorts, but Rabies does not deliver on either of hose fronts. My only thought is that it might be a title that is somehow lost in translation, but even then, it seems a difficult thing to overcome.

While the film struggles to overcome these things, somehow it manages to. These initial problems never fully left my mind, but it seems unfair to penalize a film for its aversion to description or lackluster title, no matter how difficult they may be to overcome.

Rabies benefits from a surprisingly frantic script that may not always keep viewers on the edge of their seats, but will certainly keep them enthralled. One method of doing this is directors’ Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado unique approach to the storytelling. The interwoven narrative is nothing new to the world of film, but it is hard to think of an example in the realm of horror. This novel approach to the horror film gives Rabies a distinct flavor to it that benefits the movie. While I was initially nervous that the storytelling style would be too jarring or abrupt, it is exactly that type of unorthodox structure that moves Rabies along at a brisk pace.

The movie can basically be broken up in to three separate groups. There are the brother and sister, the group of tennis players, and the cops. Rabies sometimes suffers in its attempts to characterize each of the individuals, especially when working with such a large cast and only 90 minutes, but let’s be honest. Who’s watching a horror movie for the characters? I doubt too many people. Still, even though they are never fleshed out too deeply, they are given enough personality and backstory to make them more memorable than the typical horror archetypes.

In fact, it is the choice of characters that makes Rabies so memorable. Without giving too much away, it is important to note that Rabies has fun with the dualities of its characters. On the one hand, we see a lighter side, but it is when that darkness in every person surfaces that Rabies shines. It is easily one of the only movies I’ve ever seen that feels as if it has just as many villains as it does victims. In the end, it is this innovative approach to the horror genre and the characters themselves that make Rabies a damn entertaining movie that finds a way to make it past its misleading title and description.


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