One would think a film titled Rabies would have something to do with the maddening disease that drives one into a frothing, hyperreactive rage within a few days of infection. This Israeli thriller instead focuses on how we can act with ferocity if pushed to our limits. Set in a forest filled with a maniac, an overreaching officer, and landmines, the innocent people that are leftover don’t have a chance. Especially when they start turning on each other. This short but brutal tale may be too forgiving to some characters yet is still a worthwhile experience. Hit the jump for my full review.
This wolf park is trouble. Ofer and his sibling Tali are in a bind. She has fallen into a trap, and he is stuck trying to get her out. He wanders out to try and find help, and is struck by four lost youths in an SUV evenly split between genders on their way to a tennis match. Throw in the maniac that trapped Tali, a park ranger and his girlfriend, and two police officers and we have a full roster. Oh, and a German shepherd named Buba. Now let’s complicate things. Those two males in the SUV? They are friends that both are interested in the same blonde. Additionally, one of those cops is more concerned with his failing marriage than his power-hungry, horny partner. And that’s just the beginning.
Twists and turns occur throughout Rabies. Yet everything is so easy to keep straight it’s not until after that you need to turn your brain on and analyze what has played out on screen. That’s a compliment, by the way. Writer/director/editors Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado make the most of their large cast by ensuring no one is safe and treating them like normal people. Sure, they get twisted fairly easily, but for a 90 minute film it feels naturalistic.
There are problems with giving too much backstory, as the handsy Yuval gets an implied history of his troubled upbringing that falls flat because of how despicable he acts. Thankfully, the rest of the cast is left relatively mysterious, and a shared kiss even has us questioning things near the end. This is one of the few times I was thankful almost everything was left to be discussed. Additionally, there might be a running subtext of a larger idea at play, but it is something you can completely disregard. The film works, with or without it.
Blood is definitely spilled, but the film never goes for the grotesque. There is a moment of a severely broken jaw that is gruesome, but the sequence doesn’t last long and isn’t centered in frame. Jump scares are even thankfully limited, instead relying on mood, tension, and dark humor exemplified by the sudden ending.
One of the few flaws that is inherent with having so many characters is that it is hard to feel anything for some of them. The filmmakers also have a tendency to jump around to heighten tension but seem to forget certain characters for long stretches of time as well. Rabies manages to pull off the thrills and tense mood it sets out to achieve in a streamlined, no-bullshit fashion that hints at more quality films to come from the rookie filmmakers. Let’s just hope they don’t get on each others’ nerves.