Rabies (aka Kalevet)

This one was hyped at the Dark Bridges Film Festival as Israel’s first and only horror film and a new take on the “slasher in the woods” sub-genre.  I’ve read a number of reviews saying that it turns the slasher genre on its head.  Except the thing is, there is no fucking slashing in the movie.  The only thing the apparently psychotic killer (though we never really learn anything at all about him other than that he wears green overalls and lumbers around the woods like Jason) does is kill a German Sheppard with the gore obscured from view.  Everyone else in the movie is killed via a series of somewhat connected incidents generally due to nothing more than bad luck.  The movie I’d say this most closely resembles is actually Cabin Fever, but without the disease.  I’d even go so far as to say that it has a lot in common with Final Destination if you were to strip away the supernatural angle.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, just not at all what I was expecting.  The performances seemed pretty good to me, and it was kind of a unique experience to hear people speaking in Hebrew about how its sexy to watch a girl take a piss and other shit you’d expect to hear in an American horror movie but not necessarily in one from a foreign culture.  I guess college kids the world over must be shallow and sex obsessed, and this movie is here to break down those cultural barriers, so that’s a good thing I guess.  The movie also builds a decent sense of paranoia between the characters, with misunderstandings driving them to take some fairly extreme measures with one another.  The problem though, is that the paranoia the character’s portray in this movie isn’t used as effectively as something like say, The Thing, in that you the viewer are kept on the edge of your seat wondering which member of the group is going to try and kill the others, sharing in their paranoia and mistrust.

Gore wise, you have some decent stuff here, but nothing particularly over the top or that made me want to cheer.  Most of the movie is more about suspense, which it does fairly well.   One thing I liked was how the forest was still littered with old land mines, so all throughout the move, when characters think they’re being stalked, or characters are after other characters there’s the underlying tension that at any minute one of them could step on a land mine, and there’s some good and unexpected payoff in that regard.

The production values were also solid, nothing flashy, but it didn’t look really cheap either.  Most of the movie was about characters interacting with one another and not elaborate action or excessive bloodshed and it didn’t try and pump things up with unnecessary camera tricks or anything like that to try and make it seem “edgy” which was a good thing.

I’m not going to say I loved this movie, but I didn’t dislike it either.  I just want people to stop saying this is a slasher movie, or even referring to slasher movies as a means of comparison.  It has nothing to do with slasher movies.  Saying this is a unique take on the slasher genre because it doesn’t have any slasher movie genre tropes in it is like saying a werewolf movie is a unique take on the vampire genre because it has a werewolf instead of a vampire.  More than anything I’d call this movie a violent suspense thriller, with a lot of dramatic elements and some black humor thrown into the mix containing a number of characters, one of which happens to be a maniac, but who is not really the focus of the film at all. 

Also, I have no idea why this movie is called Rabies. There is nothing even remotely relating to rabies in this movies. No one gets a disease, no one foams at the mouth, nothing. I looked up the hebrew title to see if maybe this was some sort of mistranslation and sure enough, that would seem to be the case:

The raw definition in Hebrew means Rabies, a fatal disease associated usually with canines, but can inflict other animals and even mankind. The less formal use is to describe anything that isn't good. And that includes anything. For example:

A: Do you see this ugly girl?
B: yes, kalevet

A: how was the test?
B: kalevet, I knew nothing

A: I heard about your rash
B: It's a kalevet of eczema
A: Kalevet

So maybe they should've called this movie something like Very Bad Things, but I guess that title was already taken. Or shit, maybe just leave it as Kalevet and not try and make it an english word so dumb asses in the US can understand it because apparently understanding the word used as a title for a movie is 100% integral to enjoying the film.

It might be that the first two films that same night were monster films and this one felt out of place with that lineup, and that might explain why I felt a little more lukewarm toward it.  Perhaps if they’d beefed it up with more gore and black humor I might’ve enjoyed it more.  The potential for a twisted movie was there, I think they just played it a bit too heavily toward being a thriller as opposed to really embracing the horror aspect.  Still, I do recommend checking it out and forming your own opinion, maybe viewed on its own it might fare better.