I can remember being a teenager, always looking forward to that next installment of Friday the 13th, Phantasm or Halloween, or searching the TV Guide (yeah, how many of you remember that once-ubiquitous little book?) to see what horror item would be playing HBO or the CBS Friday Night Double-Feature. Just like the expressionist horror films of the ‘20s, the Universal Monsters of the ‘30s and ‘40s, the Hammer films of the ‘60s and the exploitation flicks of the ‘70s, the horror films of the 1980s had a very special kind of indescribable vibe to them; an invisible but somehow common thread that appealed to all of us then, and many of the subsequent generations as well.
Rabid Love, distributed by Midnight Releasing, is a movie that could easily have come from that time. The film is a love letter to ‘80s horror; you can see it in the lighting, the composition of the shots, and most especially in the soundtrack. Writer (and star) Hayley Derryberry and Paul Porter (director and co-star) obviously have a love of the genre from that time; the story they’ve concocted borrows from several sources, adds flourishes that you don’t expect, and brings it all together in a way that is somehow refreshingly original.
After we see a couple of hikers have a bad day, we watch as five friends gather at an old cabin (sounding familiar?) for one last get-together; several have graduated from college, and they prepare in many cases to go their separate ways. We have three lovely ladies and a couple of dudes (one is a nice guy, the other a bit of a chauvinistic prick; wotta surprise!) along for the trip; they plan to “do a little hunting and mebbe drink an adult beverage or two” during this last hurrah. They’re warned that a man-eating bear was spotted near the area, but the sheriff lets them know that he believes it’s no threat. We have a group of activists there to try to save the bear, and in the mix David, a wildlife photographer, comes into the fold befriending our little group.
Without getting into too much detail, I can tell you that this little vacation goes south in a bad way; we see betrayals, romance, deception, and a lot of assholish behavior; and all of this is before we get to the hacking and slashing! One thing this movie boasts that you don’t see a lot of is some pretty decent character development; we come to learn some of the heartaches of the characters and really give a damn about them. Of course, this has the result of slowing the film down for those who are in a hurry to get to the blood ‘n’ guts (really, other than the opening, it’s close to half an hour before anything horrific really happens). I myself enjoyed that aspect; it’s nice to see a movie where I’m not just actually looking forward to seeing the characters get offed (although admittedly, I am guilty of that on occasion). Plot wise, you’re teeter-tottered from slasher to conspiracy, with a bit (but just a bit, and very abstractly) of zombie sprinkled in for good measure; as I said, I thought the story was a new twist born of mixing several old ideas and tossing in some new ones. The writing has several clever moments that you should watch for; some lines are set-up like groan-inducing, tired plot devices, but turn out to be anything but; there’s assuredly some diversionary skill to the dialogue.
The acting runs the gamut from better-than-average to very good, and I was satisfied that I knew the characters and their histories enough to be invested in them. The gore scenes are what you would see in a comparable ‘80s flick; there’s blood, there’s deep gashes and such; you’re not going to see guts trailing about or brains hitting the floor. As I touched on before, the camera work and lighting will take you back some thirty-plus years, but that’s not to say it isn’t beautifully done; for a low budget outing, I thought the cinematography, ranging from lakeside scenery to dreamlike (and nightmarish) interludes, was very well done.
I feel this movie is intended to take you back; either make us old folks recall our youth or introduce the era to a younger generation. You’re not going to see anything here that you haven’t seen elsewhere; you’re not in for a gore-fest or the next big thing in the genre; what you will come away with is a nostalgic ride back to when horror was more fun than broody, and if you’re into that sort of thing, you won’t feel cheated.
Maybe you’ll get out of it what I did, maybe you won’t.
Me? I’ll watch it again.