DIRECTOR Aharon Keshales; Navot Papushado WRITER Aharon Keshales; Navot Papushado STARS Lior Ashkenazi; Ania Bukstein; Danny Geva SCREENING UK Jewish Festival
Touted as Israel’s first horror film, specifically a slasher, one could be forgiven for expecting some subtle as a sledgehammer political allegories here. The absence of these is a relief — no, I’ll rephrase. They are present, but tenuously enough so as to not warrant elaboration (the filmmakers would disagree).
As such, Rabies earns brownie points for at least not going the way of the obvious, particularly as its writing/directing/editing duo are first-timers.
The big surprise is just how dialogue heavy the film is, your average slasher relying more on screams than words. A group of tennis-playing yuppies’ conversation serves a vast chunk of screen time, whilst a ranger makes full use of his walkie-talkie to introduce a husband-and-wife dynamic. Even when things take a dramatic turn, our perpetrator — incidentally, not the assumed maniac who makes just the one, non-human kill — has so much to say, it is a wonder that the film was shot in 17 days. Whilst we’re not talking Quentin Tarantino levels of quippy entertainment, for the most part, it works.
The potential problem with dialogue reliance is of course a loss of direction, and here, Rabies falls down. Its central story — if indeed it actually has one; I find myself unsure — is drowned in subplot after subplot, red herrings running amok to the point of frustration, whilst the twists are really not much of a shock. A reasonably strong cast just about save the day, but the mish-mash is such that 90 minutes feel much longer. It’s a crying shame. I wanted to love this.
But for all the film’s weaknesses, Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado, its makers, will quite probably produce something of real reckoning in the future. I suspect the reason for Rabies‘ failings is simply down to a sheer enthusiasm that didn’t allow for cutting in the edit.