Horror

Rabid Love (2013)

0 Comments 06 June 2014

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Studio:  Rogue Taurus Productions, Open Wound Films, BAR Productions

Distributed By:  Midnight Releasing

DVD & VOD Release:  March 4, 2014

Director:  Paul J. Porter

Rating:  Not Rated

Reviewed By James M. Dubs

I’ll watch anything…including Rabid Love.

An official statement from www.rabidlovemovie.com:

Our story takes place in 1984 and is a rejuvenation of classic films like ‘An American Werewolf in London’, ‘Friday the 13th’, ‘Evil Dead’, and ‘The Howling’.  As a young child in the 80’s, the time period holds a special place in my mind as a mixture of dreams and memories- I made it a point to bring the look and feel of the era through in the settings, props, wardrobe, and most importantly, the characters of the film.

When Heather Ross and her lifelong friends take one final trip out to a cabin in the woods before they go their separate ways after graduating from college, the weekend takes an unexpected turn when people start disappearing. Is one of their own responsible? How about the killer bear that’s rumored to be in the woods? Maybe one of the seemingly unstable hunters that have been drawn to the area and are out to get the bear? Join Heather and the gang as they find out where their loyalties truly lie and discover the secrets of the forest that might become a grave for all of them!

RL is not a gory slasher film, but a thrilling and nostalgic story about unique characters with their own motivations and desires.  They just happen to catch the attention of an evil recluse living in the woods and become the subjects of his latest experiment when all they wanted was a happy weekend with their friends before they all went their separate ways to their post-college lives.

I hope you enjoy the film and are interested enough to learn more about what went into it- please see the links below for more specific information on our amazing cast, the soundtrack, on set stills, production design, and our transmedia associations!

-Paul J. Porter, Writer/Producer/Director

As a critic, it is sometimes nice to have access to the intentions of a director after watching a film. Paul J. Porter offers a lot of promises, expectations, and certainly sets the bar high by comparing Rabid Love to the aforementioned horror classics. After a build-up this large it should come as no surprise that expectations will be high for Porter to deliver on his promises. The question remains, does Rabid Love live up to the director’s hype?

Film Rating: ★★☆☆☆

RL_1Answer: Nope.

The first DVD I ever reviewed for UnRatedFilm.com was a Swedish horror picture titled Wither. Wither also attempted to align itself as a homage to the classic cabin in the woods movie The Evil Dead and was mostly successful but got tripped up by abandoning story and character logic for action and gore. Both Rabid Love and Wither are cabin in the woods movies, but what makes them different is that Wither is a product of what the filmmakers intended it to be – a fun and decent time waster. Rabid Love is an unfortunate failure because it comes nowhere near the lofty expectation it sets forth and, at times, is simply dull.

One promise Porter makes, and largely succeeds at, is the time and effort put forth to dress the sets and cast in authentic 80’s items and clothing. Some of it plays a little over the top like a heavy elbow to the ribs – a Reagan/Bush 84′ t-shirt comes to mind – but the details, hair, and art design are authentic enough to help the viewer understand the time and era in which this story takes place. Additionally, the acting isn’t bad. It’s not great, but it isn’t any worse than your typical 80’s camp.

RLvsF13However, if Porter’s intentions were to make a film that could be mistaken alongside a VHS copy of Friday the 13th (which the original poster art strongly suggests), Rabid Love is an unmitigated failure largely due to the fact that it is produced with modern digital technology and looks so. If the film had been shot on some 1980’s Kodak 35mm film stock then this would be a moot point. Yes, I understand that Rabid Love probably had budget constraints that wouldn’t allow for the expense of shooting and processing actual 35mm film, but I’m not the one trying to “rejuvenate” an authentic 80’s experience.

If you need an example of a successful 1980’s homage film, look no further than 2009’s The House of the Devil, Ti West’s tribute to satanic horror films of the same decade. By stark contrast, when watching House of the Devil‘s opening credits, it becomes abundantly clear that House of the Devil is meant to embody the essence of the time period as if the film were simply released 27 years too late. Rabid Love, despite its best efforts, does not come close to replicating an 80’s experience as effectively as The House of the Devil.

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If all of this seems like nit-picking, let’s forget the 80’s influence for a moment and focus on the story. Porter’s description of the plot is much more intriguing and provocative than the actual finished product. He is correct in stating that this is not a “gory, slasher film” but falls very short of providing a “thrilling and nostalgic story about unique characters.” There’s nothing new about the characters. They all fit your typical horror arc types which include the “virgin”, the boyfriend, the jerk, the wounded/promiscuous girlfriend, the loner, etc. And I’m okay with all of that. However, Porter’s online statement gives Rabid Love an air of mystery and intrigue that the film simply doesn’t have.

To start, there is never any mystery as to who the antagonist is. Even Porter points to an “evil recluse living in the woods” and in the film makes no attempts at misleading the viewer with any red herrings or miscues. Unlike Friday the 13th where the killer is kept off screen and in secret until the final act, Rabid Love pegs the “evil recluse” as the obvious antagonist from his initial appearance. As to the recluse’s evil intentions? Those are hardly a mystery as well considering the film is titled Rabid Love.

If the film can’t be a successful mystery, then perhaps it can be successful as a straightforward thriller? Sad to say the film is not very thrilling either. One reason is that, unlike the monstrous presence of Jason Voorhees of Friday the 13th 2-reboot, the “evil recluse” is not menacing in the least.

RL_2More problematic is that the script is surprisingly, overly complex for a cabin in the woods movie. First, the movie is set in the 80s and doesn’t need to be. Wither is proof that a movie can feel more like the film it embodies (The Evil Dead) without directly pointing at a specific decade. Although the 80’s details are nice, they ultimately prove to be wasted energy and a needless detail that does not help propel the narrative in any constructive way.

Second, the script is filled with loads of little ideas that never get developed further. The “evil recluse” dispatches some of his victims with a steel bear-claw weapon, reminiscent of one iconic killer claw carried by a guy known as Freddy Krueger. I love the idea of a man-bear stalking the woods, but we never see it and the main cast is never stalked by it! That’s because the writers intend for the recluse to have a more diabolical and ludicrous agenda…

The recluse hatches a plan to infect one of the five main characters in order to develop his “super rabies” weapon. This is another idea I could get behind despite sounding incredibly similar to 2002’s Cabin Fever where a group of friends fall victim to a deadly infection while staying in a cabin in the woods. But wait! Why does he choose this particular group of people to test on? What makes them different from the countless others he’s decided to massacre all bear-style? To that end, if the killer recluse is busy with his “super rabies” experiment, why bother killing innocent people like a bear and potentially draw more attention to himself to begin with? Furthermore, if he’s truly trying to develop some super weapon, why does he allow his young “guinea pigs” to roam freely when it would be much easier and logical to kidnap them and experiment on them in a controlled environment?

RL_6Complicated, confused, and convoluted are the three Cs that describe this rabid script. The successful horror films of the 80’s were much more simple and streamlined. Friday the 13th is a classic who-done-it with a twist. American Werewolf follows the plight of a bitten hiker who slowly discovers his hidden, inner evil. The Evil Dead is your simple “evil in the woods” tale that continues to twist the screws of tension on the characters until the final climactic moments. Porter steals ideas from countless sources but fails to follow through on any of them, perpetuating the obvious – that a movie like Rabid Love has already been made countless times and much, much better.

If there’s any last ditch effort to make an 80’s film marketable, it’s with good old fashioned sex. Nudity is not necessarily a prerequisite to making an 80’s horror film, but it doesn’t hurt. Seeing a pair of nubile breasts was more than enough reason to rent some grainy piece of VHS garbage when I was an adolescent teen. Perhaps Porter is too young for his “mixture of dreams and memories” to include visions of horny teens and promiscuous sex, but an 80’s film without these things just isn’t much of an 80’s film. The final nail in the coffin is that there is very little rabid lovin’ in Rabid Love.

Video & Audio Rating: ★★☆☆☆

RL_5Filmed for a wide 2.35:1 aspect ratio, overall the image looks good with colors looking natural and the movie looking fairly filmic despite coming from a digital source. As indicated above, the movie is devoid of any realistic film grain that would support the authenticity of an 80’s horror feature. Therefore the movie doesn’t look authentically 80’s from a technological standpoint, but it doesn’t look like handheld amateur fare either.

Audio is in stereo. Dialogue is mostly clear and audible, but some post additional dialogue recording was slightly out of sync. Sound effects also range from realistic to stock, but overall don’t hinder from the overall experience.

Last, I would be remiss not to mention the music that accompanies the film. Licensing music is expensive but is also the easiest way to make a film feel authentic to a specific time or place. People discover a natural nostalgia through the popular music of an era. Rabid Love could have benefited from any number of top 100 singles from 1984 – Phil Collins’ “Against All Odds,” Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” Billy Idol’s “Eyes Without a Face,” Rolling Stones’ “Undercover of the Night” to name a few.

Instead the filmmakers created their own music and as a simple matter of taste I did not care for the musical soundtrack. From a technical standpoint, the final audio mix has the music output at a smidgen louder than acceptable. Because of this, nearly every time the music began to play, I would actively listen and it drew my attention away from the narrative. For me it did not feel authentic to either the tone of the film or the 80’s in general. For those who feel differently, one can purchase the Rabid Love soundtrack from their official website.

Extras Rating: ★½☆☆☆

RL_3A rather lackluster collection of extras can be found on the DVD of Rabid Love and leaves much to be desired. Missing is a much needed director commentary, but the DVD does include…

  1. Outtakes (7:48): Or better known as bloopers.
  2. Slates (5:01): Or better known as bloopers.
  3. On Set Vlogs by Hayley Derryberry (stars as Heather): Six episodes (ranging 1:06 – 3:00 each) shot selfie-style showing a glimpse of behind the scenes antics, but mostly showcases Hayley rambling on about various things.

If you crave substantial extras, the team behind Rabid Love offer a behind-the-scenes companion book for sale on their official website. I find this most intriguing considering some of my favorite films don’t have companion books.

Overall Rating: ★★☆☆☆

RL_4Rabid Love has its fans. I am not one of them. There are a lot of good intentions, but good intentions do not produce good movies. The filmmakers certainly got ahead of themselves and perceived the potential cult status before actually achieving one. The official website boasts a soundtrack, novelization, behind the scenes companion book, posters, t-shirts, and even a movie tie-in beer as merchandise to be purchased shortly (if ever). I applaud the idea and the attempt, but if more energy had been spent creating an actual cult film, instead of marketing ploys, this review would most likely reflect the movie I was promised in Paul J. Porter’s online statement.

Rabid Love doesn’t have the cutting edge special effects of American Werewolf or The Howling, an iconic baddie (Pamela/Jason Voorhees) of Friday the 13th, or the creativity of Evil Dead. If anything, Rabid Love showcases how hard it actually is to produce a simple but effective horror film, because in the end Rabid Love steals from many beloved horror films but pales in comparison to all of them.

Author

- who has written 64 posts on UnRated Film Review Magazine | Movie Reviews, Interviews.

James Dubs is a father and husband who loves his family first and movies a close second. He believes every movie is worth watching once and, as a film fan and critic, believes that even the worst movies offer something in return. His mission is to watch anything and report without pretension. Follow James Dubs on Twitter and send him suggestions on movies you would like reviewed - popular, obscure, independent, etc. He'll watch anything for you.

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