Frenzy, noun: violent mental derangement. 2. wild excitement or agitation; distraction. 3. a bout of wild or agitated activity. Essentially, that’s us when our next book project is due and the publisher wants their manuscript (cheap plug time: Pick up a copy of Death by Umbrella! The 100 Weirdest Horror Movie Weapons).

The film of the same name is befitting of its title. Frenzy is a homecoming for the Master of Suspense, and saw Hitchcock’s return to London and the film’s opener, a sweeping, lazy, placid helicopter shot of Tower Bridge and the mighty Thames, is a wonderful tonal setup.

As we land on terra firma, it’s the nasty business of politics that precedes the nasty business of murder: a local city councilor (or possibly an MP) promises to clean up the river…and in the midst of a well-intentioned/well-attended photo-op (journalists + the public) a nude form washes up on the shoreline…the body of a woman…

One of the rabble yells that it’s another “victim of the necktie murderer” and viewers’ minds are immediately sent back to the time of Jack the Ripper, the mysterious Victorian in the top-hat with medical training who terrorized Whitechapel roughly a century prior (for those who are interested, check out our review of Murder by Decree, a flick which features Christopher Plummer hot on the tail of Saucy Jack).

In a nod to the Vigilance Committee leader of  the era, headed by captain of industry George Lusk, the killer here is…Rusk. And in a tribute to Hitch’s father (a grocery man), this film’s set in Covent Gardens.

In a change of pace, here Hitch tips off viewers as to who’s done the dirty deeds. So Frenzy is not a suspense film in the traditional sense. Rather, it’s a depiction of how uber-red herring Blaney, a down-on-his-luck drinker, degenerate gambler and ex-barman, has to clear his name when his estranged missus ends up strangled in her place of business.

Without being strangled by the censors, Hitchcock is able to go all out here, and the influence of violent spectacles like The Last House on the Left no doubt left their mark. The result: more violence and mayhem then we’d seen, but still intact…Hitchcock’s incomparable visual style.

***3/4 (out of 5)

[Check out our discussion of Frenzy on the Really Awful Movies Podcast!]


This David Cronenberg body horror entry is pretty bawdy too. Rabid is one of the funnier film’s in the director’s oeuvre, but then again, that’s akin to being Tyler Perry’s most cerebral Madea. Still, we don’t go to him seeking a yuk-fest. We go to DC for some prime earth-shattering, teeth-chattering horror.

In the early Cronenberg movies we are frequently cautioned about encroaching scientism, evil precision tinkering that spans the macro to the micro-scope.

And that’s what we get in spades in Rabid.

There’s a gloomy research hospital in the middle of some misbegotten landscape. And it must spring into action to perform trauma surgery on a young woman (Rose, played by Marilyn Chambers), something for which they’re not really equipped. Instead, under the direction of the terrifically-handled Dr. Keloid (named, appropriately, after a collagen scar) the patient receives an experimental graft.

Graft is an interesting double-entendre, something that Rabid really explores: it’s both a piece of transplanted tissue, and also bribery, used to secure illicit gain, something Cronenberg explores as of course, investors are interested in profiting from this out-there medical practice.

Rose, still in a coma from the fiery crash, is visited by a friend, Lloyd. Suddenly, she springs to life and bites him, and the wound sustained to his rib cage isn’t clotting when he’s given an examination at the local General. And he doesn’t remember any of what had transpired.

We suddenly see that Rose is experiencing a nasty treatment side-effect: a vaginal, pulsating orifice under her armpit which extrudes a proboscis.

With Lloyd and Rose infected, the Keloid Clinic becomes Ground Zero for a rabies-like outbreak (there’s even mention of swine flu by a talking head on the evening news), which spreads throughout the Quebec countryside as the twosome venture farther afoot, she by hitchhiking, he by cab.

Rabid has a drab, austere setting (apparently, Cronenberg’s tax shelter films were frequently put into production in winter and early spring), which serves it well, and the interiors complement the interior / body horror, as you get the trademark claustrophobic feel.

**** (out of 5)

[Please check out our podcast discussion of Rabid!]