My notes on the Israeli shaggy dog horror story.First off, I’m not sure why this is called Rabies – it’s presumably a metaphor for infectious violent insanity, but is fairly obscure (I don’t know if it’s a literal translation of the Hebrew, either) and in this context suggests another sub-genre of horror in the woods. It takes a while to get past waiting for someone to be bitten and infected for the penny to drop that we’re on another tack. Then, it opens as if it’s going to be a straight-up torture/psycho effort with a Tali (Liat Harlev) buried alive in a trap set by a maniac (Yaron Motola), and her brother Ofer (Henry David) trying to save her – it seems they’ve been having an unnatural relationship, which colours their actions.
Ofer runs off in panic to get help, and is knocked down on the road by a car containing two couples who’re on their way home from tennis, and have their own inter-group argument: Pini (Ofer Shechter) finds out his friend Mikey (Ran Danker) is sleeping with blonde Shir (Yael Grobglas), whom he thought he had a chance with, after his assholiness has completely ruled out the possibility of him scoring with Shir’s sarcastic brunette friend Adi (Ania Bukstein). Furthermore, woodland warden Menashe (Menashe Noy) has just been told by his partner that he’s to be a father and might not have his mind on his job. The law is also represented by a couple of cops in a car: Yuval (Danny Geva), a ticking time-bomb of simmering anger and cocky sexual aggression looking for girls to take it out on, and Danny (Lior Ashkenazi), a weakling who won’t call a halt to it because he’s preoccupied with his possible broken marriage and a foolish message he’s left on his home answerphone he doesn’t want his wife playing back.
All these people run into each other and make bad situations worse, which isn’t much helped by the man-traps set by the killer (who does surprisingly little killing, despite the high body count) and the knocked-down signs that ineffectually mark this area as a live minefield. The cops treat the girls like suspects rather than witnesses, and Yuval gropes the short-skirted Shir during a supposed search (a scene which evokes the recent Checkpoint) – not noticing that his macho brutalism is annoying the other girl to the point when she will shoot, mutilate and ultimately kill him. It’s full of odd, ranting non sequiturs – a debate about whether women urinating is sexy ties in with the blonde’s urgent need to take a leak, and that Images-like thing of the actors passing their own names on to characters played by others in the film – and people holding back information that would not only make things easier, but save lives. There’s the usual modern horror byplay with mobile phones, which tend to burble on and give vital messages just too late or with an ironic tendency to add insult to injury (as the rogue cop dies from wounds inflicted by his aggrieved victims, he gets a call from his father complaining about damage to his car and can’t convey the fact that he’s mortally wounded to the angry man; the warden’s partner leaves him a happy message just as the siblings are burying him, having killed him under the impression that he’s the maniac).
In the end, the killer gets out on the road and tries to hitch a lift, complaining about how unpleasant folks are around here. It may have specific local meanings that don’t travel – it’s a rare Israeli film seemingly unconcerned with the ongoing struggles of the nation or the Palestinian problem (in the Jewish Daily Forward, Jordana Horn notes: ‘Sometimes, the film implicitly contends, we find ourselves in a “situation” (Israelis often refer to the conflict as “HaMatzav,” or “the situation”) that makes us act in ways we couldn’t possibly have expected or wanted.’), the woodland setting is a reminder that the country isn’t all deserts and sunbaked cities, and apparently all these internationally unfamiliar players are big stars in their home territory. Written and directed by Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado.
Mark Gordon Palmer If nothing else, it sounds like they gave everything but the kitchen sink (now tell me there was one of those in this film too!) to cover all bases. Urination, tennis, torture and woodland: tick, tick, tick, tick! I rather like the idea that the killer finds everyone else depraved and sick and drives away at the end having had enough of all those non-killer weirdos in town. I’m sure that’s what all psychokillers feel at some time in their lives. I’m sure there is an underlying sociopolitical allegory here Kim, somewhere. I mean, I just thought A Serbian Film was a montage of random outrages set to cool music; when all along is was a biting satire on Serbian oppression. Fact.