Sponsor

IFI Horrorthon 2015 Review - RABID DOGS

Remake of Mario Bava's 1974 Italian thriller.


Review by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

Directed by: Eric Hannezo

Starring: Lambert Wilson, Guillaume Gouix, Virginie Ledoyen, Franck Gastambide, Francois Arnaud, Laurent Lucas


"It's all too easy to groan at the idea of a remake, especially one that dares to take on material covered by an auteur like Bava, but this Rabid Dogs is a worthwhile reboot, one that establishes its director as a filmmaker we'll be keeping a close eye on."





There was a time when every successful French movie seemed to receive an English language remake, but in recent years we've seen Francophone filmmakers remake cult movies from other territories, with Franck Khalfoun and Jacques Audiard adapting William Lustig's Maniac and James Toback's Fingers respectively. Now Eric Hannezo (a producer turned director who I'm assuming is French; apologies to Quebecois readers if he's one of your own) delivers a remake of Mario Bava's 1974 crime thriller Rabid Dogs, screened at IFI Horrorthon under its French title Enragés.
Bava's film was an anomaly for a director whose name became synonymous with lavish, meticulously designed horror movies. Taking place chiefly inside a car and on various roadside stops, it couldn't be more visually opposed to the Gothic horrors and Giallo thrillers we most remember Bava for. Hannezo's stylish remake actually looks more like a Bava movie than the Italian director's own gritty, pared down version.
Following pretty much the same plotline as the original (both movies are based on a short story - Michael J Carroll's 'Man and Boy'), Hannezo's film opens with a bank robbery gone wrong. Well, I say 'gone wrong', but the robbers make off with $2 million, though four cops are left dead in a shootout and the resulting high speed chase. Cornered in a shopping mall car park, the quartet of villains kill one unfortunate shopper and take another hostage (Virginie Ledoyen). Leaving behind one of their gang after he succumbs to a gunshot wound, the remaining trio hijack a car driven by a nervous father (Lambert Wilson), whose four year old daughter is onboard and in need of an operation within hours to save her life.
Bava's original attained cult status chiefly due to its being out of circulation until 1998, thanks to a court case that resulted in its originally planned 1974 release being shelved. It's an average "years of lead" thriller, best remembered for a typically sleazy performance by Luigi Montefiori (aka George Eastman, one of the seediest actors to ever appear on film) and a twist ending that ranks as one of the best in any genre of cinema. My first question going into his remake was in regard to this twist. Would it be repeated verbatim, or like Gone Girl, would it be revised to keep it fresh for those of us familiar with Bava's version? I won't reveal the approach this remake takes in that regard, but I will say familiarity with the original certainly adds to the tension, in a similar way to how after your initial viewing of Psycho, you find yourself rooting for Norman Bates on most subsequent watches.
Laurent Eyquem's pounding score is an electrified updating of Stelvio Cipriani's original, and in a way Hannezo's movie is a case of remake as remix. Besson meets Bava, this Rabid Dogs is a slick affair, decidedly Gallic in spite of its Canadian location. Hannezo's visual style recalls the 'Cinéma du look' movement that sprang up in 1980s France, spearheaded by the likes of Besson, Carax and Beneix, all throbbing neon and smooth tracking shots. The opening getaway scene is particularly well handled, a visceral piece of filmmaking that really throws us into the action. As a writer, he's not so assured, with the dialogue here consisting of little more than generic B-Movie crime picture talk, though that's an accusation you can also level at the original. However, the cast is strong enough to elevate the material, though Ledoyen is significantly short-changed; gone is the sexual degradation of her character form the original, but Hannezo hasn't found anything interesting to replace it with.
It's all too easy to groan at the idea of a remake, especially one that dares to take on material covered by an auteur like Bava, but this Rabid Dogs is a worthwhile reboot, one that establishes its director as a filmmaker we'll be keeping a close eye on. Transferring locales also helps, as Italy may be long-legged, but the Canadian expanse is far more suited to a road movie of this nature.

Share this post




discussion by