After the shock tactics of Shivers, Cronenberg’s next venture into body horror is more subdued, but holds up surprisingly well. When experimental surgery endows a young woman with a vampiric phallus in her armpit, she unwittingly spreads a deadly form of rabies across Montreal, turning its victims into savage rage zombies.
Porn star Marilyn Chambers is terrific value as the reluctant predator, a role Cronenberg intended for Sissy Spacek, and her casting fits a pleasingly subversive undertone. While the story ultimately resists a feminist reading, many of her victims are slimeballs who get what they deserve.
Despite some very dated make-up, the rabid attacks produce some memorable and shocking moments, notably when a mall Santa is machine-gunned down in front of screaming children. With that and an unforgettably grim ending, this welcome release from Arrow could be just what you need after Christmas. [Scott McKellar]