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Tribeca 2011: “Rabies,” Reviewed

Tribeca 2011: “Rabies,” Reviewed (photo)

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It can be a lot of fun to see American popular culture refracted through the prism of another country. “Rabies,” is the first Israeli movie made in that quintessential American genre, the slasher film. And it does feature many of the slasher cliches we’ve come to know and love: the dog that wanders off too far into the forrest, the killer who can magically sneak up people without making a sound, the car full of nubile hotties that gets lost in the woods. But what starts as a rather typical slasher film with Israeli accents eventually reveals itself to be something a bit more complicated. “Rabies” has a point beyond exploitation, I’m just not sure I agree with it. Or maybe what I really disagree with is the way that point is made.

We’ll get to that in a second. First, the plot, which, to my disappointment, does not contain any actual rabies. Mostly it’s about several groups of people who wander into the woods of an Israeli “fox preserve” where they encounter a jumpsuit-wearing, animal trap laying serial killer and each other. There’s the brother (David Henry) trying to find someone to help him free his sister (Liat Har Lev), a park ranger (Menashe Noy), his girlfriend, and their dog, the lost hotties (Ania Bukstein and Yael Grobglas), and the two cops (Lior Ashkenazi and Danny Geva) who are called in to find them. You know how this movie goes: people head off into the woods alone when they shouldn’t, then get picked off one by one until the last virginal woman is left alive to defeat the evil.

But that’s not how things turn out this time. Writer/directors Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado have assembled all these genre elements only to deconstruct them. The real menace here isn’t some crazy guy with the knife and some bear traps, but the regular people who, angry and scared and confused, lash out at those around them. In “Rabies,” civilization is fragile, and ordinary people are just as prone to violence — or to tacitly condone it — as psychopaths. Keshales and Papushado’s faith in humanity is nonexistent and their worldview is bleak. Given the events in Israel in the last two decades, maybe that’s not too surprising.

So “Rabies” should be an intense and personal film. But the events in it and the choices the characters make are so consistently absurd that they undermines “Rabies”‘ entire argument. Keshales and Papushado’s concept is rooted in the idea that normal people are capable of unimaginable evil, but no one in this movie acts like a normal person: everyone is depraved and deranged and even the relatively lucid ones in the bunch snap easier than a twig in an ice storm.

I will give you one example. Almost the entire movie takes place in this fox preserve. After order has begun to break down, two of the girls from the lost car are running for their lives from other characters. They stop to rest and notice a fallen sign warning them to beware of landmines. Which, of course, creates great tension in any scene with the girls because we keep waiting for one of them to step on a mine. Fine, it is a horror movie, and the constant threat of death by sudden explosion definitely qualifies as horror in my book. But wait: why are there mines in a fox preserve? We know there’s a serial killer setting up all kinds of traps in this place, so maybe he put them there? But if a serial killer was putting mines around to kill people and get his jollies, why would he put up a sign warning people about them? Bloodthirsty and conscientious. What a guy.

Keshales and Papushado do a nice job juggling a large cast and numerous parallel threads of action, but too many dumb convenient plot devices sully their central conceit. In order to arrive at their chosen ending, one improbable event after another has to happen exactly right until the chain of coincidence and misunderstanding transforms the entire film into one enormous Idiot Plot. All of that strains credulity in a movie that is all about arguing that the real world — not the one populated by the fantastical psycho killers of popular culture — is the place we need to fear. The parable could probably only have come from foreign filmmakers. But the goofy, nonsensical narrative is as American as they come.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…