Israel’s first horror film, Rabies turns a caustic eye toward its citizenry, all of whom – through circumstances that lead to fatal miscommunications, selfishness, exposed secrets and exploited fears and hang-ups – prove comfortable veering from sociable to sinister. Opening on Tali (Liat Harlev) awakening to find herself in a narrow trap dug in the forest ground, and then proceeding to detail how her brother Ofer’s (Henry David) attempts at rescue bring him into contact with two young couples lost on their way to playing tennis, a pair of police officers, a park ranger, and the psychotic who stuck Tali in the earth, Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado’s film spins an intricate web of jealousy, lust, abuse and deviancy. Linking its players’ kindred cruelness through somewhat leaden parallels, the directors’ debut has a cynicism that borders on the one-note. In the recurring sight of bodies buried in earth and characters suddenly and naturally taking to brutality – and then, as with friends Mike (Ran Danker) and Pini (Ofer Shechter), staring at each other with dumbfounded confusion at the nastiness they’ve perpetrated against each other – the story suggests Israel as a land with infectious violence coursing through its veins and its soil. Rabies’ ideas about mankind’s penchant for hostility, however, are generic and monotonous, and hampered by the fact that its characters are sketchy pawns in service of savage roundelays that – incapable of generating any tension, and ending on a dully ironic note – soon render the proceedings a bloody Three’s Company-inspired cartoon.
2011 Tribeca Film Festival