Wide World of Horror: Israel’s ‘Rabies’

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Kalevet (Rabies)
Written by Aharon Keshales & Navot Papushado
Directed by Aharon Keshales & Navot Papushado
Israel, 2010

Horror is a genre that. perhaps more than any other, loves its tropes. Sure, one could levy the same barb against the romantic comedy genre or the action genre. But, the horror genre wears its tropes on its sleeve, and is quite proud for all to see them. It’s not surprising then that the first ever horror movie from Israel would lovingly embrace so many of the horror tropes that help define the genre.

The miscues in Kalevet begin when the tired tope of the bad man killing an animal is trotted out. If a horror movie wants you to know someone is bad, that they are beyond the evilest of the evil, an animal is always at the ready to be slaughtered. When Kalevet embraces this trope it is but the first of many tropes to be embraced. The evil person killing an animal is quickly followed by the sinister and lecherous cop, the person who ends up dying in a bout of miscommunication, and of course there are the cell phones that don’t work!

The way that Kalevet so willingly takes on all of the tropes mentioned above, and more, is frustrating. But, that is not as frustrating as the film’s inability to build any tension. It quickly became apparent that Kalevet is content to be a series of randomly violent encounters with nary a lick of suspense in the works. As each killing transpires the audience is left to wonder why they should care. If Aharon Keshales & Navot Papushado, the directors and writers, do not care to build any tension or suspense then why should the viewer become engaged with what they are watching.

The further along Kalevet gets the less interesting the idea of the first Israeli horror film becomes. By the end the film is a case of been there, done that to the extreme. It’s certainly not a case of a film that has more to say, because at its core Kalevet is an empty film. The film attempts to touch on issues that are important to Israel, but it does so in a fleeting fashion and with no resonance.

Outside of the abused tropes, the lacking characters and the never really present story there isn’t much to Kalevet. It’s well made from a technical sense and all credit is due to those involved with the practical gore effects. However, that’s about all the credit the film deserves. Mar Keshales and Mar Papushado dipped their toes into the pool of horror and only managed to come away with the worst of the slime at the bottom of said pool. Kalevet does hold the distinction of being the first horror film from Israel. Here’s hoping that much like the first wheel, the first airplane, or the first computer that horror minded directors in Israel learn from the mistakes of Kalevet and produce a horror film they can actually be proud to call their own.

Bill Thompson

6 Comments
  1. gwen says

    I’m really starting to get the feeling you didn’t get the film. Shallow? recycled? did you fall asleep during the viewing?

    Perhaps this reading material will help ypu understand the movie and its intentions better:

    http://www.salon.com/2011/04/26/tribeca_rabies/

    http://twitchfilm.com/reviews/2011/07/pifan-2011-rabies-review.php

    and here is a great interview with the directors
    http://www.aintitcool.com/node/54250

    shallow? I think not.

    1. Bill Thompson says

      What the directors say after the fact matters just as much as their intentions, which is very little. What matters is what they put on the screen, and what they put on the screen wasn’t all that good.

      Someone didn’t like a movie you liked. Someone didn’t take away the same reading of a movie as you did. These things happen, all the time with every film ever made. Trotting out the “you didn’t get the point” argument adds nothing to the discussion, ever.

  2. Michael Ryan says

    I’m with Gwen. Rabies was my favourite film from Fantasia last year and my second favourite film that I saw all year.

    And there is a difference between recycling and subverting.

    My original review (from this very site): http://popoptiq.wpengine.com/fantasia-2011-rabies-israels-first-horror-film/

    If you are up for it, I have no problem going mano a mano about this on Twitter.

    1. Bill Thompson says

      There is most definitely a difference between recycling and subverting, but I did not find Kalevet to be a film that subverted at all. The evil cop was just an evil cop (with a pathetically played out last minute attempt at redeeming him), the dog killer was just a dog killer, and so on and so forth. Kalevet was content to wallow in the tropes of horror instead of doing anything with them, it’s why the film had such a predictable and boring tone to it.

      It’s cool that you, and others, like the film. I simply do not see the same attributes that you do. I see Kalevet as a shallow film that adds absolutely nothing to the world of horror. I’ve said my piece, and honestly there’s not much else for me to say other than a scene by scene breakdown and I do not feel Kalevet is a film worthy of such treatment.

  3. Bill Thompson says

    It was funny at times, and dark at times. But I found it to be far from original, it recycled so many common horror tropes that I have a hard time understanding how people can come away from it thinking it is original.

  4. gwen says

    pfffffffft. “Rabies” is one of the best films I’ve seen in recent years. Original, dark. twisted and really really funny.

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