An Israeli production, Rabies (2010) (aka Kalevet) is a very unconventional suspense thriller, featuring an odd assortment of characters, involved in a strange series of events in the woods. What starts out as apparently some kind of abduction, expands to an extended drama, with several dark twists, as various situations spiral out of control. If you keep an open mind, the resulting mayhem is quite entertaining, in a twisted sort of way. Unless you speak Hebrew, you will be reading subtitles (English or Spanish), but that shouldn't prevent you from appreciating some fine acting performances. Mild spoilers follow.
Two men and two women are in a car, driving through a wooded area. They are headed somewhere to play tennis, when they hit someone on the road. The victim, a man named Ofer (Henry David), says that his sister Tali is caught in an underground trap. In a fateful decision, Mikey (Ran Danker) and Pini (Ofer Shechter), go with Ofer to find his sister. The women, Shir (Yael Grobglas) and Adi (Ania Bukstein), remain at the car, and call the police for assistance.
Two officers are dispatched to investigate, and the dysfunctional pair are suspicious of the women's story. Preoccupied by his disintegrating marriage, Danny (Lior Ashkenazi) is on the phone calling his wife, while Yuval (Danny Geva) searches the women, and takes the opportunity to explore under Shir's skirt. Adi impulsively reacts to help her friend, and the girls flee into the woods, leaving a wounded cop behind.
After being pulled out of the trap, Tali (Liat Har Lev) is tired up and taken away by an unknown man (Yaron Motolla). She eventually wakes to finds herself being carried by a park ranger (Menashe Noy). Discovering the trap empty, her brother continues searching for her, while Pini and Mikey disagree about what they should do next.
The narrative moves forward linearly, but with characters spread out across the forest, the film doesn't have a solid core, as you lose touch with some of the players. Rabies nicely sets up its audience for a series of shocks, which are delivered with force and style, often coming from an unexpected angle. Most of these people have good intentions, but just make bad decisions, or snap at a critical point.
An interesting factor is the presence of live land mines in the Israeli woods. Why the warning signs are lying on the ground, instead of being posted, is just another mystery. The violence and gore is spread throughout the film, and is very well done in most instances.
The writing is not without issues, but the positives far outweigh the negatives, as there isn't much that is predictable about Rabies. The acting performances are solid, and mostly enjoyable. Not everyone seems realistic, as both cops are pretty screwed up in different ways. Danny might be more likeable than Yuval, but he repeatedly demonstrates that at least on this day, he's just not a very smart cop.
The English translation appears to do an excellent job of capturing the nuances of the Hebrew dialog. Rabies is a well made and impactful suspense thriller. It never plays for laughs, but there are definitely some intensely dark comedic moments. It's not really a horror film, but some terrible things happen, and fans of the terror in the woods might well appreciate this little gem.