Rabies has been described in a number of festival brochures and independent reviews as Israel’s first slasher film. The novelty of this statement is hard to resist and it’s certainly a selling point to those looking for something out of the ordinary. It’s also the case that when watching the film considering it placed within the sub-genre of the slasher film, Rabies seems all the more fresh and exciting.

Even divorced from this description though the film is an interesting and confident first feature from writer/directors Navot Papushado and Aharon Keshales, an intriguing and absorbing daylight horror.

Rabies is a slasher film to the extent that it has a stereotypical slasher character, boiler suited, mute and a merciless killer, but Papushado and Keshales are quick to move away from this character, his appearance on-screen would be better counted in seconds rather than minutes, and the real horror of the film is not his stalking and slashing but in the way in which seemingly ordinary characters begin acting in extraordinary ways. It is often through their own actions that they end up dying, not in a farcical Tucker and Dale-esque way but through the escalation of events and their heightened reactions to what occurs. That is not to say that there isn’t any humour in the film but it is of the more darker blackly comic variety than the gory good time that is more prevalent in 21st century slashers.

There is a large proportion of Rabies that is deeply unsettling too, the introduction of two bumbling cops seems at first to be simply the injection of a well-worn amusing horror cliché but as one cop’s behaviour becomes increasingly disgusting there is a wholly serious sick feeling in one’s stomach that is wrought from empathic emotional connection rather than a visceral reaction. Papushado and Keshales do an excellent job throughout of building on your connection to the characters despite the tiny amount of time available to each, the film is told from the viewpoint of many different characters, and the economy in character development and storytelling is commendable.

Unfortunately things go a little awry in the film’s final moments and the last ten minutes or so are a real low point. There seems to be a rush to the finishing line and what could have been a satisfying climax to an otherwise excellent film is ultimately a tonal and narrative scatter-shot mess. Thankfully though the 80 minutes that lead up to this point are wonderful, filled with enough entertaining unpredictability and imaginative twists on horror expectations to keep you thoroughly engaged and wanting more.

Rabies played as part of the UK Jewish Film Festival.

[yframe url=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FBA2L0PNUBY’]