Sunday, May 6, 2012

Jessicka Rabid

Directed by: Matthew Reel
Written by: Matthew Reel
Produced by: Elske McCain, Matthew Reel
Editing by: Matthew Reel
Music by: Mario Salvucci
Special Effects by: Jeff Sisson
Cast: Elske McCain, Trent Haaga, Jeff Sisson, Cisiany Olivar
Year: 2008
Country: USA
Language: English
Color: Color
Runtime: 79 minutes


Ever wonder what would happen if someone were to take a baby and raise it into adulthood as their pet dog and not the typical nurturing human upbringing?  Me neither, but that’s what we have here, concocted from the miscreant mind of Matthew Reel (best known for his previous short’s The Goat Sucker and All the French Are Whores).  This time around the familiar Matthew Reel/Elske McCain combo are back with the all new feature film, Jessicka Rabid, which delivers a whole new spin on 60’s and 70’s era exploitation films.
Elske McCain is the star of the show here, in her submissive portrayal of Jessicka a young attractive mute woman who has suffered through years of mental and physical abuse at the hands of her cousins.  Jessicka is oblivious to the fact that she’s actually a human being and instead behaves in the way she was raised to be -- the family dog.  Much like Rover, McCain conveys most of her emotions with her eyes, which is an acting attribute that deserves commending.  Her three cousins operate as her master.  Marley (Trent Haaga), a small time dope dealer is the ringleader of the family, followed by his two siblings, his brother Brad (Jeff Sisson) a foot-long-bearded, bald lowlife and their less caustic sister Abby (Cisiany Olivar).  Together they all contribute to the abuse of Jessicka to varying degrees.
Jessicka has her own kennel and eats dog food from a bowl on the floor.  She is taken outside to pee, and is washed with a hose.   Even the neighbor treats her like a dog, giving her a chew toy.  These proceedings are all suitable for an animal but even a typical pet isn’t disclosed to the other atrocities that Jessicka’s life is burdened with daily.   There is underground porn being filmed and Jessicka is the star.  She is sodomized by Marley.  Even Abby has a hand in the abusive cookie jar, or should I say peanut butter jar (one scene involves Jessicka, Abby and some strategically placed peanut butter that goes hand in hand with the running joke of dogs, perversion and peanut butter)!
The funny thing about all this mistreatment is that even though her family treats her so poorly, Jessicka still manages to have love for them.  She seems to remember the good times.  In one sequence told in trademark Reel fashion, with dialog from an old educational video about a dog (Tippy, Our Town Dog) overlaying the visuals, we see Jessicka alone in the house anxiously awaiting her masters return.  No matter how she was mistreated she awaited the return of some affection, no matter how minimal.
By the film’s title alone, one might envision a slasher about a woman with the same name going on a rampage.  This was my initial thought when I first heard about the film and read the title Jessicka Rabid (a riff on the Jessica Rabbit character from Who Framed Roger Rabbit).  In essence Jessicka Rabid is a revenge tale, but as anyone can tell, it’s an inimitable revenge tale unlike any exploitation film you’ve ever seen.  It fits nicely with the grindhouse mold of the 60’s and 70’s, compounded especially by Reel’s choice of using a washed-out gritty, grimy visual style.  Make no mistake though; this is a Matthew Reel film.  While it is less avant-garde than say All the French Are Whores, Reel still manages to affix his arthouse flair within this grindhouse of a movie. Reel still has an affinity for old stock footage and educational videos which are included here.
Most revenge films involve mistreatment of some kind.  Typically in such films the wounded bite back and this time it’s Jessicka Rabid’s turn.  Plagued by a rabid dog bite allowing her to let loose her primal rage, Jessicka has had enough torment.  She runs rabid, filing her teeth into fangs, ready to teach her adversaries a lesson.   In one scene her victim is orally castrated (Last House on the Left anyone?)  In another, Jessicka, (well) endowed with an axe, beheads an unsuspecting victim.  While the severed head is an obvious prop, it still looks cool and doesn’t detract from the harshness of the scene.
There is enough licentiousness herein that it just might keep even the most cynical spectator satisfied.  This is a rare breed of a film, and should be sought-after by arthouse and exploitation fans alike.  Jessicka Rabid shows that both Reel and McCain have lasting futures in the business.

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