As fans of horror films, writers/directors Navot Papushado and Aharon Keshales had been in a constant state of contemplation for several years over why Israeli filmmakers had never attempted to tackle the genre.
“The common answer we would get is that nobody wants to see blood in cinema,” says Papushado, noting that Israelis already see too much of it in real life as a result of war and terrorism. “So we would ask, ‘Then why are we making so many war films?’ I mean, if people do not want to watch that, then why would they go to the cinema and see it.”
The pair then set out to make a horror movie – a first for Israel – with the argument that the genre would be a nice change of pace from the usual motion pictures that come out of the country. In other words, Papushado hoped that he could give Israelis an opportunity to buy have fun watching a movie as opposed to being taught about something serious and significant.
In “Rabies,” which is available today on DVD at retail stores and rental outlets throughout the Valley, the rescue of a woman from a psychopathic killer’s trap becomes inadvertently intertwined with the lives of a group of young tennis players, a ranger and his dog as well as a pair of policemen. Or, as Papushado puts it, a serial killer falls asleep and everybody else does his work for him.
“It is not a horror film per se, but it does draw its basic plotline from the genre and kind of plays with it,” says Papushado, noting that he and Keshales grew up as film fanatics in awe of Wes Craven and John Carpenter before eventually becoming inspired by Quentin Tarantino and the Coen brothers. “They play with the tone of their films. They jump.”
For example, Papushado says that a scene by start with a lot of tension, break it with a little comedy and eventually arrive at something dramatic. As a result, the viewer can never really feel safe. Papushado adds that, ultimately, he and Keshales wanted to entertain themselves and make a movie that they would want to see.
“We are shocked,” says Papushado, noting that “Rabies” was not only a huge success in Israel but also in several other countries all over the world. “We feel like it is a Cinderella story for us. We did this film on a shoestring budget. We shot it for 19 days during the winter in the woods. And 2 months ahead of its release, everybody was already talking about it.”
Of course, the small budget also posed a problem for such an ambitious project, especially when it came to showing some of the key moments of mayhem. However, rather than letting this little detail get them down, the filmmakers used it to their advantage via a cross cutting technique that built tension before eventually releasing it in very unusual ways.
“We wanted to keep the audience stuck to their seats until the point where we had to start showing things,” Papushado explains. “We wanted to build expectation, where you would say, ‘Come on, give me something,’ and then you regret that. We wanted to keep you guessing when we were going to surprise you and, when we do, you still feel shocked but not tricked or cheated.”
In the end, the horror film taught the Papushado something after all. He learned that making movies is fun and calls his time writing and directing the project the most wonderful and most nerve-wracking experience of his life. And he is ready to go through it all over again next month when he begins production on a kidnap thriller that, like “Rabies,” aims to turn its genre on its head.
“Rabies” (NR – 94 minutes) is now available on DVD at retail stores and rental outlets throughout the Valley.