★★★ / ★★★★
In a fox reserve, Ofer (Henry David) finds his sister, Tali (Liat Harlev), in an underground trap set by a psychopathic killer (Yaron Motola) but is unable to free her. Ofer goes to look for help and comes across four friends who take a wrong turn. Mikey (Ran Danker) and Pini (Ofer Shechter) follow Ofer to help, while Adi (Ania Bukstein) and Shir (Yael Grobglas) stay with the car to wait for the police officers (Lior Ashkenazi, Danny Geva) that dispatch sent their way. Although the scenario is very familiar, in this special case, the killer is the last person everyone should worry about.
Written and directed by Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado, “Kalevet” slowly won me over because somewhere in the middle it becomes apparent that the filmmakers are in love with their work. By allowing all of the characters to survive up to that point, even the ones who do not get much screen time like the hunter (Menashe Noy) and his wife (Efrat Boimold), speaking mostly through walkie talkies, we are allowed to get to know a facet of their personalities, come to a judgment whether who is or is not likable, and root for one or two we identify with most. I found it refreshing that the writer-directors do not kill off the characters for the sake of shutting them up when they are no longer useful either as sexual objects or simply for the sake of endorsing or subverting stereotypes.
At its best, the picture is an impressive amalgamation of horror and comedy. One of the scenes that tickled me most while my eyes prepared for gore is when Mikey and Ofer noticed that Pini has stepped on a bear trap. If he moves his foot even by just an inch, the trap’s metallic jaws will most likely bite through the bone. In order to prevent such a grim predicament, Mikey and Offer hold each mandible of the trap and instruct Pini to quickly lift his foot once they count to three. I felt so uncomfortable during this scene, I noticed my breathing pattern, as well as the rate in which I squirmed in my seat, change into erraticism.
I also enjoyed that the climax of that scene is able to propagate its energy to the events happening between the girls and the two police offers, one of whom so willing to commit sexual harassment in order to mollify his itchy perversion, the script almost begs the audience to root for the officer to suffer or die in some way. The difference between the violence we want to see happen here and the violence in deplorable slasher films is the fact that our sympathy is always with the women being exploited.
Aside from building anticipation, another technique that the picture commands with relative ease is the theme of the animal in all of us. The deranged killer becomes insignificant because the supposedly sane but increasingly desperate characters do most of the work he intends on executing. The well-chosen setting of the forest gives the filmmakers a chance to comment on the great lengths people will go to survive.
Although “Kalevet,” also known as “Rabies,” has some issues with its tepid pacing toward the beginning, it becomes stronger and more urgent by being more ironic and darkly funny as it goes on. I found the last scene brilliant because it feels so alien. I think that the level of awkwardness that the viewer will feel during that final sequence is a testament to how much he or she has become invested in the strange occurrences in the woods.