Tag Rats

Food of the Gods II (1989)

Food of the Gods II (1989)

They’re hungry … there is no escape

Biologist Neil Hamilton succeeds in synthesising a growth hormone and uses it to create giant tomatoes in his university campus laboratory. However, a cage of rats is accidentally placed within reach of the plants and they soon devour the tomatoes, causing the rats to grow to the size of the dogs. When a group of animal rights activists break into the lab, they inadvertently free the rats which escape down into the tunnels beneath the campus. As they grow bigger, their appetite increases and they soon start satisfying their hunger on humans.

 

Thirteen years after The Food of the Gods and its bog-awful special effects was unleashed upon the world, H.G. Wells would be turning over in his grave with his literary material being loosely adapted for the screen once again. With no correlation to the previous film, Food of the Gods II is just another interpretation of his 1904 story and has seemingly just ‘sequelised’ itself to latch on to the bit of notoriety the original still retained. Expect lots of giant rats, not a lot of common sense and a whole heap of cheese. It’s so far removed from H. G. Wells’ original story that he doesn’t even get a writing credit!

I’m not quite sure what possessed someone to even contemplate doing a sequel but this Canadian-made production does all it can to prove that they were utter fools for doing so! Unlike the original which played it totally straight, Food of the Gods II does have a knowing campness to it. Be it through a dream sex sequence which ends with one participant suffering from a badly-timed case of gigantism, seeing a giant boy with a foul mouth enter the room and tell the good doctor where he can go forth and multiply, or just via the daft rat puppets that are used for the attack sequences, the film clearly knows it’s not going to be taken seriously so why not run with it? The film could have gone a lot further with this tone but it just doesn’t do as much with it as it can. For every dose of absurdity and silliness, the film bogs itself down with some seriousness: in an early scene, a young infant is attacked and dragged off to feed the onslaught of rats. It’s grim stuff which clashes with the helpings of cheese on display.

There is a steady stream of bodies throughout Food of the Gods II. After all, these are giant rats and have a giant hunger to satisfy! As a result, the daft special effects take centre stage. You’ll see real rats crawling over miniature sets. Furry prop rat heads and puppets used in close-up attack sequences. Images of real rats scaled up in size and superimposed on the frame in others. If it was the 50s or 60s, this could be forgiven but in 1989? You would have hoped that special effects would have become better in the thirteen years since the original but the effects department here must have either been locked up inside a bunker or they intentionally used similar effects as a homage to the original. Perhaps I’m giving them a bit too much credit as although the special effects are atrocious, they do add a lot to the goofy charm. And I’ll also add that I’ll take the cheap-looking but physically-there old school puppet effects than CGI any day.

Where Food of the Gods II does get it right is with the gore. Though the rats look daft, the carnage they cause is anything but. Throats are ripped out, backs are torn apart and other body parts are chewed off. The camera lingers on the gratuitous damage that the rats do, though from a monster flick from the 1980s, I’d expect nothing else. Throw in a random melting as one character injects himself with the serum with gooey consequences and you’ve got a film which at least knew what its target audience wanted to see – check off the nudity with Kimberly Dickson’s appearance in the aforementioned dream sequence too. Cast-wise, you’ll not recognise anyone but even jobbing actors must have a hard time swallowing the fact that starring in a film like Food of the Gods II would be a good career choice.

 

Food of the Gods II is a trashy film: a poor cash-in sequel with a ridiculous premise that was already dated and eye-wateringly absurd back in 1976 – dragged back to life thirteen years later for no good, sane reason. However, due to the nature of its content and cheesy 80s approach, it’s arguably the better film. It’s not the greatest monster movie out there, heck it’s not even the best killer rat flick out there, but it’s entertaining for what it is and will pass the time away nicely with a few beers and friends around.

 

 ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Deadly Eyes (1982)

Deadly Eyes (1982)

Tonight they will rise from the darkness beneath the city… to feed!

Corn grain contaminated with steroids produces large rats the size of small dogs who begin feeding on the residents of Toronto. Paul, a college basketball coach, teams up with a local health inspector to uncover the source of the mysterious rat attacks. It is a race against time to find the rats nest before the opening of a new subway line unleashes them upon an unsuspecting city.

 

Based upon the novel by James Herbert, Deadly Eyes starts off with a great ten minutes or so which really made me wake up and take note – this film wasn’t going to take any prisoners, not least the infant who is the first one in the film to encounter the giant rats. They wouldn’t get away with that in today’s market! However the problem with Deadly Eyes is that it can’t do anything remotely as interesting as this for the rest of its running time. In fact, the handbrake is slapped on and the film comes to a grinding halt about a third of the way in as the romantic sub-plot is introduced.

The love triangle between Paul, health inspector Elly and one of his students, Trudy, is dull. Paul is hardly a catch yet these women seem to be falling over backwards for him. It’s hardly a love triangle either as Paul does the honourable thing where Trudy is concerned (though I did question his sexuality when he catches her in his bed and tells her to get out!). He is not exactly gushing with love and affection for Elly either and seems to be just going with the flow. I guess its this sub-plot which made Herbert disown the film upon release and proclaim that they had a terrible job of turning his novel into a film!  The rats are put on the back burner, given an odd random attack every ten minutes or so to remind us that they’re growing more deadly as the running time progresses. Then the stories all come together in the final third where Deadly Eyes picks up steam again.

Even though the sight of rats might get some folk screaming for the nearest high ground, they’re hardly life-threatening animals like snakes, sharks or crocodiles. But the prospect of being helpless to prevent yourself being gnawed to death by a whole pack of rats is a grim thought. Deadly Eyes does a great job of making this thought come to life. Whilst it is not overly gory, there’s enough blood to get across the message that these rats are hungry. There’s a decent body count, you don’t have to wait too long between attacks and the fact that it’s so dark really enhances the mood of some of the underground kills. Attacks get more ambitious as the film progresses, with the highlight being an effective set piece inside a cinema in the finale as the rats launch an assault on a group of people watching a Bruce Lee film.

The giant rats were actually Dachshunds dressed up in rat costumes and guided along by the smell of meat and blood to ensure that they went where they were supposed to go. The effect sounds daft in theory but the film is that dark at times that it’s really hard to see the dogs up close. So the illusion of these being giant rats is maintained throughout. The gorier moments are done with the use of rat puppets which look terrible but do what they are required to do. The fact that the filmmakers went for feasible approaches to solving the dilemma of how to portray giant rats shows just how more practical everyone was back in the 70s and 80s, instead of just putting everything through a computer like today. The cheap effects give the film a nice retro feel to things.

Sam Groom is probably one of the most actors I’ve seen given a leading role in a horror film. As I’ve already said, it’s hard to see why the females in the film are attracted to him. He rarely raises a smile, he has a monotone delivery and he parades around with his hairy chest quite a lot. Lisa Langlois is really pretty as student Trudy but is hardly in the film and is rather inconsequential to the eventual ending. Scatman Crothers, fresh off his appearance in The Shining, is given a large billing despite his glorified cameo role. Listening to him trash-talking the rats in the sewer before having the tables turned made me wish that his role had been expanded as he injects a much-needed dose of life and energy to proceedings before his untimely demise.

 

Deadly Eyes holds up fairly well despite its blatant shortcomings. Maybe it’s the old school “let’s create our monsters using any method possible” approach which helps it connect with the audience in an affectionate way or maybe it’s just the fact that there’s a decent amount of carnage, the rats are well fed and there’s some effective moments down in the sewers. It’s not perfect but a healthy dose of 80s monster movie fun is always a welcome tonic to today’s CGI saturated snooze-fests.

 

 ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Rats: Night of Terror (1984)

Rats: Night of Terror (1984)

Mutants of a nuclear disaster

Hundreds of years after a nuclear war has devastated the planet, a group of nomadic bikers stumble across an old research lab filled with essential food and water – and thousands of rats. In the years since the war, the rats have become flesh-eating monsters and the bikers find themselves top of the menu.

 

Finally I have found time to check out this infamous Italian low budget classic and it’s every bit as stupendous as it’s made out to be. It’s precisely the sort of Italian exploitation nonsense that gave the country its reputation for producing dodgy films during the late 70s and 80s. Rats: Night of Terror could only have been made in Italy – the premise mixing up the post-apocalyptic scenario made popular at the time by the likes of Mad Max and throws in one of cinema’s worst representatives of the nature-runs-amok genre – the rat.

Let’s face it: rats aren’t the scariest things in the world. They may make people jump on the furniture or tuck their trousers into their socks but they’re not up there alongside sharks or crocodiles when it comes to pant-wetting. Leave it in the less-than-capable hands of notorious hack Bruno Mattei, the man responsible for such diverse horrors as Zombie Creeping Flesh and Monster Shark, and the end result is one of the messiest films to emerge from Italy in its long, varied history of horror. Obviously you’re not going to swallow the idea of killer rats without having your tongue in your cheek at the time. And after watching Rats: Night of Terror, your mind will have been changed little, if at all.

It kicks off with some stock footage of some desert and runs down the story of the nuclear war and how life has changed. Cue the Mad Max moments with the biker gang, each member having one-word names like “Chocolate,” “Duke” and “Lucifer” and sporting the ‘futuristic’ look that only the 80s could have provided. It all comes off looking like one of those early 90s side-scrolling beat-em-ups like Streets of Rage where hordes of enemies were given generic names like “Scarab” and “Dwight.” No attempt is made to give the characters any further identity barring these one-word names so their originality is the only characterisation you’ll get here. They’ve all got bad dubbing jobs too and coupled with the banal script, it makes for some unpleasant characters. It isn’t long before this gang fall afoul of the killer rats and this is where the film becomes interesting.

Bizarrely, the film runs like your standard zombie flick from this point onward where the characters barricade themselves inside from an onslaught, only this time it’s an onslaught of rats. They get well fed in the film so there are no complaints there. The highly ludicrous attacks simply consist of the actors being swamped by a bucket load of rats, seemingly poured in by stage hands off-screen. Some people will actually squirm at scenes of people being covered in the rodents so maybe it’s not all that ridiculous, even making me cringe in a few moments. The rats manage to get pretty much everywhere as well, including a sleeping bag with a nude female.

But due to the low budget, there are only a limited number of rodents on-screen at any one time and in one laughable scene (well the whole film is laughable, just this scene is a little bit more), about twenty rats manage to blockade a staircase and stop the characters from using it. When you see how docile the rats are, you’ll be amazed at the fear they produce in the characters who are petrified for their lives. They could just run past but no, they decide to tremble. In a further sign of budgetary setbacks, a scene in which the rats attack looks like a load of toy rats stuck onto a conveyer belt. Yes, it’s that type of film.

 

For some reason, Mattei claimed that this was his personal favourite out of all of the films he made. I can’t honestly see why! The gore levels are low and there’s little in the way of gratuitous nudity, save for the token sex scene. I know he was used to working on low budgets but this was one takes the biscuit. Rats: Night of Terror is on par with his other work, with the advantage for this being that we all expect a film about killer rats to be as awful as it turns out to be.

 

 ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Altered Species (2001)

Altered-Species-2001

They thought their experiments would change mankind … they were wrong.

A pair of incompetent scientists pour a nasty serum, designed to hunt and destroy cancer cells, down the sink instead of using the proper channels to dispose of waste. This serum enhances the rats it comes into contact with in the sewers, making them extremely violent and even turning one of them into a giant. This is unfortunate for a group of teenagers who show up to meet their friend who works at the lab and find themselves victims to these blood-thirsty killers.

 

Rat films have never gone down too well because let’s face it: people aren’t really scared of rats. They’re more freaked out by them because rats are usually depicted swarming in ridiculous numbers in sewers and basements. They’re hardly up there with sharks and snakes when it comes to the top of the animal most people would not like to be eaten alive by. Rats don’t really do an awful lot anyway so trying to turn them into bloodthirsty monsters is a thankless task. Nevertheless, a couple of recent films have tried to do so. There are the highly originally-titled Rats and Altered Species, which also goes by the name of Rodentz. Someone, somewhere thought putting a ‘z’ on the end instead of an ‘s’ was witty. But how you’ll wish that person was still on board when the rest of the film was made. This is one sorry mess which lacks even the daftest bit of inspiration.

Altered Species is an utterly woeful film with some of the worst special effects ever made and a film so dull that it’s a wonder anyone ever got past the opening half during test screenings. With a plot that’s so thin, it surely needs scientific analysis to prove that it exists. The basic story is literally that of the synopsis I gave – a group of teenagers are trapped inside a laboratory with chemically-enhanced rats. And that’s it! Once the teenagers get to the lab, they spend the rest of the film just skulking around corridors, heading down into basements and generally doing really boring things to kill time before they’re all killed off one-by-one by the rats. It’s almost as if the director was trying to spoon feed the audience – instead of just cutting from one scene to the next, he has to show us every single step that the characters take between rooms. Since nothing happens during these transitions, it’s just pointless filler. But then everything about the film is pointless filler. Even the cast seems to have made up purely of stand-ins. Surely these people aren’t proper actors? This is all some daft joke, isn’t it?

The rats are presented in almost every form available to special effects – there are real rats, CGI rats, plastic rats and even monster suits. None of these effects look in any way, shape or form even the remote bit scary. There are plenty of pathetically-staged rat attacks in which victims just lay on the ground and allow themselves to be swarmed over by the rats or stand there waiting for the rats to catch up to them. The rats even get some Predator-like ‘rat vision’ mode where you can see through their eyes as they scurry around. When they do attack, it’s in showers of CGI blood which will leave no one under the impression that the characters are being killed and eaten, just writhing around on the floor in a pathetic manner whilst the camera shakes rapidly from side to side.

And this is all before the boys in post-production get to do their magic with the CGI. The scene involving the giant rat is even more absurd. Clearly a guy in a giant rat suit, the effect is laughable for the seriousness in which it’s played out. At one point, the creature is set on fire and low and behold, it turns into a STUNT RAT. You know the scenes in action films where flaming stunt men charge across the screen in dramatic fashion after being set on fire. Well this stunt rat manages to ride on top of a moving van before falling inside and appearing to drive it. I guess I have seen it all now.

 

Best get out the traps and poison for this stinker. Altered Species is just vermin, a spreader of disease and plague amongst an already weak field of killer rat films.

 

 ★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 


Killer Rats (2003)

Killer Rats (2003)

Born Hungry

The Brookdale Psychiatric Hospital is a crumbling, run-down institution which is ideal for rich people to send their teenagers for rehab without attracting unwanted attention from the media. An undercover reporter poses as a patient in order to get a scoop on a story but what she didn’t expect to uncover was an infestation of genetically altered rats, the results of long-forgotten experiments by Doctor Winslow, the head of the institute.

 

Killer rat films – somewhere out there is a huge sub-genre of these little bleeders. Apart from being disgusting creatures which spread disease, rats aren’t exactly up there with great white sharks and grizzly bears when it comes to the fear factor. So why are there so many? Like the killer shark flick, there’s only so much one can do with a film about killer rats. They’re too small to be a threat on their own so you know at some point there’s going to be a scene with a whole horde of rats causing mayhem. Whatever else happens is of little relevance because this is about the only thing that rats can do to make them intimidating. Judging by the rest of Nu Image’s atrocious creature features, my hopes for seeing anything other than an abominable waste of time were not high. And low and behold, Killer Rats made sure that any little hope I had was actually exceeded. It’s not going to be on anyone’s DVD shelf but the ninety-two minutes were nowhere near as bad as I had predicted it to be.

Killer Rats had some minor potential for extra marks in my eventual rating but the problems are the effects. I know this is low budget but come on! The special effects are terrible and even worse, they’re shown a lot. To show the fact that they’re super-intelligent rats, they’re given glowing red eyes. Oh scary! The attacks are filled with silly-looking CGI rats which don’t look to be interacting with their victims in the slightest form which is a bit of a shame considering that it’s clear some real rats were used in the build-up scenes. We also get a couple of rat POV shots as they home in on their victims which seem a little out of place. These are rodents, not the Predator using its thermal vision! The giant rat at the end of the film looks even worse and kills any potential pay-off that the build-up was gearing towards. It’s all well and good trying to make rats scary but the effects just ruin the illusion.

The setting is pretty good and there are plenty of dark, damp and deserted places in the hospital to create something of an atmosphere. But as soon as these awful rats scurry onto the screen, everything goes up in smoke. There’s also a weird sub-plot about the janitor being able to telepathically communicate with them and command them but he’s soon dispatched when things don’t go the rats way. At least the majority of the gore is of the traditional kind and there’s plenty of it here with various decomposing bodies and bloody rat attacks. The rats get well fed throughout the film too and like any classic creature feature flick, unnecessary characters are introduced in the same scene that they’re killed off simply to up the body count.

Ron Perlman pops up in a small role as the head doctor in the hospital. So it’s not a major role and it’s a pretty embarrassing film to have your résumé but at least he doesn’t slum too badly, probably because the role has pretty much zero development throughout the film. I guess he needs something to do to pass the time between major roles but from the film’s point of view, surely a cheaper actor in that throwaway role would have freed up more cash for the effects. The rest of the cast are acceptable enough in their stereotypical roles and with the daft script not giving them too much to do, it’s hard to be too critical. Put it this way, I’ve seen a lot worse in this type of film. Don’t even think about the fact that this hospital consists of around three medical staff, one janitor and about seven patients. Just go with the flow and remember what film you’re watching.

 

It’s hard to say that I enjoyed Killer Rats because it was a bit of a slog to get through at times but with a bigger budget for the special effects, this could have worked a lot better as a low grade shocker. As it stands, Rats delivers an adequate and inoffensive dose of grade-z hokey.

 

 ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆