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.



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