Thursday, 10 July 2014

They're in the Walls! 5 Horror Movies about Rats!

**Please note that there may be spoilers throughout the blog**

  Rats!  Considered to be one of the deadliest pests, linked with at least a dozen diseases according to the CDC and the main contributor to the outbreak of the bubonic plague, this adorable creatures ability to think and adapt has allowed them survive all these years.  I've read that New York City is known for its sizeable rats, probably urban myths but if these rats are getting bigger and smarter, who
 knows what they may be planning.  So, to defend ourselves from the upcoming rat takeover, I suggest we watch some films about our enemy, see what we may be up against and what the best course of action is to take. 

Here are 5 Rattus Atrocitas Membrana:

5. Willard (1971) - Willard is a meek young man, who lives with his sick mother and slaves away at a company his father started but has been stolen away from his family since his father's death by a man named Mr. Martin.  Willard is bullied and ridiculed at work and he never meets the expectations of his mother and her friends when he gets home.  He doesn't have a friend in the world, until he meets the rats who live in his yard.  He becomes friends with them and starts feeding and training them to understand his language and commands but must keep this secret because his mother would want to destroy all his new playmates.
  Unfortunately, one day Willard's mother dies and Mr. Martin has his greedy eye on Willard's house.  Mr. Martin and his cronies come up with schemes to get the house and eventually he just  fires Willard, so he will be forced to sell the house.  Can Willard and his army of rats stop Mr. Martin and get revenge for his misdoings or as the trap been laid and about to snap on Willard?
  This was pretty good but it's a little slow paced.  I enjoyed the story and Bruce Davidson (Apt Pupil, Short Cuts) is really good as Willard.  As the story progresses, Willards' decent into dementia is well played out and his only hold on reality is his office girlfriend (kind of) Joan, played by Sondra Locke (Death Game, Ratboy).  Who I think is terribly underused in this film.
   Ernest Borgnine (Escape From New York, The Devil's Rain) is great in this, he's perfect as the lecherous conniving boss trying to push Willard out of the house.  It's also funny to see rats being thrown at him because you know that was somebody's job to throw rats at Ernest Borgnine.  Best job ever!
  The story does take a while to get to the horror aspect and there is a rather small death toll in this, which includes a rat being killed on camera, so just a heads up.  The other deaths are alright, lots of rats chewing on people kind of thing.  This is a good film to start off any rat marathons but it may not tastiest piece of cheese.

4. Killer Rats (2003) - The Brookedale Institute is the last stop for messed up rich kids to get their shit together and it is becoming privatized.  Samantha has been sent here because of her last suicide attempt and she may be in for a bit more than she can gnaw, umm...chew.  Her roommate is crazy & obsessive, the guy in the rec room has violent OCD and the only person she seems to get a long with is the hunky former movie actor, Johnny Falls. Well, they do say love is crazy.
  One night, Samantha wonders out of her room and discovers another patient on the floor being eaten by rats and the custodial engineer, Ernst cleaning it up.  Samantha freaks out and tries to find another staff member but when she does, the mess has already been cleaned up and the staff thinks that it's Samantha's mental well being that is causing hallucinations.  Well played Ernst, well played.
  However, as the days go on, more and more patients are mysteriously being transferred from the Institute for strange and unknown reasons.  Can Samantha, with the help of Johnny, find out what 's going on in that rat's nest of a hospital or are they going to be served up as an entree to the vermin?
  This film was a lot better than I was expecting.  I was really disappointed by director Tibor Takacs (The Gate, I, Madman) "Spider 3D" movie so I wasn't expecting much from this one but there was a pretty decent story in this.  He uses the rats well in this and keeps them in the dark for the first half, with a lot of scenes with glowing eyes and tails whipping away.  When he does reveal the rats, it's no perfect,because there is a lot of CG going on and they don't look quite as real as you would hope, but it's good enough.  The script starts to falter half way through but like a rat in water, the story and the scary does keep it's head above water enough to get to the credits.
  I was also surprised to see Ron Pearlman (Hellboy, Ice Pirates) in this as a minor role as a doctor and the rest of the cast were adequate in this B-thriller.  Again there is some interesting CG going on here, like rats miraculously & magically coming through the floor, but the amount of blood and guts make up for it.  This is a will gnaw 90 minutes of your time but it's fun and is gory enough to keep you watching.

3. The Food of the Goods (1976) - Professional football players, Morgan and Davis are heading up to a remote island in Canada with there PR person, Brian.  While they're there, Davis is attacked and killed by a a giant wasp.  Didn't see that coming did you?  So, Morgan runs off into the wilderness to get help and comes across a small farm house and a barn.  He bangs on the door but nobody answers, so he wanders into the barn, only to be attacked by a giant cock! Yes, a giant rooster attacks him and Morgan kills the rooster and narrowly escapes.  When he comes out of the barn, Mrs.Skinner greets him and tells him that there are giant creatures every where and it's because of some magical excretion from the ground, that she and her husband mix in the animals food (?).  She tells him to just get off the island before he gets hurt, so Morgan grabs Brian and they hit the road.
  The following weekend, Morgan has convinced Brian that they need to go back to the island and destroy all the creatures there for revenge and safety.  Of course!  Also, 2 people who want to buy the Skinners formula have come to the island, as well as a young pregnant couple just happen to be vacationing there as well.  Once everybody is on the island, they all get attacked by giant rats!  Eventually, they come together and barricade themselves into the Skinners small farm house, "Night of the Living Dead" style, then try to come up with a plan to escape.  Will these people be eaten by rats or will they be able to escape with there tails between their legs?
  This is a bad movie but it's more laughable bad than some films I've seen.  I mean, giant chickens, c'mon.  This film was based on portions of a novel of the same name from H.G. Wells and was so successful that American International created a sequel for this film and two more H.G. Wells inspired films.  However, unlike the story from Wells, this screenplay has some series holes.  Like, why didn't Morgan call the police after his friend died and didn't anyone ask where Davis was?  I'm sure there was some sort of Environmental agency to that could have been contacted and Morgan and Brian could have just stayed home.  Also, my favourite part is when everyone realizes that Morgan has gotten them trapped and they may all die but they could have probably escaped hours ago.
  The acting is okay, film legend Ida Lupino (High Sierra, On Dangerous Ground) is in her Joan Crawford time of her career and plays Mrs. Skinner and Ralph Meeker (Paths of Glory, The Dirty Dozen) also in the twilight of his career, plays the evil greedy executive Mr. Bensington.
  The rats are done up pretty well and there are a lot of them.  The only issue is that they actually are killing these rats or these are some Oscar winning performances given by these animals.  Also, the wasps are okay, in the hokey big bug seventies way but again it's fun to see.  This isn't the "Worst Rodent Movie of All Time" as suggested by some critics but it's not really the best either. 

2. Of Unknown Origin (1983) - Business man Bart Hughes has a loving family, a gorgeous home, which he remodeled, and is up for a promotion at his job.  This all takes a turn for the worse after his wife and son leave on vacation and he discovers that there is a rat sharing his abode.  He thinks he can handle the issue himself but the rat easily avoids his traps and poisons and Bart soon becomes obsessed with capturing and killing this creature.  Bart starts missing work, avoiding his families calls and starts destroying the home that he built to catch this interloper.  Will Bart finally catch his white whale of a rat or will he flounder and be beaten and eaten by a rat.
  I really enjoyed this film and thought Peter Weller (Robocop, Naked Lunch) was really great.  The film has a tiny cast and it really hinges on Weller's performances.  Watching him go head to head with this animal is fantastic.
  I was surprised by how many jump scares there were in the film and easily I was pulled in.  Director George P. Cosmatos (Tombstone, Cobra) keeps a steady tone of terror throughout the film and it becomes a real game of cat and mouse or in this case man and rat, each trying to destroy the other.  My only issue is that I would have like to seen Weller win a couple more because he is getting pummeled by this rodent throughout the film. There isn't a huge bodycount in this film but but it is a good film featuring one of the oldest plots, Man vs. Nature but in a modern setting.  So, if you want a tactical idea how to get rid of a rat, than this is it. 

1. Deadly Eyes (1982) - After inspector, Kelly Leonard finds infected grain in the shipyard, she demands that it be burned because it is contaminated and cannot be eaten by people.  Unfortunately, it has been eaten by neighbourhood rats and has made them grow to incredible sizes.  Also, now that their food supply is being burned, these giant rats have to go find something else to eat, like people!?!
 Kelly believes she's made the world safer, so, she goes on a jog to get ready for the Mayor's unveiling of the subway line.  On her run, she meets up with divorced dad, high school teacher and 80's hunk, Paul Harris.  She learns that Paul's son is crazy about trains and asks him out on a date.  Deciding a date with Kelly is more appetizing than a frozen dinner, Paul accepts and the two go out that evening.  While on their date, the rats kill a baby and her babysitter, an old man and the character Scatman Crothers plays!  Those are some busy rats!
  The next morning before Kelly has a chance to kick Paul out of her apartment, she is told about Scatman's death.  Her and Paul race around town collecting clues to find out what's causing all these mysterious deaths.  After realizing that it's the rats, the two call it a date and go home to get ready for the Mayor's Subway unveiling.  Sadly, when Kelly arrives to pick up Paul and his son, she discovers a student of Paul's in the bedroom with him.  So, Kelly kidnaps, I mean takes Paul's son and leaves Paul pulling up his pants.  However, just as they leave, Paul gets a distressing phone call to let them know that yes giant rats exists and they want to eat fresh and will be at the subway unveiling.  Can Paul get there in time to save his child and latest on night stand or will they be they a cold cut combo for this giant vermin.
  This is a fun film and the third act is the best part.  Once they get past all the set ups, director Robert Clouse (Enter The Dragon, Gymkata) lets the rats feast on the whole city and there are some pretty gruesome scenes.  I was surprised that they inferred that the rats ate a baby as well because for 1980 that is a pretty hard thing to swallow.  Again you don't see it, but there is a baby and then there isn't one.
  Sam Groom from Police Surgeon fame and Sara Botsford (Tremors 4, Fog (2005)) do an alright job in the lead roles in this and Lisa Langlois (Class of 1984, Happy Birthday to Me), as well as Scatman Crothers (The Shining, Black Belt Jones) also show up briefly.  The big stars of the film though were the Dachshunds wearing giant rat suits and I must say they looked better than the ones in the "Killer Shrews".  Anyway this is a fun film and if you can avoid the cheesy nibbling of romance at the beginning and end up in the trap of terror at the end, then you'll be one happy rat.

Sure rats may not take over but these are sure interesting creatures.  In most of the films, there are a lot of terrifying facts about these animals that I didn't know, I'm sure the screen writer may be exaggerating but there were a few key ideas that kept popping up.  So, if you hear your pipes squeaking or see a pair of glowing in the dark, put down that cheddar and run!

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