Archive for the For Rats’ Eyes Only Category

For Rats’ Eyes Only: THE RATS (2002)

Posted in 2012, Animals Attack, Disease!, For Rats' Eyes Only, LL Soares Reviews, Rats, TV-Movies with tags , , , , on January 24, 2013 by knifefighter

FOR RATS’ EYES ONLY: Reviews of Movies About Rats


Presents:

THE RATS (2002)

Review by L.L. Soares

TheRats_2002_PosterJust when you thought it was safe to sit on the toilet! Up come the rats from the sewer!

That’s the thing about these pesky rodents. Once they start popping up, they seem to be everywhere, as Madchen Amick finds out in THE RATS (2002), which plays on the fears people who live in big cities have about rat infestations. It all begins simply enough in a Manhattan department store called Garsons, where a customer in a dressing room is bitten by something under a pile of clothes. The store manager, Susan Costello (Madchen Amick, probably best known as Shelly Johnson on TWIN PEAKS from 1990 -1991, although she’s been in a ton of television shows and movies since), tells the girl that she must have cut her finger on a floor tack, but she should have it checked out. Not long afterwards, Susan gets a call from the hospital, and when she goes to visit the woman, she finds out that it’s clear that it’s a bite and the woman is dying from a disease that is spread by rats.

Susan’s boss, Ms. Page (Sheila Mccarthy), is in a panic when she thinks about how such publicity could affect their department store. She tells Susan to fire the store’s exterminators and hire the best in the city, and in comes Jack Carver (Vincent Spano), a handsome rat specialist who knows how to play the game with the Health Department (he’s friends with the guy in charge) and is well-versed in keeping things discreet. Except, the rat problem turns out to be much bigger than anyone expected.

Meanwhile, Susan and her daughter Amy (Daveigh Chase) see a rat outside their apartment window, and soon afterwards, the local swimming pool where Amy goes to swim has a rat attack (they come out of the air vents), revealing that the problem extends to several city blocks.

Beware, THE RATS are coming!

Beware, THE RATS are coming!

As Susan and Jack find themselves getting increasingly attracted to each other, they also team up to investigate how bad the infestation is. This involves such interesting scenes as Jack and his partner Ty (Shawn Michael Howard) using ultra-violet light to uncover where rat droppings are throughout the store after hours, when the lights are out. As they discover false walls and secret passageways that were long covered up, the three of them eventually end up in the basement, which is a breeding ground for the vicious vermin, who have started attacking people (just ask the superintendent of Susan’s apartment building, who gets gobbled up by the rats). And there’s also the use of a cool bomb-defusing robot that is used to explore the subterranean lair of the rats, and uses it camera eyes to send back visuals to the people above.

We learn lots of interesting things, like rats are constantly chewing hard things to keep their teeth from growing too big for their mouths (their “chew toys” include metal and concrete) and that they’re constantly incontinent (thus the droppings everywhere). By the time Jack, Ty and Susan have tracked the rats’ origins down to a deserted lab that was doing medical experiments on them (that made them stronger and more aggressive), it looks like the entire city might be in danger.

If rats make you squeamish, you might not like the scene where a rat tries to push its way up out of a toilet while Amy gets ready for her bath. Or thousands of rats plummeting onto a subway train, bringing it to a stop and pouring inside the open windows. Or the big finale that involves a huge, drained swimming pool full of what looks like millions of rodents.

Machen Amick takes a swim in a pool full of rats in THE RATS.

Machen Amick takes a swim in a pool full of rats in THE RATS.

THE RATS was originally a TV-movie, but there’s some nudity early on that was obviously added for the European market, which isn’t as uptight as America is. The acting is decent for this kind of throwaway movie, and the rats look scary enough (it’s a mix of real rats and CGI effects, with enough real ones to make it convincing). The script is simple enough— rats are discovered and exterminator tracks them down, with a love story added— but it works. Director John Lafia keeps things suspenseful, and there are some good moments toward the end when you might feel a shiver or two as the rats pile up.

Not a great rat movie, or a great movie in general, but above-average for what started as a TV-movie. I liked it for what it was, and I’ve always liked Madchen Amick, so it was good to see her in a lead role here.

I give it two and a half out of five rats.

© Copyright 2013 by L.L. Soares

For Rats’ Eyes Only: OF UNKNOWN ORIGIN (1983)

Posted in 1980s Horror, 2012, Animals Attack, For Rats' Eyes Only, Horror Movies, LL Soares Reviews, Rats with tags , , , , on October 4, 2012 by knifefighter

FOR RATS’ EYES ONLY: Reviews of Movies About Rats


Presents:

OF UNKNOWN ORIGIN (1983)

By L.L. Soares

Welcome to the new column “For Rats’ Eyes Only.” One subgenre of the horror film I’ve always enjoyed is the one that involves rats, strangely enough, and there are enough of these movies so that I can review one every once in awhile.

We begin with 1983’s OF UNKNOWN ORIGIN starring Peter Weller, before he starred in the cult classic THE ADVENTURES OF BUCKAROO BONZAI ACROSS THE 8TH DIMENSION (1984) and his most famous role, as the titular ROBOCOP (1987).

Here, Weller plays Bart Hughes, a high-powered businessman on the verge of a promotion and a possible partnership in his Manhattan firm. He is given a job restructuring their Los Angeles office, an assignment that will decide whether he gets that promotion or not. Meanwhile, his wife Meg (Shannon Tweed in her first feature film role, after some work on television) is going on vacation with their young son Peter (Leif Anderson) to visit Bart’s in-laws for awhile. The understanding is that he’ll join them at some point, when he’s done with his assignment. However, things don’t go as planned.

It begins when Bart’s kitchen gets flooded after something damages the water hose in the dishwasher. At first it seems to be a freak accident, until the local handyman, Clete (Louis Del Grande) takes a look and tells Bart that it looks like something chewed through the hose, and he might have a vermin problem. “Have you seen any mice?” Clete asks. How about rats!

Sure, Bart’s house is beautiful. But this is the big city, and rats are everywhere, Clete explains, whether or not we can see them.

Bart finds it almost impossible to believe he has a rat problem. His house is pristine, and he did all of the renovations himself, but he takes Clete’s advice and gets some mouse traps, just to be safe. He even cuts big pieces of cheddar cheese to put in the traps. When he starts finding the traps untouched, but the cheese missing, he starts to realize he might just have a rodent problem after all.

So he gets bigger, more vicious looking traps. When those don’t work he gets two kinds of poison. And the situation escalates more and more, and Bart finds that he is not dealing with a simple, everyday rat. He’s dealing with some kind of super rat that is always one step ahead of him, anticipating his every move, and avoiding all of his attempts to kill it. So two things happen. The rat gets smarter and more aggressive as Bart tries to kill it. And Bart begins to get obsessed with getting rid of the rat, so much so that he stops paying attention to his work or his family. He’s up all night, so he gets hardly any sleep. And when he is awake, he’s looking online for ways to get rid of rats, or calling exterminators who never pick up their phones (“They’re probably overworked,” Clete suggests).

The title refers to a photo of a species of rat that’s “of unknown origin,” that we see briefly while Bart is doing research and collecting all kinds of books and magazines on the subject.

Eventually, it becomes all out war between Bart and the rat. His entire life seems focused on eliminating the creature. He won’t evacuate the house he spent so much time renovating – it’s a matter of principle—and the rat isn’t going anywhere either. It has chewed an intricate maze of tunnels throughout the house, in the walls and the ventilation system. When Bart chases the creature and tries to kill it, it even attacks him, digging its teeth into him, slashing him with its claws, and it’s pretty big—about the size of a large cat. In fact, there’s a scene where Bart adopts a cat, attempting to use the animal to get rid of his nemesis. Let’s say it doesn’t work out very well.

The rat is watching you, in OF UNKNOWN ORIGIN.

There are some scenes that play out almost like comedy. Bart’s single-mindedness in hunting the vermin down, and the way it constantly eludes him, takes on the feel of an old Warner Brothers cartoon at times. But every time it seems funny, the movie shows us a close up of the rat’s drooling fangs, and we realize this thing means business.

In a pivotal scene, Bart ends up in some home-made armor of sorts, with a miner’s light duct-taped to his head, protective equipment on his body, and a baseball bat with protruding nails as a weapon. By this point, he has almost lost his mind in his striving to rid his environment of this intruder.

Peter Weller prepares for war, in OF UNKNOWN ORIGIN.

OF UNKNOWN ORIGIN isn’t the best rat-related movie I’ve seen, but it is a good one. And you get caught up in the story, just like Bart gets caught up in his mission.

I give it three cat-sized rodents!

© Copyright 2012 by L.L. Soares