Monday, April 11, 2016


RATS: Night Of Terror Directed By Bruno Mattei, Starring Ottaviano Dell'Acqua (1984).

Reviewed By Webberly Rattenkraft

When I got the encrypted pigeongram that told me Theater of Guts needed me for a movie review, I had a momentary crisis of confidence, the kind where part of my brain keeps shrieking, "They only want your opinion because you're a rat! They don't respect you as an individual!" Still, it's important that the rat point of view should be represented in the media¹, regardless of the motives of those providing the platform, right? Right, so that voice can fuck right the fuck off. Thus, here we go with Bruno "Vincent Dawn" Mattei's futuristic-ish thriller, Rats: Night of Terror, a twist on the domestic mayhem of home invasion classics like Straw Dogs and Home Alone, taking place in a post-apocalyptic wasteland where the eighties never ended. The scene is set by some helpful introductory text to effect that humans blew themselves up with a good old-fashioned nuclear hoedown, and the survivors fled underground to live together in scientific harmony. A splinter group in turn fled back above ground to live as full-time Road Warrior cosplayers. Ominous hints will eventually be dropped about the underground nerds physically modifying themselves to adapt to the post-war world, but no details are specified, almost as if something were being saved for a Big Shocking Twist.

Our beloved rodent critic diggin into some choice Balun scribblings 

   We meet our villains first, a ragged bunch of wasteland wanderers, every one of them looking like they're making the Ride of Shame home after a night of angry anonymous sex in the wake of a botched audition for Thunderdome! the Roller-Musical. These shaggy ne'ver-do-wells gear up in an extremely tidy scrapyard and bust their way into some kind of isolated science-type facility. What it's all for is left unsaid, but like any good science place, it requires a vast network of pipes. The future nerd race is nowhere to be found, but we soon learn--accompanied by a truly unconscionable amount of shrieking--that the place has been thoroughly colonized in their absence by happy hordes of learning-minded rats. They've gotten busy building a rodential Sciencetopia, even turning the hydrofiltration system into a bitchin' waterslide. The bumbling bikers get busy trashing the place, but their intrusion won't go unanswered for long. That's right, our insufferable interlopers are about to meet justice at the claws of thousands of adorable little murder machines with advanced intelligence and an array of improvised self-defense devices. Thanks no doubt to the movie's painfully low budget, we never see any of the sophisticated weapons the rats have, but their arsenal includes some sort of catapult that flings clutches³ of them onto a target, and once in a while a kamikaze squad will drop in from above^4. The mighty science-based power of the collective rat society is an unstoppable force, and the invaders are soon reduced to a Final Girl and a Ken doll, rescued at the last second by those physically-modified future nerds, who are... *DUN*DUN*DUNNNNN* giant rats! W00T! Double-burn, filthy human scum!

futuristic marketing

   On the way to that twist, though, you have to endure a lot of deeply annoying people, one of whom is dubbed by the same guy who dubbed Ian "It stinks!" Sera for one of my all-time favorite MST3k episodes, Pod People. Just, you know, fun fact and all. Speaking of dubbing, you know who deserves one of those "beer after a long, hard working man's day of unappreciated labor" commercials? The poor shlub in the ADR booth who has to try to sync terrible dialogue to the halting lip movements of an Italian actor stumbling phonetically through their lines. There's a lot of phonetic stumbling in this one, let me tell you.


 You know what else there's a lot of? Rats. Some rat movies really shortchange you in the rodent department, but not Rats: Night of Terror. Rather than leaving the burden of carrying the movie to a single rat hero, Mattei instead lets the rats form a single, faceless Rattengestalt, a true socialist horde where the collective transcends the individual. To that end, literal boxes of rats are emptied just off-camera over shrieking actors^5. Either the Italian Humane Society is incredibly bad at its job, or Bruno Mattei snuck^6 under their radar somehow, because there's no way, no how that no rats were harmed during the making of this movie. For fuck's sake, at one point, a stuntman in full fire gear walks around in flames, with what are clearly live rats perched on him. Full disclosure: to be honest, they seem rather nonchalant about the whole thing. You can see them leaping off after the stuntman dropped, making little metal hands. Could be that every last one of my brethren made it intact to the wrap party, but I nevertheless harbor doubts.

I'm burning, I'm burning, I'm burning for minimum wage

On the positive side, the movie provides a valuable lesson for budget-conscious directors: You can save a lot of money on animal training if you don't try to have the animals in your movie do anything in particular. Just show rats hanging out, doing their little rat things, and have characters scream, "They're gathering to attack!" or "They're chewing through all the wires!" or "They're grooming their Death Claws with poison saliva venom!" Throw in some scary music and your audience will be happy to be terrified by whatever you tell them is going on, because people just lose all their objectivity when confronted with writhing hordes of--and I use this word without moral judgment--vermin. 

If it achieves nothing except to pierce a few eardrums and maybe make you run outside and punch a bike messenger, Rats: Night of Terror at least stands proud as the first rodential entry in the Home Defense Massacre subgenre. Underneath the multiple layers of incompetence, weirdness, and failure, it clearly demonstrates the ability of a faceless socialist horde of science rats to carry an action movie. Try telling that to today's timid, reboot-and-franchise-driven Hollywood, though. Any ambitious young directors out there looking for a remake opportunity with an incredibly low bar to clear, check this one out. I recommend Blue Underground's sweet-ass Blu-ray double-feature, which includes Bruno Mattei's astonishing surrealist masterpiece HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD, a chilling allegorical trip inside the head of a hack director who suffers a cascading series of strokes while pitching a cheap rip-off of DAWN OF THE DEAD, sending him spinning into vortices of madness, flesh-eating, and cross-dressing while the viewer is dragged helplessly along.

1. No offense, but you humans really have a bug up your ass about us, although I will say that in my encounters with horror fans, I've encountered no particular prejudice, and in fact, quite a lot of hugging.
2. The movie's actual apocalypse takes place in the dizzying future year of 2015, but these events are taking place a couple hundred years later.
3. An airborne group of rats is called a clutch.
4. Most likely from a blimp, based on assumed carrying capacity and silent hover.
5. I do feel bad for the poor production assistant who had to dump rats all over a shrieking but hot actress knowing she would never speak to him again, but he's still going on the Enemies List.^7
6. Yeah, "snuck" is non-standard and thus to be avoided, according to the pedants. You'd think they'd be happy to see a new irregular verb appearing to counter the decline of the English language that they're always bitching about, but nope. Some people are not just happy unless they're pissed off.
7. Not that I'm keeping an Enemies List. It's a figure of speech.


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