Thursday, October 15, 2009

In short: Rats - Night of Terror (1984)

A post-apocalyptic gypsy punk rocker clan lead by a certain Kurt (Ottaviano Dell'Acqua) comes to a group of deserted houses (or is it supposed to be a city street?). Inside one of the buildings, in an interior that looks pretty much like a cross between an old Spaghetti Western saloon and a SF set too shoddy for Al Brescia, they find a large cache of food, a futuristic looking aquarium, I mean water distiller, and a shabby looking assortment of plants.

There are also a bunch of dead bodies hidden away to make for "shocking" finds, and a whole lot of rats. After a little clean-up, the nomads decide to stay there for a while and enjoy their new vegetable garden.

That was probably not their best idea, for in the first night the rats attack. And oh, these are fiendishly clever rats. Some rat commandos (or is it ninja rats?) sneak up on the group's vehicles and nibble through their wheels, leaving our merry band of heroes without the possibility of escape. Except by walking, of course, but the gang seems to be against just walking away on principle and decide with the sort of logic only the duo of Fragasso and Mattei can provide, after the first of them have been killed by those evil nibblers, to barricade themselves  in the same building where they first met their squeaking enemies. Would you believe that this isn't a very good idea?

Ah, "written by Claudio Fragasso", "directed by Bruno Mattei". Are there words better suited to frighten those familiar with the true depths of horror?

By Mattei/Fragasso standards, Rats isn't all that bad. Sure, the acting is atrocious and the way the characters act makes as little sense as the plot, but it's not as painful as it could be. If you can keep your compassion with the poor rats under control, the film has even some things to recommend it, or rather to point and laugh at.

I did already mention the acting and the plot, but inane dialogue also comes oh so naturally to Fragasso. It is a virtual feast of stupidity that culminates in a very special twist ending stolen from a Twilight Zone script as written by a drunken teenager. Afterwards, said teenager probably went on to write the motorcycle/samurai sword sequence in Demons, so I'm not going to blame him too much.

The most memorable thing about the film are its special effects. Absolute highpoint is probably the "rug o'rats", a plastic or papiermache contraption meant to embody a slow moving mass of rats, yet mostly effective in evoking giggling fits. Other moments of cinematic greatness are the adorable throat jumping rat dolls, an exploding (it's the rats, you know) corpse and lots and lots of footage of rats just going about their business, while our protagonists are panicking and describing the devilish evil of ratdom, without a care about the fact that the rats are just ignoring them. Unless a bunch of the poor animals is just thrown at a character's face - that's what goes under "rat attack" here.

Other moments of Magrasso magic include the wonderful scene in which a handful of rats break a barricaded door down by somehow crawling around in front of it and pushing a hollowed out corpse against it. It's probably rat sorcery.

Rats - Night of Terror truly is one of the great comedies.



Todd said...

What does it say about me that I was actually excited to see that you'd reviewed a Bruno Mattei film? Literally couldn't wait to read it. Must be because, while I've been let down in all of the expected ways by each and every one his films that I've seen, I've never failed to be entertained.

houseinrlyeh said...

Yes, well, it was the first among a package of cheap German DVDs and for some reason I avoided King Hu and Cheng Cheh and other actual classics and went right to the Mattei first. It's probably his own very special magic. Or hypnotoad.