Rats: Night of Terror (1984)

Author: Brett Gallman
Submitted by: Brett Gallman   Date : 2012-05-18 09:19

Written by: Claudio Fragasso, Bruno Mattei, and Herve Piccini
Directed by: Bruno Mattei
Starring: Ottaviano Dell‘Acqua, Geretta Geretta, Massimo Vanni, and Gianni Franco

Reviewed by: Brett G.

“If you must copulate, why don‘t you go outside and do it?”
“Why don‘t you just shut up? I was just getting ready to blast off!”

Only Italy could come up with a cinematic mash-up like this one. What happens when you take a post-apocalyptic setting (an early 80s hot spot due to the success of Mad Max) and combine it with killer rats? Well, if it all comes together under the watchful eye of Bruno Mattei, you get what you naturally associate with rats: cheese. The little rodents had their day in in the early 70s with the success of Willard and Ben, but it took them a decade to finally resurface and have this, their Night of Terror!

A hundred years into the future, the earth has been ravaged by nuclear war. All that’s left is a scorched surface, leaving some humans buried underground while others scavenge in packs above to survive. One of these packs arrive in a desolate town in search of supplies; however, they find something much worse in the form of killer, flesh-eating human rats that will stop at nothing to consume them all! The little bastards are even smart enough to immobilize the gang’s motorcycles, forcing them to hole up in an abandoned facility that also houses some secrets about the rats’ origins.

People usually leave cheese out in an attempt to trick and kill rodents, but in this case it’s exactly the opposite. Mattei dangles an absurd and almost irresistible premise, wraps it up in cheese, and promptly ensnares an unsuspecting viewer. This is train-wreck cinema at its finest, and it’s exactly the type of movie you’ve been warned about if you’ve heard whispers about terrible Italian horror films. This one has it all: terrible over-acting, even worse dub jobs, unintentionally hilarious dialogue, laughable effects, and just an overall cheap and rushed feel. Then again, I’m not sure what else you’d expect from the guy who helped to usher in both Zombie 3 and Hell of the Living Dead, two examples of mozzarella madness in their own right.

I suppose it isn’t all bad here, but the good is few and far between. It’s also pretty easy to guess what few redeeming qualities there are: some gratuitous nudity, good gore effects, and a somewhat atmospheric quality that seems to be inherent in most Euro-horror films, no matter how bad they really are. The early, desolate setting actually does give off a nice, creepy, haunted-house and crypt-like vibe. The gratuitous nudity speaks for itself, but the gore is something that really is noteworthy. The rats chew up corpses in a big way, and there are some scenes where they emerge out of the corpses, to neat effect. There’s one scene where a rat crawls into the sleeping bag of a naked chick, kills her, and ends up crawling out of her mouth. How do you think it got inside her in the first place?

The film is full of such inexplicable stuff. This is without a doubt one of the stupidest collection of characters in film history. They manage to mess up easy things, like leaving a huge, obvious window wide open for the rats to get into somehow (it’s obvious they’re being thrown in by unseen crew members). They wield flaming torches, which they don’t use to set the rodents on fire; instead, they tip-toe through the horde for whatever reason, probably to pad the already too long running time. They take to fighting each other instead of the rats, which must be some kind of Romero-inspired madness; it’s already stretching believability when such strife is used in the context of zombies, but rats? Speaking of them, here’s perhaps the craziest thing of all: it’s pretty obvious the title characters aren’t rats at all, but rather guinea pigs that were painted up to look otherwise. I think that says all you need to know about this one.

Or maybe not because I’ll leave you with one more morsel: if it doesn’t sound insane enough, just wait until you make it to the ending, if you can get that far. The fact that the film is so entertainingly bad should get you that point, at least. If you’re not laughing at the overall premise, the actors (many of whom are familiar faces for Italian hardcores) and the dub jobs will help you out immensely. Want to catch these rodents? If so, you amazingly have multiple options. Your best bet, however, is to go with the double feature that Anchor Bay released back in 2003, a package that also includes the aforementioned Hell of the Living Dead. It’s out of print now, but if you can get it cheap, you can have two Mattei “classics” for the price of one. The presentation for Rats is probably about as good as it can get for this one: the transfer is pretty grainy, but it’s very watchable. The audio is really low and muffled, though, so you’ll have to turn it up just a bit louder than usual if you want to catch all the absurdity. As if the feature film weren’t special enough, the lone extra feature is an interview with Mattei, where even he admits he doesn't like his own films. I will at least give Rats this much credit: it’s so bad and outlandish that you will remember it. And because of that, it gets a very hesitant Rent it!

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