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Reviewer: Paff
Review Date: April 30, 2002

Released by: Anchor Bay Entertainment
Release date: 2/19/2002
MSRP: $19.98
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes



Elementary school student Johnny was well known for his foul language. Every time he opened his mouth, a string of profanities would horrify his teacher. Countless trips to the principal and weeks of detention could not curb the problem.

One day, his teacher played a game where she would say a letter of the alphabet, and the students would come up with words that began with that letter. She began with A, and Johnny was the first to raise his hand. Ever mindful of Johnny's X-rated vocabulary, she pretended not to see him until Mary raised her hand and said "Apple."

"Very good, Mary," the teacher replied, and she continued the exercise with B. Once again, Johnny raised his hand immediately, but the teacher waited until Billy offered "Baseball."

"Excellent, Billy."

And the pattern continued throughout the alphabet, until she reached the letter R. Johnny waved his hand furiously in the air, and his teacher, thinking that no profanities began with R, hesitantly called on him.

"Rats", Johnny replied. The teacher breathed a sigh of relief, and then with a big smile, Johnny added "Big FUCKIN' rats! With dicks nine inches long!!"

I don't know if that joke was Bruno Mattei's inspiration for his film Rats: Night of Terror, but there sure are a lot of big rats in this movie. Perhaps not as well endowed as the ones little Johnny spoke of, but still big. Mattei's film is almost as funny as that joke as well, intentionally or not. If you want to see our bleak and rat-infested future, get yourself a copy of Rats: Night of Terror.

The Story

It's the year 225 AB (After the Bomb). Yes, like several Italian movies in the early 80s, there's been a nuclear blast and the entire world is a wasteland roamed by vicious motorcycle gangs. Those living above ground are the "Primitives" (not to be confused with the late 80s Brit-pop band) while the more civilized now live below ground. None of this is important for most of the movie, but it will be on the final, so take notes.

A large group of these primitives (with clever names like Lucifer, Chocolate, Taurus, Video, etc) and their leader Kurt (Richard Raymond) happen upon an abandoned building and prepare to spend the night. The building contains food, water, electronic equipment, and oh yeah, thousands of rats. Undaunted, they eat, drink, cavort, and have sex while the rats scurry about. Soon however, the rats begin to attack the group. As gang members fall one-by-one, they must make a stand against the rats, as well as a mutiny led by Duke (Henry Luciani).

That's really all there is to Rats: Night of Terror: various set pieces and situations of humans vs. rats. The end of the film finally does tie into the post-apocalyptic theme, but in between it's all just rats.


I really dislike Bruno Mattei. Not because his films are bad (and Rats is no exception), but because I honestly feel he could make a good film if he'd just put a little more effort into it. Rats has some of the worst dialogue, unbelievable set-ups, laughable effects, and poorest acting you'll ever see on film. But the film is still competently made, at least visually. The lighting schemes are quite nice (check out the blue lighting early in the film, as well as the green when two characters discover the indoor garden), and the composition and camera angles are quite professional as well. Now, it may seem like faint praise when the only positive things one can say about a film is the composition and lighting, but I think we've all seen films where even that is not done properly.

Hell of the Living Dead, made around the same time, was a shameless combination of Dawn of the Dead and Cannibal Holocaust. In Rats, Mattei mines the ever-popular Road Warrior style of film and adds the rat motif. Neither scheme works particularly well. I love these "futuristic" films where everyone has an obvious 80s look. I guess 200 years from now we're all going to start wearing Spandex and putting mousse in our hair again. And the rats…well, they're not even rats. Several appear to be guinea pigs, hamsters, or whatever else they could find at the pet store with some kind of black dye sprayed on. The scenes where the rats "attack" are too funny for words; you can practically see the stagehands throwing the rats at the actors.


Still, there's interesting moments in the film (the sex scene is a classic) and the ending is a real hoot. The stock footage is kept to a bare minimum, and the film takes place in one location, so Mattei's difficulties with continuity aren't as apparent as in Hell. It also lacks the extreme gore we saw in Hell of the Living Dead, so that can be a plus or a minus depending on your tastes. Some people are deathly afraid of rats (I can't imagine why. They make excellent pets), so they might actually find this film completely terrifying. The rest of us will have difficulty filing this under horror or comedy in our video libraries.

Image Quality

inline Image Once again, Anchor Bay makes an awful film look awfully good. It's not quite the same caliber as the other Mattei film they did, Hell of the Living Dead, but it's close. Since Rats doesn't resort to a lot of stock footage, it's all pretty consistent. The opening scene with the scrawling text is quite scratchy and bad, but after that the quality improves tremendously. Most of the film takes place at night (hence the title), so it was a real test on the many dark scenes. Those dark scenes generally look pretty good, with a minimum of grain. Colors are nice as well, especially in the few scenes mentioned above which are bathed in colored lights. The movie is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen, enhanced for anamorphic televisions. I've never been subjected to a viewing of Rats on any other format (thankfully), but I'd have to believe that it has never looked this good before. Just more of what we've come to expect from Anchor Bay.

Sound

Bruno Mattei didn't rip off music from Goblin for this. It's generic 80s movie music instead, which adds to the cheesiness of the presentation. The sound favors the dialogue on this Dolby Digital 2.0 mono mix, and unfortunately, all of the dialogue is quite clear. Trust me folks, it's that bad. The music is matched to the rest of the sound much better than on Hell of the Living Dead, so you won't have to adjust the volume as much.

Supplemental Material

inline Image Rats and Hell of the Living Dead contain virtually the same supplemental features. The Mattei interview and bio that we saw on Hell shows up here. It's an interesting interview, as we see how cynical Mattei is when it comes to his films. The only new extra here is the trailer for Rats (which was apparently also called Blood Kill), and is a pretty accurate preview of the film. I'm guessing Anchor Bay assumed fans would want both discs (probably a correct assessment) which explains the redundancy of the extras. I'd have preferred if they had done separate interviews for each film, but that's a minor complaint.

Final Thoughts

Rats: Night of Terror is an amazingly bad film, but I'm sure that hasn't stopped fans of cheesy 80s cinema from grabbing this disc as well as the other Mattei film released by Anchor Bay. And once again, Anchor Bay has shown respect for those fans by providing another high quality release. Again, I have to recommend that those those who expect competent acting and intelligent plots will probably want to steer clear of this. But if you can laugh at these movies, you might just have a good time.

Rating

Movie - D+
Image Quality - B
Sound - C+
Supplements - B

Technical Info.
  • Color
  • Running Time - 1 hour 33 minutes
  • Not Rated
  • 1 Disc
  • Chapter Stops
  • Dolby Digital Mono 2.0
Supplements
  • Hell Rats of the Living Dead - an interview with director Bruno Mattei
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Bruno Mattei Bio
Other Pictures

 

 

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