It's the year 225 AB (after the bomb) and the surface of the Earth is ruled by gangs – seen as primitives or barbarians by the "civilised" subterranean dwellers - and the underground is indeed where the intelligentsia stayed. Yep, it's post-apocalyptic fun for all.
|Director: Bruno Mattei
Starring: Richard Raymond, Janna Ryan, Alex McBride, Richard Cross, Ann Gisel Glass, Christoph Bretner
Screenplay: Claudio Fragasso
Kurt and his gang of nasties (most of whom look like extras from Duran Duran videos from the mid-80s) roll into a deserted town one fine day looking for supplies. They get a fuck's sight more than they were after, let me tell you. Argh! There's a rat! Gang member Video wants to eat the bastard, as per his mom's old recipes – wonderful how children look back on their past with nostalgic fondness. They see a fuck's sight more of the rats, too. The presence of rats is established quite early; the threat of rats is a different story.
Kurt (played by Ray Lovelock look-alike Richard Raymond) and co think they've stumbled across a goldmine in the town they've rolled into, a throwback to the old days pre-bomb, stocked fulsomely with supplies (I've never seen anyone eat handfuls of raw sugar before – especially 225 year old sugar, and don't you think that after a couple of centuries, the flour might have developed a few weevils? I guess I'm nitpicking…), they are of course wrong. They've walked into a trap without even knowing it. But this is of course for our entertainment and edification. I must say, for a bunch of savages on the road who have to kill to survive, some of them are a little too grossed out by the sight of dead bodies.
The rats are a real threat Kurt and co don't understand. The gang see them as merely a nuisance – wrong! This thankfully leads to some of the cheesiest fun-filled horror I've ever seen. After the gang find a computer and Video renders it working, and have found some semi-devoured cadavers on the establishment (no-one's made the obvious link yet), Kurt makes the astute observation that, "computers and corpses are a bad mixture." He doesn't realise how true he's talking…
Anyhoo, the gang bunk down for the night, but due to other gang members complaining about the noise, Lucifer and Lilith decide to take their love-making outside: bad move! The rats have been about and are gaining strength and doing badness. The little bastards are getting together in order to spell disaster for our heroes. There are some nasty deaths ready for all-comers! Especially for those with awful eye-make-up. Watch out, Lucifer!
Now, those pesky zip-up sleeping bags can be bad news, as Lilith is about to find out. And the rest of the gang are too. The rats might have initially appeared to have been little better than a nuisance, but we soon find out that they're much more than that - in fact they're positively lethal. And they're not the worst rats of all, not even by a long shot. There are much more evil rats on display, if you're willing to get to the end of this cinematic masterpiece. And if you're not, this is the wrong review for you to be reading – GO AWAY!!!
The rats have managed to chew through the tyres of the gangs' bikes and trucks, effectively stranding them in this ghost-town, and that's when the internal power-play begins to start, between Kurt and his rival, the shotgun-toting nutcase, Duke. When Diana, Kurt's girlfriend gets "infected" by the rats, the power-play between these two chumps really mounts. And so this film turns into Night of the Living Dead. That's no idle comparison, by the way – the power-struggle between the two alpha males (Kurt versus Duke is a mirror image of Ben versus Cooper), the practically comatose female protagonist (Myrna is definitely this film's Barbara), the paranoia, the implacable inhuman enemy, the siege in the boarded-up domicile, the black character (the stunningly tastelessly named 'Chocolate' – most memorable in this film for getting a bag of flour dumped over her head and doing a little dance, telling everybody she's as white as them…) as potential survivor – it's all there, people – watch and learn. Think of it this way – one zombie = not that much of a threat, like one rat. Put them into vast numbers and…do you see what I mean?
Ah yes, the siege. There's nothing like it to really get the tension going. There are plenty of 'edge of the seat' scares and hair's breadth escapes, all of which add to the wonderfulness of Rats – Night of Terror. There's some specious dialogue about the nature of rats (best explained by Mattei in the interview on the special features when discussing the gerbils playing the titular rats of the film: "The mouse is not an actor."), as predators, and then we're back into full siege mode again, being chased into less and less defensible areas. Oh, it is good!
And another thing I like about this film, as well as the appalling acting and the awful, awful dialogue is the fact that the various characters fates aren't obvious from the word go – who survives and who doesn't isn't apparent from the outset. Mattei appears to have been more than a bit arbitrary with the whole "who lives/who dies" scenario. Given the post-apocalyptic context, it kind of makes sense.
You do have to wonder why all of the characters have such symbolic, if not actually biblical names – Lilith, Lucifer, Duke (in his Napoleonic outfit), Diana, Deus, Chocolate, Video, Taurus, Noah – actually, where did Kurt get his name from? Or Myrna? Ahhh, the enigma continues…
Apparently, the original script was a much more ambitious endeavour than the low budget cheapy wonderfulness on display here. Like Romero's original script for Day of the Dead, there was meant to be a hell of a lot more going on, but budgets being what they will – that was never going to happen. Ahhh, the fate of the exploitation film – doomed to a dismal budget on limited screens.
I'm glad that Blue Underground didn't use the old VHS cover of Rats; talk about a plot spoiler! Honestly, when I rented this back in the day, there was something I was looking for all throughout the film, and when it only turned up in the last few minutes, I did feel a bit betrayed by what the cover had promised. Bad news for the exploitation fan, and no mistake.
I only had one question: me, I'm watching this film and I'm asking myself, where the hell do you get black nail polish in a post apocalyptic wasteland? Maybe I'm looking a little too deeply? More than likely.