With a title like Rats: Night of Terror, I was expecting a horror flick. What I was not expecting was a horror flick combined with a 1980s Italian post-apocalyptic sci-fi flick, in the same milieu as 1990: The Bronx Warriors or The New Gladiators. But, shitty film auteurs Bruno Mattei and Claudio Fragasso appeared to have no qualms in marrying two different genres, even if it added just about nothing to the plot.
In the near future, in the year 2015, civilization was consumed by atomic war. Survivors retreated underground, where they would attempt to rebuild society safely hidden from the irradiated wastes above. But, some people chose to reject a life in tunnels and caves, and returned to the surface to brave the danger. Now, 225 years after the bombs fell, descendants of the surface survivors are traveling the wasteland in search of food and water. They’re a fashionable bunch of post-apocalyptic bikers, clad in mismatched bits of military uniforms, accessorized with bandoliers and weapons of various calibers. Despite the trappings, they don’t look all that tough. Dressing like an extra in The Magnificent Seven seems to be de rigueur in this bleak future.
The band is led by Kurt (Ottaviano Dell’Acqua). He got the job because he can get away with wearing leather pants. He’s joined by Gianni Franco as Video, Massimo Vanni as Taurus, American transplant Geretta Geretta as Chocolate (Geretta is black, so, yeah…racism), and Jean-Christophe Brétigniere as Lucifer. There are other performers in the gang, but this really is some bottom-feeding dreck. It won’t make a bit of difference to potential viewers if I list the rest of the anonymous hacks in this flick.
Anyway, after riding around the wasteland for a bit, our mildly-intimidating biker gang stumbles across the ruins of a city. The ruins are played by the crumbling sets that were built for Once Upon a Time in America. It’s a reasonable facsimile of natural decay, but it’s also very obviously a set.
Inside one of the buildings, the group finds a stash of food, clean water, and live plants. It’s quite the bounty for the wanderers, so they decide to settle down and enjoy the fruits of their searching. Of course, no one would just leave this stuff laying around. There were occupants of this little oasis, and in short order the gang stumbles on their corpses, gnawed and mutilated by rats. In fact, there seem to be a lot of rats wandering around the building, and it doesn’t take long for the rats to turn their attention to the newcomers.
Now this film, which had been post-apocalyptic science fiction, makes its turn to horror. And it never looks back until about a minute from the end. This film is no longer about survival in the wasteland. It morphs into a small group in a confined environment, trying to keep from being killed by a monster or monsters. In fact, this flick goes so far into the struggle between the gang and the rats that all the post-apocalyptic stuff could have been cut from the production with not that much effort. The costume department wouldn’t have even had to change anything, as the gang could have just been a flamboyant group of modern-day mischief makers. Instead of wandering through the wasteland, the gang could have been riding through rural Europe, and discover the abandoned town in a little-traveled hideaway.
As a post-apocalyptic flick, Rats is a failure. The film is better as horror. There’s nothing all that suspenseful about the rats hunting down the protagonists, but there is a great deal of joy to be gotten from watching live rats rain down on the cast members. And I do mean rain. In more than one scene there must have been production members off camera upending buckets full of live rats onto the cast, there were so many.
The production got ahold of some nasty little shits, too — jet-black with red eyes. Many times, the rats were soaked with water before a shot, which made them look even more repellant. It’s disgusting work by Mattei, Fragasso, and company. It’s also about the only thing they got right.
Rats: Night of Terror, is a piece of shit. There’s no disputing that. The plot stinks, the production stinks, the acting stinks. But it’s lively. Mattei managed to show something of a sense of pace in this film, which he didn’t do all that often. Perhaps this was Fragasso’s influence. Either way, halfway-decent pace isn’t enough to make this flick all that watchable. It has some wonderful shitty moments here and there, but not enough of them. My personal favorite shitty moment comes in the final act. Getting the live rats to swarm must have been a problem. Because, in one shot, of rats streaming towards a barricaded door, rather than use the live rats which had been featured throughout the film, this shot featured rubber rats glued to a mat which is then dragged across the floor. Yep, that actually happens in this flick.
Rats: Night of Terror slips into the bottom half of the Index to #158, displacing Attack of the Crab Monsters.