When he wasn’t ripping of Romero (Zombie Creeping Flesh), Rambo (Strike Commando) and Cameron (Shocking Dark), Italian schlock artist Bruno Mattei is probably also famous (read: infamous) for jumping in at the last minute when Lucio Fulci fell poorly on the set of Zombi 3. However, when he wasn’t slopily copying the homework of Hollywood’s most talented auteurs in order to make a quick lira (Euros weren’t around then), Mattei was perfectly capable of churning out ludicrous, exploitative cheese-fests all by himself with the hilariously weird Rats: Night Of Terror presented as Exhibit A. But before we begin, a quick side bar: this movie has nothing to do with James Herbert’s novel, The Rats (which actually got adapted as Deadly Eyes in ’82) but it does have a few things in common with Domain, the third book in the series that was coincidentally released the exact same year as Mattei’s camp crawler. Weird, right?
In the year 2015, the bombs dropped and forced mankind to make a choice – stay underground in their bunkers in relative comfort or head back up to the surface as a “New Primative” and eek out an existence in a post apocalyptic environment that mostly looks like a gravel pit. We hook up with a biker gang who dress (and act) like a struggling dance troupe – who would have thought ascot neck scarves would be so prominent in the ravaged future of 225 A.B (After the Bomb). Rocking up to decimated village that looks like London at 6am morning after New Years celebrations, this herd of blatant idiots are ordered by their leader, Kurt (he of a luscious, 80’s George Michaels hairdo) to hunker down for the night and his gang – who all have handles like Video, Lucifer, Lilith and the regrettably named Chocolate (because she’s black) – start searching the area for much needed resources after he explains that “We must explore this shitty place.”. It soon becomes evident that these guys aren’t exactly the hardened survivalists the script probably thinks they are and these guys would most likely struggle to survive a weeking of camping, let alone the destruction of all life on earth as the first thing they do when they find a large stash of food is to excitedly pour it all over the place in celebration.
When these half-wits of the holocaust aren’t boning in public and getting stuck in their own sleeping bags (this actually happens – twice), they find out that they’re sharing the area with a mutated form of man eating rat that don’t take kindly to strangers round these parts and who start picking off the gang at their leisure. Holed up with no food and a water supply that’s presently being contaminated by paddling rodents, the survivors equip their single flame thrower and huddle behind Kurt in the vain hope that his Careless Whisper hair will save the day; but one of their own will bizarrely pick this time as the best moment to steal the mantle of leader away. Will any of them survive and will the rats even have to try that hard to get them?
Laughably silly, even by exploitation standards, you still have to give Rats: Night Of Terror credit for being something that Italian genre pictures rarely were and that’s being half-way original. Setting the movie in a cut-price world full of Mad Max cosplayers really does give it a different energy than just simply plonking the story in a small town, however, when you realise that the filmmakers most likely did it to save money (on sets left over from Once Upon A Time In America no less) it all starts to make a lot more sense, because as we all know, no civilisation means less actors to pay.
The actors they do pay portray the usual bunch of illogical morons that regularly pop up in this sort of thing and even their nicknames stubbornly refuse to make any sense whatsoever – why the hell is one guy called “Video” for his love of videogames when he’s been riding around in a scorched earth for most of his adult life. What fucking videogames has he been supposed to have been playing?
Matching the epic levels of nonsense the script expects us to swallow is how mind-blowingly stupid the all characters are – Survive the end of the world? I wouldn’t trust a single one of these fucking knuckle-heads to cross the bloody street safely as they proceed to shuffle their way onward to rodent-based oblivion with their metaphorical trousers round their ankles.
Speaking of the the rodents; the rats themselves actually seem as ambivalent to the human intruders as we do and have probably sussed that their not exactly going to have to exert themselves when it comes to tricking these guys into getting torn to pieces – seriously, a team of field mice could smoke these fools without twisting a whisker – and despite any natural phobia that some might feel at the sight of them, they’re actually quite cute. Still, you have to feel for the actors during the attack scenes which usually take the form of someone off screen either pouring buckets of them onto their screaming victims or even full on pelting them at people’s faces like they’re furry little softballs. In fact, animal lovers (as well as 95% of the movie loving population in general) may want to give the film a wide berth as the safety of the furry co-stars was obviously not high on the film maker’s agenda – take one scene where the group finds one of their number bleeding, screaming and coated with uninterested-looking rats only for their leader to immediately heroically roast him alive with his flamethrower (oh that’s much better). We then cut to a stuntman running around ablaze in slow motion only to see that the rat sitting atop his burning head is very real, very alive and is a whisker away from enacting a snuff film version of Pixar’s Ratatouille.
However, by the end of the film, all of the plot inconsistencies (why is one of their members utterly and inconsolably hysterical when a thoroughly gnawed body is found; it’s the apocalypse, wouldn’t she have been seeing dead bodies literally everywhere for most of her life?) and stunningly bad dialogue (two randy idiots are told “If you must populate, why don’t you do it outside!”) fall in the face of one of the most hilariously awful endings Italian horror has ever seen (and that’s fucking saying something). The survivors stumble out into the daylight only to be greeted by a group of people in anti-radiation suits and gas masks; rightly surmising that they’re from the race of humans that chose to remain underground, they are stunned (as are we) when the leader removes his face covering to reveal that he’s a rodent/human hybrid. A character screams, the credits roll and audiences the world over yell “what the fuck?” at a cold, indifferent universe as this amusingly awful movie finally draws to a close.
Rat’s all, folks.