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ON DVD & BLU-RAY

Rats: Night of Terror (1984) Blu Ray (88 Films)

Does this film do what it says on the tin?

This post-apocalyptic tale is set in the year 225 A.B. (After the Bomb) when humankind has become divided into two factions. One is technologically advanced and lives underground. The other still dwells on the Earth’s ravaged surface, roaming in armed gangs who desperately search for food and water.

One such gang, led by Kurt (Ottaviano Dell'Acqua, credited as “Richard Raymond”), comes across an abandoned city and searches one of its buildings for sustenance. In what appears to be a huge stroke of luck, they come across a hi-tech facility where vegetables are grown artificially and rainwater is purified to a drinkable form. Unfortunately, they have to share their new home with some rather unwelcoming inhabitants: swarms of flesh-devouring rats.

Watch a trailer:

Laughable rodent-infested sci-fi horror

Rats: Night of Terror was directed by Bruno Mattei, a shameless hack who made a career out of cheaply ripping off whichever films or movie trends were cleaning up at the box office at that time. In this case, it cashes in on both the post-apocalyptic craze (which was in full flow at this point) and the nature-run-amok cycle (which was kind of petering out - albeit this entry arguably piggybacked on the Canadian rat horror pic Deadly Eyes, released in 1982). It also homages the chest-burster scene from Alien (1979). Mattei was aided and abetted by Claudio Fragasso, the man who later became responsible for the unintentionally hilarious cult classic Troll 2.

The real star of Rats: Night of Terror

With these two “talents” on board, one pretty much knows what to expect here. In other words, it’s very bad - but in a way which amounts to a whole heap of accidental entertainment. For one thing, the film’s endeavours to make its titular rats menacing fails by a staggering margin. In many, many shots, we just see a whole clump of them showing a complete disinterest in interacting with the human actors on any level, let alone attacking them. In order to turn them into a threat, the filmmakers resort to dropping a couple of dozen of them onto the actors every now and then. Since we never explicitly see where they are falling from (although it is vaguely implied during a couple of scenes, via camerawork, that they emerge from upper floor windows) it is hard to suspend the disbelief that they come from anywhere other than via being dumped from a bucket just out of frame. Occasionally, some inept effects shots are inserted into the action - a ridiculous rubber puppet gnawing on a man’s neck in close up, or static fake rats moving along on an obvious conveyor belt.

Leaving aside the pathetic attempts to turn the rats into a credible source of terror, there are plenty of other examples of glaringly bad filmmaking here. Every supposed “shock scene” is predictable and signposted; we even get the old “person seen from behind who turns out to be a horribly mutilated corpse” cliche used multiple times. There’s a black character nicknamed Chocolate (played by Geretta Geretta, credited as “Janna Ryann”) who, in one scene, gets covered in flour and loudly proclaims to the others about how white she is. In a film less laughable, this probably would have come across as being racially insensitive. The actresses overdo the screaming to a ludicrous degree in response to every supposed jump scare. The dialogue is inane throughout; when they first come across a body being devoured by rats, one character states: “something bad happened here”. No shit, Sherlock!

The ladies scream in Rats: Night of Terror

Nonetheless, if there’s one accusation which you can never level at Rats: Night of Terror, it is that of being boring. As with most Italian genre films of this period, the low budget and cheesy aspects are offset by the stalwart professionalism of those behind the camera. It all moves along at a good pace, Franco Delli Colli’s cinematography is competently atmospheric and the decrepit city setting (apparently a large reused set from Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America which was built at Cinecittà studios) adds some much-needed production value. Throw in a couple of startling moments of gore and one of the funniest twist endings in the history of cinema and you have an enjoyable evening in with some friends and a few six packs.

Runtime: 95 mins

Dir: Bruno Mattei, Claudio Fragasso

Script: Bruno Mattei, Claudio Fragasso, Hervé Piccini

Starring: Ottaviano Dell'Acqua, Geretta Geretta, Massimo Vanni, Gianni Franco, Ann-Gisel Glass, Jean-Christophe Brétignière, Fausto Lombardi, Henry Luciani, Cindy Leadbetter, Christian Fremont, Moune Duvivier

Blu Ray Audio-Visual

I’ve learned not to expect too much from an 88 Films release in this regard. Nonetheless, it isn’t too bad, bar the obvious wobbling aerial stock footage of Monument Valley in Arizona during the opening (and that’s the fault of the cheapskate filmmakers more than anyone else).

The picture is reasonably clear and contrast levels are consistently good (which is important for a film which takes place largely in darkness). It’s at least somewhat better than their earlier release of the fairly similar Italian post-apocalypse adventure 2019: After the Fall of New York.

Extras

The disc is supplied with both a movie poster and a leaflet containing a Calum Waddell interview with actress Geretta Geretta. We discover a little about her eclectic background; she was born in America, lived in Belfast in Northern Ireland for a time and then made her name in Italian B-movies. As well as discussing her experiences of working on these films, she also reveals that she has recently taken up writing and directing. Her latest forthcoming project is a third Demons film!

On the disc itself are the following:

Interview with Massimo Vanni and Ottaviano Dell'Acqua

The two Rats: Night of Terror actors discuss working on the film as well as others directed by Bruno Mattei, Claudio Fragasso and various other cult personalities within the Italian film industry during this period. It is of particular interest when they talk about the numerous productions which they made with Mattei and Fragasso in The Philippines; at certain points, they were shooting two films in parallel - one by day and one by night. Dell'Acqua also mentions that, during one shoot, the cast and crew was threatened by armed guerrillas. Luckily, things were resolved amicably.

Interview with composer Luigi Ceccarelli

Luigi was incredibly prolific, especially between 1982 and 1992 when he composed 40 soundtracks including that of Rats: Night of Terror. Arguably his most prestigious work, however, was his collaboration with Vangelis on Nosferatu in Venice.

A trailer rounds out the extras.

Overall:

Rats: Night of Terror couldn’t possibly terrify anyone old enough to watch it (it’s rated 18 in the UK) but it’s cheap and cheerful Italian-made trash regardless. The disc and extras are OK - nothing more, nothing less.

Movie: ☆☆1/2

Video: ☆☆☆

Audio: ☆☆☆

Extras: ☆☆☆

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