“Mutants of a nuclear disaster.”
1984 – Unrated – 97 Minutes – Blue Underground
Starring Ottaviano Dell’Acqua, Geretta Geretta, Massimo Vanni – Directed by Bruno Mattei (as Vincent Dawn)
I feel like rodents always get a bad rap, especially rats. They’re always seen as the filthy, diseased sewer dwelling creatures that infest and devour everything in sight, yet they are cute little animals that are pretty clean and actually quite smart. But, I suppose it’s easier to hate and fear something than it is to understand and love it, especially in horror films.
Rats not only take the focus of the 1984 Bruno Mattei film, a blend of The Road Warrior and Night of the Living Dead, but it takes the title as well. That’s how potent these furry little critters were. You could just slap their name right on your poster in big, bold font and instantly disgust your audience. It does have a subtitle, Night of Terror, but I would say it’s more along the lines of Night of the Misunderstood, Cute Animals. Probably not as titillating as the filmmakers wanted, but watch the picture and you will see what I mean.
Just a heads up, this is a film made in Italy in the early 80’s, so you’re gonna see a lot of animal cruelty.
It’s the not too distant future, an opening text crawl fills us in on what’s happening, where mankind is and how we got there:
“In the Christian year, 2015, the insensitivity of man finally triumphs and hundreds of atomic bombs devastate all five continents. Terrified by the slaughter and destruction the few survivors of the disaster seek refuge under the ground… From that moment begins the era that will come to be called “After the Bomb”, the period of the second human race… A century later several men, dissatisfied with the system imposed on them by the new humanity, choose to revolt and return to live on the surface of the Earth as their ancestors did… So, yet another human race begins, that of the new primitives… These two communities have no contact for a long period. The people still living below ground are sophisticated and despise the primitives, regarding them as savages… This story begins on the surface of the Earth in the year 255 A.B. (After the bomb)…”
Wow! Never mind some of the inaccuracies and punctuation errors in there, but that certainly is a lot of information and backstory in just the opening text. Of course, none of it really matters and the only thing you need to know is that it’s the post-apocalyptic future and people roam in gangs looking for food, which could have been established without the text, since that seemed to be the plot of every post-apocalyptic movie of the 80’s. But, nice to know they put all that thought into it, which is more than you can say for most of those films. I also love that “After the bomb” is put in parentheses at the end, like the beginning of that text crawl was so long ago and they don’t trust you to remember it.
As bopping pop/rock music plays (that I swear has been used in other Bruno Mattei films), a group of these “primitives” that look relatively well dressed, with outfits ranging from a leather biker uniform, goth, civil war and various military garbs, find an establishment to investigate. The leader of the biker gang, Kurt (basically he’s MacReady sans the silly hat), makes the decision that the group will search this hotel… or whatever it is… for some food and when finding some precooked pasta and sugar (both of which weren’t rotted), they dump it all over each other in a fit of happiness. A girl from the gang, Chocolate, gets covered in flour and mistaking racially insensitive for comedy she dances around saying, “Look at me, I’m white! I’m as white as all of you!” Seems like the most rational thing to do in a world where food is extremely scarce. During this odd celebration, they find a body that looks like it was chewed up and mutilated. They all scream and terror, staring at it, which is odd considering you think given their living situation, they have probably seen dozens of dead bodies just on the way there.
Let’s talk about this “gang” for a second. Aside from Kurt, they are all named after whatever characteristic they can visually be identified by. Like a person without any common sense would name random strangers in a crowd to keep track of who’s who. Duke is the rebellious one in like a civil war uniform, Video is called that because of his knowledge in computers, Lilith and Lucifer are supposed to be the goth ones and the most potentially insulting one of them all is Chocolate… because she is a black woman. I would almost say it’s racist, but I don’t think Bruno Mattei quite understands what being racially tolerant is, or being sensitive to one’s sexuality or religious beliefs. Check out any of his other flicks, especially Robowar to see what I mean.
Maybe this new sanctuary isn’t so safe after all. Time to split up and investigate the place finding more bodies and dozens and dozens of rats, which seem pretty harmless… for now. The real kicker here is among their findings during their search is a plant nursery with fresh vegetables and a water purifier, which is perfect for the hippie of the group, Noah. So we have clean water, fresh veggies and edible food. Not bad for just stumbling into a place and searching for ten minutes. Oh and there is also a giant functioning computer with an ominous, pre-recorded message. In any case, this sounds dangerous, so they burn the bodies just in case they are also in a ripoff of John Carpenter’s The Thing.
As the gang settles in for the night, masses of rats begin to gather around and I have to say, it’s quite cute! You know what isn’t cute? Watching a hairy dude in a ponytail named Lucifer non discreetly plow Lilith under a sleeping bag with the whole gang watching, who were apparently annoyed by it. So why did they let this happen until one of the gang members, Taurus, throws a boot at them? The answer doesn’t and wouldn’t matter, but Kurt tells them to go someplace else. The porking continues and even Lilith grows tired of this and tells Lucifer she needs a break. Since his manhood was questioned, he storms off and happens upon some liquor to get drunk and act like a total buffoon.
With all these characters being alone and falling asleep, now is a perfect time for the rats to strike! They start coming through the water purification system and contaminating that and attacking Noah. Lucifer gets himself eaten, butt first, which is actually quite fitting for him and Lilith is devoured in her sleeping bag. As she screams, she wakes up the rest of the group who arm themselves with flamethrowers and shotguns and run off to investigate. After they find Lilith’s body, with a rat that climbs out of her mouth, Noah jumps from around from the corner, half eaten and screaming to high heaven. Kurt roasts the hippie to spare him or to torture him, since the poor guy runs around on fire until Duke, the rebel of the group, pumps a shotgun round into him. Good to know they look out for one another.
This place seems to be more trouble than it’s worth, so time to blow this popsicle stand! Well, they would except the rats have sabotaged their bikes! Yes, the rats knew that this was their only means of escape and have prevented them from leaving! This is all (somehow) Kurt’s fault… at least according to Duke, who now begins the rivalry shift in the movie. Duke challenges Kurt’s authority, but it’s nothing more than a weak pissing contest, as the group decides to do what they did in Night of the Living Dead and board themselves inside and barricade the place up nice and tight. Well, except for the one HUGE open window that one of girls, Diana, happens to be standing under as a stage hand dumps a box of rats all over her, who look scared and confused as she shrieks to the point of making your ears bleed. Chocolate informs everyone that without clean water for her wounds, Diana could die from infection. I don’t know how Chocolate knows that for sure, but it’s the closest thing we have to making this plot move along, so off to the basement to get to that purifier!
Kurt along with the rest of the men, minus Duke who stays behind to watch things, head down into the basement to get some water, however, the purifier is flooded with rats and Kurt’s flamethrower jams! To make matters worse, Duke refuses to open the door, just as dozens of rubber rats on a treadmill charge them, until Chocolate forces Duke to open the door, resulting in… well nothing really. Kurt just threatens him and kicks him in the nards, but then they all just start looking for a means to escape or shelter. I dunno, sometimes with all the stupid going on, it can be hard to keep track. Tensions run high as the group fights, er… scream and tip toe around rats and Duke takes one of the girl hostage and demands control of the group! Great, just what we needed at a time like this! Luckily, the idiot blows himself up with a grenade trying to blow up rats. Next time I have a rodent problem, I think I will try this method. Seems effective.
With Duke no longer causing any problems, the remaining members of the gang can focus on what they were originally doing: Running around and screaming while getting rats dumped on them, as the rats break down a barricaded door. Yes, rats manage to beat down an enforced door. Who knew? The gang dwindles down one at a time, just as mysterious men in gas masks and yellow hazmat suits appear and fumigate the streets. Who are they and what do they want? The answer will simply shock you… with laughter! Every minute of this film has boiled down to one of the most outlandish, preposterous ending of all time, because why the hell not?!
In the age when Italy was ripping off zombie movies left and right, at least this one substituted zombies with rats and put it in a post apocalyptic setting. Sure, most of the time the characters were just trudging around, doing stupid things because the script called for it or shrieking at the top of their lungs nonstop to the point where I wanted to punch the closest living thing to me, but Ratsdoes have a few things going for it. Like… um, give me a second to think of one… oh! Like when rats literally explode out of a guys stomach like an air cannon! That was awesome. Oh and before that, he stands up like a zombie, so all I could picture was all the rats inside him controlling him like a giant robot. Aside from that, the rats just nibble at people, so don’t expect your average Bruno Mattei gorefest. Speaking of the rats themselves, you may have noticed at some point that at times they look an awful lot like painted guinea pigs. Or that’s the rumor according to Bruno. I’m going to assume (if it were true) because painting guinea pigs was cheaper than buying rats, but who knows. All I know is I feel bad for the poor critters getting kicked around.
For a Bruno Mattei film, this one is pretty comprehensible instead of his usual nearly idiotic, impossible to follow films, but it still has an ensemble of some of the dumbest characters cinema has to offer. Everything uttered out of their stupid suck holes, every lame brain decision they make… why? Why would a person realistically or rationally do that? They wouldn’t. But that’s a Mattei flick for you. If you can’t write something to make sense, just make your characters dumber than a box of off brand vanilla wafers.
And you know, for the life of me, I can’t believe I haven’t noticed before, but after hearing this soundtrack I’m fairly certain Bruno Mattei didn’t know how to use the proper music at the right moments. Well, for the most part. The film does have a moody synth track that plays well and is kinda creepy, but that bopping drum and keyboard tune is out of place every time.
However, it’s all worth it to see that ending. I know you can power through all the stupid. You can watch these nimrods make the most nonsensical decisions and say the dumbest things. I promise you it will pay off. Hell I admit it. I like this movie a whole lot.
Well, I can at least say this; it’s one of Bruno Mattei’s more watchable films. So, there’s that. That’s a good thing.