CRAWLER’S CHAOS: The Rats/aka Deadly Eyes (1982)
So, we open on this obscurity that is very very loosely based on James Herbert’s novel (it has rats too) and is not Bruno Mattei’s film, with a lecturer who is busy chatting about species of rat. He’s keeping the students’ attention so much they are passing love notes. We meet Trudy, who’s trying to get into the neat starched y-fronts of a tutor named Mr Harris (Sam Groom). Meanwhile, there’s a legal problem at the docks as some infested grain used as bait for rat exterminators has turned up. The gaffer has to leave it so the officials can burn it the following day. Scatman Crothers stands near his boss all hunched and grinning. In a dark corner, a large rat near the grain is savaging a cat! Crothers is driving in dark tunnels whilst fake rats with big teeth watch; Scatty is mumbling and acting like an irritating Uncle Tom/Bill Cosby hybrid. Credits appear – “Based on James Herbert’s The Rats.” Uh-huh. There’s also music blasts that sounds alarmingly like the score from Nights of Terror/Burial Ground/Zombi 3.
At a student party, one girl leaves baby Caroline in the kitchen whilst with friends. Cue huge rats invading the kitchen and eating the baby. Well, we see the aftermath – bloody clothes and bloody streaks on the floor. Her punishment for bad babysitting is becoming the next victim. Through a shallow political scene, we find a new subway station. Somewhere else a puppet bites a student and doctors sum up to Mr Harris that the bite is the size of a Great Dane; however, a dog’s jaw wouldn’t have the strength to sink so deep. Attacks increase as an old guy is totally owned by a dozen or so real rats (in close up shots anyway). Stereotype Crothers has to check the drains due to reports of rodents. “I got some shit in my truck that’s gonna kill yo ass!” he says to the noise of rats in the darkness, apparently he’s a pest controller. “Ain’t dis a bitch!” Some scriptwriters wear KKK gear in their spare time. Naturally, a rat glove puppet (seriously) bites him and he’s chased by hoards of dogs dressed as rats, then vanishes under a landslide of furry bodies. At least he fared better here than against Jack Nicholson’s axe…yes, it’s that Scatman.
Over coffee, Mr Harris and one of Crothers’ female co-workers discuss his death and the student’s bite. Is it possible for large rats to exist and attack a human being? They turn to the lecturer, who rightfully decides that the steroid corn feed may have something do with it, making muscle bound wrestling rats with small genitals. He figures they are using the sewers to find more food, so it’s time to gas out the sewers. However, the rodent army escape by chewing their way through various gratings and grids, and the lecturer gets it next in his basement, and a big party of rich people laugh their way through a scene when the subway opens. Can you guess the outcome of that?
Remember Trudy? As a subplot, she tries a lot of seductive tactics to capture Mr Harris, and the usual sex farce mistakes happen when Harris’ partner sees them together…ho-hum. The rats are now everywhere – basements, bowling alleys, a cinema (showing a Bruce Lee movie); where there’s darkness there’s a rat. Harris’ partner and son are at the subway party and Trudy goes to the cinema. This cinema part is especially well done (only a treasure in dust due to the rest of the film), as each row jump and scream due to their legs being torn into. This is spoiled by O.T.T slow-mo through the window crashes and a huge obviously rubber rat on a man’s back. Let’s be fair here, before CGI we had puppets and dogs in rat costumes; it was cheap and this is not the only film to do it. The cleverly named Makeup Effects Labs who handle the business wisely keep most of the action in lesser-lit areas. As we see the rats it is more hit than miss; there’s brief gore via throat bites and a quick Romero style nosh down to keep us happy. The standoff with Harris and family vs. endless rat crowds is very gripping at times since it occurs in a dark and long subway tunnel.
Downsides? I’ve mentioned Scatman Crothers’ toe curling performance, and really, the character of Mr Harris is as bland as possible. Also, the rat noises are a cross between cats and Gremlins mixed with the Tasmanian Devil; more funny than scary. It’s a hard watch truth be told; against Willard and Ben, this movie really blows! Saying that, you have to see the great ending that is a set up for a sequel, which never happened, and the cinema scene is well worth a view.
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