Thanks to Paperbacks from Hell, I’ve learned all about James Herbert, the British horror author whose four The Rats novels pretty much defined the evil rats against man genre. Imagine my surprise in finding this Canadian horror film that pretty much takes Herbert’s story and runs away with it (or gets away with it).
Paul Harris is a divorced high school teacher and basketball coach who is dealing with rats the sizes of small dogs that have been found living in buildings containing steroid-rich grain (ripped from today’s headlines!) that the health department orders burned. Now that the rats are homeless, they’re looking for a new home and new eats, too.
First, they surround a baby in a high chair and make him a snack. Then, they get a senior citizen. Soon, they’re chasing down Scatman Crothers and eating him, too! Oh no, Scatman!
Even spraying the rats with gas does nothing. Nope, instead they attack a bowling alley and a movie theater showing a Bruce Lee movie (director Robert Clouse also directed Lee’s Enter the Dragon and Game of Death). None will be spared as the rats feed. Not Trudy (Lisa Langlois, Happy Birthday to Me), the cheerleader in love with Paul. Not her best friend Martha (Lesleh Donaldson, Curtains, Funeral Home, Happy Birthday to Me). And certainly not the mayor who acts like he’s in the Canadian version of Jaws and then has a party on a subway train that gets infested by rats. Finally, Paul, his love interest Kelly and his son make it through the rats’ nest only to get on the same train as the mayor’s dead body.
So how did they get the rats for this movie? By putting dachshunds in fur suits, a The Killer Shrews plan if I ever heard one. Sadly, one of the dogs died during shooting as it was suffocated by its suit.
Herbert referred to this film as “absolute rubbish.” Sadly, we’ve yet to see the definite adaption of his work. We’ll have to make due with this, I guess. Where I disconnect with the film is that I could see it happening in New York, but Toronto? That’s the cleanest city I’ve ever been in. I bet the rats could do much better elsewhere.
Shout! Factory put this out on blu-ray a few years ago, but it’s now sadly out of print. Do what you can to find it — you can put on a loop in your home, along with other “always on HBO” fare like Flash Gordon, Superfuzz, Midnight Madness, The Car, Sharkey’s Machine, Modern Problems, Scavenger Hunt, They Call Me Bruce, Electric Dreams…Home Box Office in the early 80’s, what a time to be alive!