Rats (2002, dir: John Lafia; cast: Mädchen Amick,
Lab experiments have created
mutant rats. Actually, they look just like regular rats, except they're
a little stronger and more aggressive. These rats start attacking people,
then a department store executive (Mädchen Amick) and a rat exterminator
(Vincent Spano) unite to defeat the rats -- and fall in love along the
Even as a made-for-TV movie,
The Rats's horror content is disappointingly tame. One man gets killed early
in the film, then another man gets it 75 minutes into the film, and that's
it. That's a pretty low body count.
It's hard to count all the
mistakes and clichés in this film. Here are some:
* Vincent Spano sees rats
leaving through a hole into the subway tunnels. He immediately rushes
into the subway to try and see which way the train went, because he knows
Mädchen Amick is on the train. HUH? How did he know that she was on that
particular train? Or even that the rats would attack it?
* When the subway stops,
a motorman tells the passengers that they should wait in the train while
he inspects the tracks. So an Obnoxious Yuppie complains, "What, you're
not gonna leave us in here alone, are you? I don't believe this!" HUH? Who wrote this dialogue? A train stops, you expect the motorman to inspect
the problem. Does this Obnoxious Yuppie want the motorman to hold his hand?
* When the rats enter the
train, the Obnoxious Yuppie starts shooting a gun at the rats. So another
man grabs him from behind to stop him. HUH? The yuppie was obnoxious, but
he wasn't endangering anyone but the rats, from which everyone was trying
to escape. Why would anyone stop him? My guess is that the screenwriter
just wrote cliches -- the Obnoxious Yuppie/Gun Nut must be stopped! -- without
thinking about the context of his own script, or how his characters would
behave in that situation.
* The subway seems to have
only one car, the front car. We never see what happens in the previous
cars, and the firemen seem not to rescue anyone from any other car. That's
* Lots of opportunities for
gore are wasted. A swarm of rats invade a swimming pool full of kids, causing
a panicky escape. Good computer effects, but sadly, all the kids escape.
C'mon, this is supposed to be a horror film! Let's see some of those brats
go under in a pool of blood (as in The Great Alligator).
* And NO ONE on the train
is killed. Not even the Obnoxious Yuppie, who has Classic Horror Victim
written all over him. Yeah, that was a surprise, but not a good surprise.
* Mädchen Amick mentions
that the department store has an area (with many rooms and floors) that was
sealed off, because the store stopped using that area as a post for store detectives. HUH? Floor space is very expensive in New York City. If a store changes
its use for an area, it doesn't seal off the area, it finds a new use for
* Amick is a single career
mom raising a smart and cute little girl. Been there, done that. Again
* Naturally, Amick and Spano
initially get on each other's nerves, but then fall in love. It seems the
movies are full of smart, professional, career women who fall for gruff,
blue-collar macho guys. It happened in Species and The Relic, to name two
such horror films. I guess the conceit works because it plays into both
male and female fantasies. Men fantasize about having macho, non-office
jobs, and women fantasize about being successful career women who are swept
off their feet by burly brutes.
* Two men are covered by
rats and quickly chewed to death. But then Amick falls into a pool
full of THOUSANDS of rats, and sinks beneath them until she is completely
immersed (much like Sigourney Weaver is immersed into the alien in Alien Resurrection). But when Spano eventually pulls out Amick -- she
is practically unscathed! No bite marks! Just a few reddish smears which
barely look like blood. HUH? How come a few DOZEN rats almost instantly
chew two men to death, but THOUSANDS of rats barely graze Amick?
the filmmaker didn't want to kill off Amick, but he still wanted that "cool
scene" of seeing her immersed under THOUSANDS of rats, so he did both,
and simply ignored that Amick should be dead -- or at least severely disfigured.
This is another old horror cliché -- horror heroines are immune to monsters.
Consider The Dark, in which an alien instantly kills everyone he meets,
until he meets star Cathy Lee Crosby. Then he merely carries her off, giving
the hero time to save Crosby.
* Although The Rats is shot
in Canada, its "New York" settings are not as obviously Canadian as some
other shot-in-Canada "New York" films. Island of the Dead did a worse job
of recreating Wall Street in Toronto, and Wes Craven Presents They was
much worse than The Rats in recreating New York's subways. The Rats had
a 39th Street Station, which does not exist in New York, but at least New
York streets ARE numbered. But Wes Craven Presents They actually had "Victoria
Station" on a "New York" subway stop, a dead giveaway that the film was
shot in some British influenced country (i.e., Canada).
* And the computer effects
were cool, albeit highly unrealistic. They actually had rats spouting volcano-like
out of the sewers, flying into the air.
A stupid film, and disappointingly
tame, but hard core horror fans (especially if they like Amick) should
be satisfied if they get a used copy at a good price.
Review copyright by Thomas
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