Exploitation Retrospect | The Journal of Junk Culture and Fringe Media
Rats: A Night of Terror (1983)
Lightning Video | Review by Dan Taylor

"Calmness is the virtue of the strong." – pseudo-intellectual bullshit from a man about to be eaten by rats... hungry rats.

What do you think of rats? Personally, I could do without them. They occupy that lower rung of the food chain/evolutionary cycle along with child molestors and lawyers, their tails are too long, and if you have mice and gerbils/hamsters, what is the point of having a vicious and ill-tempered cross between the two?

Well, filmmakers have always found the rat to be a good ol' standby whenever they needed to totally skeeve out an audience... FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE finds the ever-macho James Bond flinching at a tunnel full of them under the Kremlin; Steven Spielberg used them a few times in the RAIDERS series; and the films OF UNKNOWN ORIGIN, DEADLY EYES, WILLARD and BEN were good examples of how rats could be used to full effect as main characters.

However, it would take an Italian filmmaker to show how the rat genre and the post-apocalypse film could be merged together to form one unholy union... and that filmmaker would have to be Vincent Dawn (aka Bruno Mattei), director of the maligned zombie classic NIGHT OF THE ZOMBIES, in RATS: NIGHT OF TERROR.

You see, the bombs were dropped in the year 2015, and they subsequently brought about a period of the "second human race." Some people went underground, others went above to live life like our prehistoric ancestors. Our story takes place in 225 AB ("After the Bomb"), and it's comforting to know that 250 years into the future, motorcycles and bad fashion sense will still be useful. Take good care of those hogs boys and girls!

Kurt is the leader of a gang of marauders, and they accidentally stumble upon a deserted town that has a mysteriously well-stocked supply of food, fresh water, and vegetation. This, of course, leads to much dancing, celebrating, and general rejoicing. Until, that is, they discover that the town also comes well-stocked with ill-tempered post-nuclear rats and freshly gnawed corpses! Wha... talk about putting a damper on the party!!! And like the zombie rat at the beginning of NIGHT OF THE ZOMBIES, these buggers go right for the ol' jugular!

Upon further exploration of the town, the post-apoc marauders turn up rats, more rats, and LOTS more rat-munched corpses!!! Soon enough, Mattei (who also wrote the story) has set the stage and allows the rats to go to town.

As expected, there are some nifty scenes of rats munching on the gang members, and ol' Bruno even pulls off a really creepy scene involving a rat emerging from the mouth of a fresh corpse while the rest of the gang members stand around with their mouths agape! Don't open too wide! Other highlights include euthanasia by flamethrower, a little behind-the-scenes political infighting, and a gang leader who could easily pass for a member of the Bee Gees!

The funniest thing about RATS though, is the post-apoc setting. Introduced so somberly at the outset, it was a plot point that I thought would have some future bearing on the flick. In actuality, the only reason this plot condition exists AT ALL is to provide Dawn/Mattei with a "shocker" ending in the last 38 seconds.

While not as violent, gory or bad as one might expect, RATS: A NIGHT OF TERROR kept me awake and entertained, somewhat of a rarity these days. I'd recommend this fun and chuckle-filled Italian horror flick.

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