Even though Willard was in my opinion a disappointment to watch, it was my first exposure to a specific branch of horror movies and it no less initiated my love for rats. Indeed the sequel Ben was a better movie by far, but I can forgive Willard falling short of my expectations, for it still paved the way that led me to appreciate the wonderful world of animal horror in general and “ratty” horror in special (I actually did see the brilliant Phase IV before I got to see Willard, but that is SF).
A few years later a friend recommended James Herbert’s The Rats trilogy to me, the first book of which, The Rats, got very loosely adapted to the screen under the title Night Eyes (re-titled in Germany to Deadly Eyes by the way, those crazy buggers love to think up new English titles).. I still hold this series to be the best, most entertaining work in the field despite a few major flaws in the writing,
closely followed by King’s excellent short story Graveyard Shift, which got adapted for the screen, too, under its story name and counts in my book as an unfairly overlooked, entertaining entry to the genre. As an aside, Lair, the second book in Herbert’s Rat trilogy seems to have been largely inspired by Ben, or maybe there is only so much you can do with the topic
Another genre favourite is the Italian production Rats – Notte di Terrore. One of the more original entries to the Post Apocalyptic genre. If one, as I like to, compares Herbert’s second rats novel Lair to Ben then the last book in Herbert’s cycle, Domain, should be compared to Notte… if only because they share a post world war setting. In terms of story both are refreshingly original, albeit Herbert shows a tendency to overuse similar character arcs for his books, and both are a treat for horror fans and fans of the Post Apocalyptic genre alike.
However, despite a obvious audience demand for more of these kind of movies (how else could one explain that one of the more boring entries became enough of a cult to regard a remake, namely speaking of Willard here? Too bad it seems not to have made enough money to justify a remake of Ben, too) the output in recent years was definitively meagre and mostly let to movies that got advertised with artwork showing far more promise than the movies hiding behind them could ever hope to muster up.
at least, goes my opinion, I actually love Of unknown origin, although the movie fared so bad both among fans and critics that one shouldn’t talk to loud about that (I trust you not to rat me out), but found myself bored witless by the latest, praised independent horror escapee from the After Dark Horrorfest: Mulberry Street, a movie that promises with its zombie rat infection theme to revive the gory fun of Hell of the living dead, a classic opening sequence if there ever was one, but what we get is a dialogue heavy pseudo Shawn of the dead shakes hands with 28 Days later over Ben’s dead and vastly un-resurrected body.
If the above sounds like ranting to you then let me assure you it is because I am ranting.
Anyways, let’s leave on a positive note, like this promotional sketch for the poster artwork to The secret of Nihm, doesn’t it remind one a lot of the poster for the same year movie The Dark Crystal?In swear in terms of movies goes for the 80’s that “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…”
*I realize we are not in the Year of the Rat, but what are you going to do? Sue me?
A Gallery of sorts:
A few notes on the used images:
Revenge of the Rats is the french DVD release of German made for TV thriller Ratten 2 I actually like both this and the original German design which its visual play on the "Pied Piper of Hamelin"; Die Stunde der Ratte is the German DVD release of Food of the gods, you sure noticed how it takes elements of both the artwork from part 1 & 2 to create a free melange that reminds of a particularly famous zombie movie by Lucio Fulci; For Night Eyes I used a UK DVD cover design, hence the title The Rats; And Unheimliche Begegnung (which would loosely translate to "Eerie Encounter") is naturally the German VHS cover for Of unknown origin, love that image.