Scratch (DVD)

Scratch DVD (click for larger image)Starring Ralph Herforth, Anne Cathrin Buhtz, Christian Kahrmann

Directed by Jorg Luhdorff

Distributed by Genius Products

It seems there’s an aspect of German TV that owes a lot to the SciFi Channel when it comes to original movies; man-eating sharks, killer birds on the rampage, monster tornadoes striking Berlin … these are just a few of the topics showcased in recent German TV movies. Scratch was originally one as well. As a matter of fact, it’s a sequel.

The 2001 original (German title: Ratten) was apparently released to DVD in the US a few years back under the title Revenge of the Rats. Not only have I never heard of this film, I’ve never even seen this DVD shelves at any video store I frequent. Genius Products picked up the rights to this 2004 sequel and are releasing it in the US under the title Scratch with no indication that it’s a sequel and I suspect this fact is going to prove to be a major problem considering the movie constantly makes vague references to the events of the previous film.

According to IMDB, the original film had Frankfort, Germany being overrun by vicious rats due to a combination heat wave and garbage strike. The sequel is set in a small town near Frankfurt, although it looks more like a Transylvanian village whose inhabitants should be picking up torches and pitchforks to go storm Castle Frankenstein. Last time they were just typical, albeit voracious, rats; this time they’re mutated – the colder it is, the more aggressive they are. A scientist has been genetically altering the rats as part of a mass extermination project designed to deal with Germany’s rat problem once and for all. Needless to say, something went wrong. Enter some characters that saved the day in the first film to save the day in this film.

I won’t even get into dealing with the human characters due to none of them being even the slightest bit interesting and the constant problem with the primary protagonists having a backstory that leaves a lot of vagueness for those like me that never saw the first film. I suspect that if I had seen the original movie then I might have given a damn about some of the characters and their predicament in this one, but often I felt as if I was missing a piece of the puzzle. One of the main characters from the first film will perish early on; a scene played up as a highly emotional deal. I suppose if I had more of an emotional attachment to the character stemming from the original film then his death might have struck me as a big deal rather than just another guy; the magnitude of whose death was ratcheted up to an almost ridiculous degree if you haven’t seen the original film.

The English dubbing doesn’t help matter. To be honest, the dubbing is better than average when compared to most English dubbed genre productions. However, the voice work tends to be a little stiff. Okay, it’s a lot stiff. The lead character’s dubbing sounds like Michael Madsen voicing a scientist from a modern Godzilla flick.

Scratch does have some great production values for what amounts to a television movie and the often CGI rat hordes are nicely rendered; too bad the rats themselves never do a whole heck of a lot. The movie’s best scene is also its opening scene, although hardly original, in which a woman taking a hot bath suddenly finds large rats dropping from the ceiling into the tub with her. Rat attack scenes are generally truncated, primarily bloodless, and usually amount to little more than a person’s body being swarmed on by ravenous vermin, often of the computer generated variety. The movie works hard to build suspense but due to the boring characters and how the rat scenes are handled, tension is nil.

At 104 minutes in length, Scratch is too slow, too flat, and too damn long.

If nothing else, at least Scratch has some great DVD artwork and I’m fairly certain it’s the first film in history that featured a police car driving through a town, repeatedly blasting over the loudspeaker to warn the townsfolk, “Please open your windows and turn off the heating.”


1 1/2 out of 5

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Jon Condit

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