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Nezulla the Rat Monster (2006)

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Nezulla the Rat Monster reviewStarring Daisuke Ryu, Yoshiyuki Kubota, Mika Katsumura, Ayumi Tokitou

Directed by Kanta Tagawa


Back in 1963, a financially struggling Japanese movie studio named Daiei hoped to cash in on the atomic age monster craze with one of their own. While you’d assume they’d be turning their attentions to making a Godzilla knock-off, Daiei really had their sights set on making a schlocky knock-off of such American giant mutant bug movies of the day like Them! and Beginning of the End; their version would have Tokyo under attack by an onslaught of humongous rats. From what I’ve read online, the title of this film was to be Dai Gunja Nezura, which roughly translates to something along the lines of The Great Rat Swarm. Unfortunately, the black & white production experienced an unexpected crisis. The cheapo effects work would have used some puppetry for the human interaction and they even built a few Godzilla-quality cityscapes for certain scenes, but mostly it was going to be footage of live rats running about a scale model Tokyo. Those live rats ended up causing a real life nature gone amok problem as the entire studio where the film was being shot became overrun with fleas. So bad was the flea infestation that the cast and crew had to abandon the sets and Daiei was eventually forced to scrap the project entirely; whatever footage there was has since been lost to time. Facing a public embarrassment, Daiei saved face by announcing that work would soon begin on their very first Godzilla-style monster movie about a giant, flying, fire-breathing turtle named Gamera.

I tell you this quirky piece of little known monster movie trivia because, frankly, it’s far more interesting than anything about Nezulla the Rat Monster, a 2002 cheapie from Japan that many people initially believed to be a reworking of that long scrapped Daiei monster rat flick. All signs point to that not being the case. And after watching Nezulla the Rat Monster, I must say that if a flea infestation had shutdown this production too it would have been no great loss to the world.

Nezulla the Rat Monster has exactly one thing going for it – Nezulla the rat monster. The two-legged rat mutant is an outlandish throwback to the days of man-in-a-rubbersuit monsters. It’s hokey, but with a real charm to its hokeyness. How rubbery does the monster look? It looks like a full-sized version of the action figure that would be made in its likeness, albeit a seven-foot action figure coated with Vaseline to make it nice and shiny. Too bad it doesn’t have a whole lot of screen time and even when it’s on the screen it doesn’t have much to do. It mostly just screeches, flails its arms and tail about, and grabs people. Death scenes are never shown so there isn’t even anything here for gore fans outside a lone severed arm scene. When the less-than-thrilling final showdown finally comes, it looks like a clumsy “Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers” monster slugging it out with a pair of equally clumsy hand-to-hand combatants.

A mysterious plague has begun to infect citizens of Tokyo. The infected are rounded up by soldiers and brought to hospitals for quarantine. A young female scientist reveals that five years earlier the US Army paired up with a Japanese research firm to conduct experiments involving bioweapons in order to come up with a way to make soldiers genetically immune to various forms of bacterial warfare. Genetically altered bubonic plague used on lab rats caused one particular rat to mutate into a monster that wreaked havoc on the facility in much the same way those fleas did back in 1963, but with more fatalities in this case. The Japanese company and US Army just abandoned the lab altogether after the incident – sort of like Daiei back in ’63. The plague inside the monster rat itself mutated into a virus that managed to get out and spread to the nearby populace. These soldiers, who aren’t even properly equipped, are to be sent in to kill the seemingly unstoppable rat monster because it carries antibodies that could lead to a cure for the virus.

First thing I must say is that there’s a bit of an unsettling level of anti-Americanism running rampant throughout the film, primarily in the early goings-on. After being told the above, one Japanese soldier screams, “Damn those no-good white people!” The plot even introduces another female, a wicked Japanese woman serving as the designated Japanese mouthpiece for us ugly Americans, even going so far as to tell the others that the US government would rather everyone die then find out what that we had a hand in inadvertently causing this plague. That Japanese scientists and businessmen also had a key role in this is mostly glossed over, aside from the female researcher assisting the soldiers who talks of wanting to atone for her sins.

The evil female also complicates matters for everyone by revealing that there’s a time bomb set to reduce the whole building to smithereens; a bomb that turns out to have been set in the very room that the rat monster has set up a nest in. This means the soldiers can’t just waltz in and defuse the thing to buy themselves more time and if they don’t kill the monster and get out with a tissue sample in time they’ll all die along with the hope of finding a cure for the virus.

If you’ve never heard of Nezulla the Rat Monster before, well, there’s probably a good reason for that. Whatever reason Media Blasters had that possessed them to pick up the US distribution rights to this film when there’s so much other Japanese genre productions deserving of being introduced to American audiences is a mystery to me.

Another mystery: a moment where one of the soldiers sarcastically tells the monster that it should be playing for the “Chicago Rams”. Was that a subtitling typo on Media Blasters part or a bit of idiocy on the original filmmakers’ part?

And there isn’t a whole lot action either. Everything seems to always devolve into characters standing or sitting around and either talking about their situation or just getting all introspective. To the film’s credit, it does try to add some depth to the characters, but these somber discussions of fate, family, and what not only add to the boredom. Heck, by the one hour mark, two of the main characters are literally taking a smoke break. Plus, the film constantly cuts back to the hospital to follow the plight of a determined doctor at his wit’s end trying to treat people infected with the plague virus. I dare say this storyline dominates the last half hour more than the soldiers trying to kill the rat monster. This plays like bad hospital soap opera theatrics amid a disaster movie setting.

Nezulla the Rat Monster attempts to be a serious, suspenseful monster movie and fails miserably. Slow, dreary, and boring; this is a film that needed less angst, less Japanese-flavored melodramatics, and more of what makes a monster movie entertaining, even ones that set about to be more high-minded. Nezulla the Rat Monster is a real bore that takes itself far too seriously given that it’s a film based around the concept of a large, bipedal, mutant rat monster that looks like something that should be 50-feet taller and getting the snot beat out of it by Ultraman. It’s just no fun at all.

1 out of 5

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American Psycho Meets Creep – Strawberry Flavored Plastic Review

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Starring Aidan Bristow, Nicholas Urda, Andres Montejo

Directed by Colin Bemis


Recently I wrote up an article here on Dread Central which was basically an open letter to anyone who was listening called “I Miss Found Footage.” Well, it seems like someone WAS listening, as I was then sent the link to an all-new found footage film called Strawberry Flavored Plastic from first-time writer-director Colin Bemis.

The film follows the “still-at-large crimes of Noel, a repentant, classy and charming serial killer loose in the suburbs of New York.” Basically, you could think of the flick as American Psycho meets Mark Duplass and Partick Brice’s Creep. That, or you could think of it as “Man Bites Dog in color!” However you choose to label Colin Bemis’ psychological thriller, just make sure you check out the film once it hits in the future.

As I alluded to above, the film is basically a found footage version of American Psycho. But that said, the film sports a twist on the charming serial killer subgenre that I have yet to see play out in any of the above-mentioned classics. I’m not going to go into spoiler territory here, but I will say that the film introduces an element to the tale that spins it into much more of a character drama than a straight horror film. Not that there is anything wrong with that!

Truth be told, the film’s turn from serial killer flick into a layered character study might have been its kiss of death, but this slight genre switch is rendered a minor issue as the film’s central narcissistic antagonist is played by Aidan Bristow. Bristow is an actor you may not have heard of before this review, but you will hear his name more and more over the years to come, I promise. The guy gives (no pun intended) a killer performance as the film’s resident serial killer Noel Rose, and time after time surprised me with how chilling, charming, or downright vulnerable he chose to play any given scene.

Bristow’s performance is, in the end, the major element the film has going for it. But that said, as a fan of found footage, I was smiling ear to ear at first-time director Colin Bemis’ understanding of what makes a found footage suspense sequence work.

In Strawberry Flavored Plastic director Colin Bemis is confident and content to allow full emotional scenes to play out with the camera directed at nothing more than a character’s knees. Why is this so important? Because it keeps the reality of the film going. Too many found footage directors would focus on the actors’ faces during such emotional scenes – no matter how contrived the camera angle was. In this film, however, Bemis favors the reality that says, “If you were really in this emotional state and holding a camera, you would let it drop to your side.” I agree, and it is small touches like that which make the film feel authentic and thus – once the shite hits the fan – all the scarier.

On the dull side of the kitchen knife, the film does feel a bit long even given it’s short running time, and there doesn’t seem too much in the way of visceral horror to be found within. Again, graphic blood and gore aren’t a must in a fright flick, but a tad more of the old ultra-violence would have gone a long way in selling our main psychopath’s insanity and unpredictability. But all the same, the film does feature a rather shocking sequence where our main baddie performs a brutal home invasion/murder that puts this film firmly in the realm of horror. In fact, the particular POV home invasion scene I’m talking about holds about as much horror as you’ll ever wish to witness.

In the end, Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic is a must-see for fans of found footage and serial killer studies such as American Pyscho, Creep, and Man Bites Dog. I recommend giving it a watch once it premieres. If only to be able to point to Aidan Bristow in the near future and tell all your friends that you watched (one of) his first movies.

Until then, check out the film’s trailer HERE, and follow the movie on Facebook.

  • Strawberry Flavored Plastic
3.5

Summary

Lead actor Aidan Bristow turns in a star-making performance in Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic, a found footage film that plays out like Man Bites Dog in Color before introducing a new element to the charming-serial-killer subgenre and becoming more character study than a straight horror. Think American Psycho meets Creep.

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Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 148 – Inside (2017 Remake)

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We’ve all heard the old saying, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Well, I’m here to tell you that’s only partially true. It seems there is a third certainty that had been omitted from the original quote, “It is certain, if you enjoy a movie, at some point someone will remake that movie.” Now is the time when one of my favorite movies gets reimagined, “for an American audience”.

In the late 2000’s an explosion of “French extreme” horror films was released. Martyrs and or High Tension can often be found on any number of lists of the “most fucked up horror movies ever”. Unfortunately, the vastly superior Inside is often forgotten (as well as Frontier(s), but that’s a whole ‘nother rant). Now, ten years after it’s initial release, Inside has been Americanized. Don’t worry, we watched it so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.

Mommy says you’re not dead. Is that true? It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 148!

If you like what you hear, please consider joining our Patreon subscribers. For less than the cost of a beer, you get bonus content, exclusive merchandise, special giveaways, and you get to help us continue doing what we love.

The Who Goes There Podcast is available to subscribe to on iTunes right here. Not an iTunes user? You can listen on our Dread Central page. Can’t get enough? We also do that social media shit. You’ll find us on FacebookTwitterInstagramTwitch, and YouTube.

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Totem Review – It’s Not Always A Bad Thing To Look Up From The Bottom Level, If You Like That View

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Starring Kerris Dorsey, James Tupper, Ahna O’Reilly

Directed by Marcel Sarmiento


Following the untimely death of a family’s matriarchal figure, a young woman finds out that managing to hold all of the pieces in place becomes increasingly more difficult when otherworldly infiltrators make their presence felt. We’re going to have to work our way up this Totem, as

17 year old Kellie is the leading lady of the home following the passing of her mother Lexy, and with a needy father and tiny tot of a baby sister, she still keeps things in working order, regardless of the rather large hole that’s been left in the dynamic due to the death. Kellie’s dad after a while decides to ask his lady-friend to move in with the family, so that everyone can move onto a more peaceful existence…yeah, because those types of instances always seem to work seamlessly. As fate would have it, Kellie’s sense of pride is now taking a beating with the new woman in the mix, and her little sister’s new “visitor” is even more disturbed by this intruder – only question is, exactly who is this supernatural pal of sorts? Is it the spirit of their dead mother standing by to keep watch over the family, or is it something that’s found its way to this group, and has much more evil intentions at hand?

What works here is the context of something innately malicious that has found its way into the home – there are only a couple moments that come off as unsettling, but the notion of having to weave through more than half the film acting as a sullen-teen drama is rather painful. The presentation of the “broken family” is one that’s been done to death, and with better results overall, and that’s not to say that the movie is a complete loss, it just takes far too much weeding through at times stale performances and even more stagnant pacing to get to a moderately decent late-stage conclusion to the film. Under the direction of Marcel Sarmiento (Deadgirl), I’d truly hoped for something a bit more along the lines of a disturbing project such as that one, but the only thing disturbing was the time I’d invested in checking this one out. My best advice is to tune into the Lifetime channel if you want a sulky teen-melodrama with a tinge of horror, or you could simply jump into this one and work your way up…but it’s a LONG way to the top.

  • Film
2.0

Summary

Sulky, moody, and ridden with teen-angst buried in the middle of a supernatural mystery – SOUNDS like a decent premise, doesn’t it?

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