Rodentz (2001)



Starring Allan Lee Haff, Leah Rowen, Richard Peterson, Alexandra Townsend, and Guy Vieg

Directed by Miles Feldman


"Hide The Cheese!"

That’s the tagline for Rodentz. Unfortunately, the filmmakers already hid the cheese and hid it so well that they forgot where they hid it until the last five minutes of the movie. What could have been a great big ball of cinematic cheese instead ends up being dreadful movie mousetrap. Sure, you’ll get some real cheese but getting to it is going hurt. Oh, will it ever hurt!

Roger Ebert once described Jurassic Park as a "32 oz movie" because you could sum up the entire plot on a drink cup. One could probably sum up the plot to Rodentz on a shot glass. Just be sure to put something in it and knock back quite a few of them if you ever plan to sit through this stinker.

So there’s this scientist experimenting on rodents in his quest for a cancer cure. This scientist lost his funding so now his lab is located in a dilapidated building in the seemingly abandoned part of whatever city they are in. He has a young lab assistant named Walter, who is one of the only two characters in the movie whose name I can remember. They are working with some serum that looks sort of like that green slime goop you get from a vending machine and foolishly dispose of some of it by dumping it down the sink. You know something horrible will soon happen because glowing green serums in B-movies always lead to carnage and tragedy. Sure enough, the pipes in the basement leak so some of this glop spills out on the floor where the rats get into it. Judging by the dozens and dozens and dozens and dozens of rats that go on the attack throughout the movie they really didn’t need this subplot about the gene-altering ooze making them hyper aggressive in order to have a horror film. I’m telling you, if rat’s got paid scale for their movie appearances, then this film would have cost millions.

Since two people alone versus an army of rats wouldn’t be enough to satisfy most movie watchers these days, Walter just happens to have a some college co-ed friends who just happen to show up right after the scientist appears to have gone home for the evening. They decide to have a lab party. As best I can tell a lab party pretty much consists of a couple of people standing around in a scientific laboratory going "Wooooo!" over and over. I’m not entirely sure what was said or done during these scenes since I was flipping through a magazine. Sorry, I was already getting bored out of my mind by this point.

The first half-hour to forty-five minutes of Rodentz creeps along like constipated molasses. I don’t know if it was a case of poor direction or making the fatal error of trying to stretch filament thin material out as long as possible but tedium is the death knell of any movie, especially a monster movie, and the first forty-five or so minutes of Rodentz sees the material get stretched more than Joan Rivers’ face.

A cat follows a rat down into the basement. It should be obvious to everyone exactly what this scene is leading to so why the hell does it take five freaking minutes to play out? The drunken janitor goes down into the basement looking for the cat. Again, it’s so obvious where this scene is going and yet it still takes another five to ten freaking minutes to play out. Hell, one of the female characters gets killed later on because it takes her boyfriend about five freaking minutes to fumble through the glove compartment of their van looking for a condom.

It also doesn’t help that none of the characters in this movie have any personality whatsoever aside from the horny couple and that’s only because they’re horny. Being too stupid to live does not qualify as a character trait in my book. Even by slasher movie standards the characters here are extremely one-dimensional. A couple of them border on being half-dimensional. Okay, another character is something of a cowardly weasel so I guess that sort of counts as a character trait. I’m reaching for anything by this point.

The second half of the movie features the seemingly limitless horde rats killing off the characters. Since the rats are more important to the movie itself than the human characters or the actual script are, let’s talk about the rats. Most of the rats seen in this movie are real. At least they are when they aren’t doing much of anything. When they attack in swarms the rats are mostly CGI. The CGI isn’t too bad aside for the fact that they move almost as if they are on wheels. I swear there is a scene where the horde of rats coming scurrying from around a corner and it looks like a bunch of tiny, rat-shaped racecars zooming around a curve.

And then there’s the big rat. The formula has not only made the rodents super predatory but one in particular has grown to the size of a small bear. Ever see Night of the Lepus, the classic 1970s B-movie about giant rabbits terrorizing Texas? If you have then you might remember that there were a couple of very brief scenes towards the end of the movie where it was obviously someone in a rabbit costume leaping onto potential victims. Here we are thirty years later and the technology hasn’t changed that much at all. Folks, the giant rat in this movie is clearly a guy in a rat costume. I’m talking about the kind of rat costume that looks like it would be used in a live-action stage production of The Wind in the Willows. The director only allows you to see bits and pieces of the big rat for most of the movie but those rare scenes when we get a good look at the full costume it is fall out of your seat laughing out loud funny.

In another brilliant moment, Chelsea, the girl who was waiting for her boyfriend to find the condom in the glove compartment for five freaking minutes and the only other character name I remember for some reason, is standing around outside when the giant rat moves in for the kill. Another character sees it all from a window. He begins freaking out at the sight of seeing this enormous rat and starts screaming at Chelsea to run for her life. The film is so poorly edited that he begins reacting to this monster coming up behind her almost a minute before we the audience are shown that there’s a monster coming up behind her. Yes, brilliant filmmaking!

As I said, the cheese doesn’t show up until the final five minutes. Our final survivors escape the vermin invasion via a manner somewhat similar to the end of Mars Attacks (Seriously!) only to now find themselves in a life or death battle with the man in the rat suit. They hop into their mighty minibus and take off only to have the big rat climb on top of the roof making the vehicle look like some sort of bizarre rat-related promotional vehicle. The rat begins to slash its way through the roof and...Well, I won’t give it completely away. Let’s just say if you ever saw the "Toonces, the Cat Who Could Drive A Car" skits from Saturday Night Live then you now have some idea how this all ends, only replace going over a cliff with rear-ending a parked car that judging by the explosion must have been loaded with C4 explosives.

As howlingly funny as this monster rat is and how utterly ludicrous the last five minutes are it only further highlights the other big problem with the movie. All the ingredients are in place to make a campy monster movie along the lines of Eight-Legged Freaks but instead it pretty much plays out with the mentality of a generic, low-budget, slasher movie. Had they just made the movie tongue-in-cheek it might have turned out to be entertaining but instead you have a boring movie overloaded with bad acting, poor special effects, and a script utterly virtually devoid of any suspense or wit.

I’m giving Rodentz a single Blood Mug rating and that is only for the silly rat costume and unintended goofiness of the last five minutes. I still feel as if I’m being way too generous.


1 out of 5

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