Written and directed by Vladimir Uglichin
“Whoever doesn’t fight corruption will be turned into filthy, dirty rats!”
Like Noah before him, Senator John Perryman has a warning from God he wants to deliver to the politicians of the world – at least Russia, and maybe the United States. There will be no flood, no ark this time. The corrupt will be doomed to live out the rest of their lives as cartoonish looking motion capture rat people. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that is what this Ratpocalypse is all about.
Not a Syfy nature gone amok movie about rampaging rodents…
Not a Mulberry Street-style horror flick about killer rat people…
Ratpocalypse is about a American Senator on the run in Russia after corrupt Russian politicians and crooked oligarchs blame him when they begin transforming into humanoid rats right after he delivers his warning from God above to put an end to their greedy ways.
I’m still not entirely sure how to categorize this movie. I’m not even sure how to review this movie. Movies like Ratpocalypse only get made when a filmmaker has a particular demented vision that makes absolute perfect sense in their mind, but somewhere between their mind and the celluloid canvas, it all turned into a 22-car pile-up. I’m just an eyewitness driving by, slowing down, and getting a better look at the carnage before a reporter asks me to describe what I saw.
Originally entitled Higher Mission, Ratpocalypse is the creation of Russian architect/businessman turned first-time writer/director Vladimir Uglichin. I did a story about this movie way back in February of 2014. I’m going to go out on a limb speculating that Russia and politics being big in the news of late is why these rats finally got sprung from whatever shelf they’ve been on.
Ratpocalypse opens with United States Senator John Perryman (Casper Van Dien) having a nightmare about washing ashore on an island covered with rats that immediately begin covering him. Nightmare or calling from a higher power? He wakes up in bed with his money-grubbing wife (Catherine Oxenberg, also Van Dien’s real-life wife), who promptly answers the door to accept a briefcase full of bribery money from a mysterious figure.
Senator Perryman is so corrupt he describes himself later by advising, “Don’t look for anything positive in me except for my blood type.” But it’s going to be okay from now on because the message from high above he received in this dream has led him to warn the world (again, Russia, primarily) that the corrupt are about to be physically turned into the rats they are.
He loudly proclaims this while addressing the Russian parliament. Not surprisingly, they all laugh and agree he lost his mind, the President of the United States (looks more like the dad from “Family Matters” than Obama) apologizes on behalf of our country, and even Perryman’s wife is ready to file for divorce.
For vague reasons, the Russian government does not want him to leave the country and freezes his assets. At the airport his credit card is declined, and he only has $100 cash on him. He then does what any US Senator after being stranded in a foreign country in which he committed career suicide by standing before that government and proclaiming God will turn all corrupt politicians into rat people would do: He picks up two hookers named Polina and Anna.
At least, I think they’re hookers. One is definitely a hooker. The other is a student being talked into her first gig by her prostitute friend. I’m not even positive they’re actually supposed to be Russian. One sounds like a Boris & Natasha character when she speaks. The other has an accent that seems to come and go. Did I read correctly that this movie set almost entirely in Moscow was actually shot on location in Oklahoma?
Our Senator wastes no time taking both of them back to a ratty apartment despite, presumably, no way to pay for them. A matter never addressed; not that it matters since he’s too busy performing chintzy magic tricks for sex. Besides, any potential humping gets interrupted by news that there’s a mysterious outbreak causing people all over Russia to transform into human rats. A $20 million bounty has been placed on the Senator’s head; the Russian government is convinced he did it by hypnosis or something.
Really… The Russians initially speculate Perryman performed some sort of mass hypnosis during his speech, causing crooked politicians and corrupt oligarchs to morph into ratmen, who then either contemplate suicide over their rattiness or double down on their deviousness as they vow to become human once more, including turning to a diabolical spiritual quack who convinces the government she can undo the ratformations by crucifying Perryman and bleeding him out.
Now the movie turns into a chase flick with the two hookers helping Senator Perryman elude capture, even as one repeatedly suggests they turn him in for the $20 million bounty. There’s also an unlikely romance brewing between the Senator and the much younger student-hooker-in-training, including a scene where Polina sings him a love song and – not making this up – parallels are made between the two as potential modern day equivalents of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene.
This is the part where I would write, “You can’t make this stuff up,” but someone did make this stuff up; and that’s why I’m writing about it.
Much like the equally ludicrous US-Russian anti-advertising flick Branded from several years ago, Ratpocalypse is another movie that’s trying to make some kind of point but goes about it in the clunkiest, most head-scratching manner possible. Making comparisons are almost unfair to Branded, a far more polished turd than this. Part of me wonders if this movie would have held more meaning to me if I were Russian. On the other hand, as much as the filmmaker seemed intent on crafting some sort of surreal allegory it really doesn’t seem to have anything all that deep to say. Political corruption is a serious problem. You don’t say? The solution is to not be corrupt. You don’t say?
Characters and subplots are frequently introduced only to go nowhere or get blown off almost as soon as they’re introduced. Even the performances are schizo, with Perryman and Polina played with the utmost sincerity while others seem to be striving for camp with their characters. Once the chase begins, it all begins to feel like a series of interchangeable scenes edited together in a manner vaguely resembling a plotline, almost always off-kilter, periodically amusing, but one that drags more often than not.
Given the bizarre mix of comedy, metaphor, and body horror, I almost want to sarcastically call this flick “Cronenberg’s Birdemic” but that might mistakenly make this white hot mess of a movie sound more enticing than it actually is. Ratpocalypse could have been an all-time great WTF movie if it was actually more entertaining about it.
The film culminates with Casper Van Dien standing before the United States Congress giving a fiery speech as to how maybe a new species of rat people should inherit the earth since rats are by nature less greedy than man. Not since John Saxon stood before the United Nations at the end of The Bees proclaiming the hyper-intelligent killer bees were the new rightful rulers of the world because of mankind’s poor treatment of the environment…