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…
Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 152 – Cloverfield Paradox & The Ritual
Last week Netflix shocked the world by not only releasing a new trailer for Cloverfield Paradox during the Superbowl, but announcing the film would be available to stream right after the game. In a move no one saw coming, Netflix shook the film industry to it’s very core. A few days later, Netflix quietly released horror festival darling: The Ritual.
Hold on to your Higgs Boson, because this week we’ve got a double header for ya, and we’re not talking about that “world’s largest gummy worm” in your mom’s nightstand. Why was one film marketed during the biggest sporting event of the year, and why was one quietly snuck in like a pinky in your pooper? Tune in a find out!
Meet me at the waterfront after the social for the Who Goes There Podcast episode 152!
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The Housemaid Review – Love Makes the Ghost Grow Stronger
Written and directed by Derek Nguyen
Vietnamese horror films are something of a rarity due largely to pressure from the country’s law enforcement agencies that have warned filmmakers to steer clear of the genre in recent years. The country’s exposure to the industry is limited, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a handful of filmmakers out there that are passionate and determined to get their art out into the world. IFC Midnight has stepped up to the plate to shepherd writer/director Derek Nguyen’s period ghost thriller The Housemaid in hopes of getting it in front of American horror fans.
Aside from a few moments that delve into soap opera territory, Nguyen’s film is full of well-crafted scares and some surprisingly memorable scenes that sneak up at just the right times. For history buffs there’s also a lot of material to sink your teeth into dealing with French Colonial rule and mistreatment of the Vietnamese during the 1950’s. Abuse that, if you’re not careful, could lead to a vengeful spirit seeking atonement.
Desperate and exhausted after walking for miles, an orphaned woman named Linh (Kate) seeks refuge and employment as a housemaid at a large rubber plantation in 1953 French Indochina. Once hired, she learns of the dark history surrounding the property and how her mere presence has awakened an accursed spirit that wanders the surrounding woods and dark corners of the estate. Injured in battle, French officer Sebastien Laurent (Richaud) returns to preside over the manor and, unexpectedly, begins a dangerous love affair with Linh that stirs up an even darker evil.
Told in flashbacks, the abuse of workers reveals a long history of mistreatment that enshrouds the surrounding land in darkness and despair, providing ripe ground for a sinister spirit that continues to grow stronger. Once it’s revealed that the ghost has a long history with Laurent before her death, the reasons she begins to kill become more and more obvious as the death toll piles up. Using the real life history of indentured servants during Colonial rule, The Housemaid becomes more than just a self-contained ghost story, adding a good deal of depth to a story that could have just centered around a love triangle among Laurent, Linh, and the specter of Laurent’s dead wife.
Powered by desire to avenge tortured workers of the past and the anger fueled by seeing her husband in the embrace of a peasant girl, the apparition is frightening and eerily beautiful as she stalks her victims. One scene in particular showing her wielding an axe is the most indelible image to take away from the film, and other moments like it are what make The Housemaid a standout. The twisted sense of romance found in a suffering spirit scorned in death is the heart of the story even if the romance between the two living lovers winds up having more screen time.
The melodrama and underwhelming love scenes between Linh and Laurent are the least effective part of The Housemaid, revealing some of Nguyen’s limitations in providing dialogue and character moments that make us connect with these two characters as much as we do when the ghost is lurking around the frame. What does help to save the story is a well kept secret revealing a connection with the housemaid and the apparition.
Honestly, if this was an American genre film, the limitations seen in The Housemaid might cause more criticism, but seeing an emerging artist and his team out of Vietnam turn out a solid product like this leads me to highlight the good and champion the effort in hopes of encouraging more filmmakers to carry the flag. Ironically, the film is set for a U.S. remake in the near future.
The Housemaid hits select theaters, VOD, and digital platforms TODAY, February 16th.
Using the real life history of indentured servants during Colonial rule, The Housemaid becomes more than just a self-contained ghost story, adding a good deal of depth to a story that could have just centered around a love triangle.
Scorched Earth Review – Gina Carano Making Motherf**kers Pay In The Apocalypse
Starring Gina Carano, John Hannah, Ryan Robbins
Written by Bobby Mort and Kevin Leeson
Directed by Peter Howitt
Let me preface this review by stating right off the bat that I’m a huge Gina Carano fan, and will pretty much accept her in any role that she’s put in (are you going to tell her no), regardless of the structure and plausibility behind it, and while that might make me a tad-bit biased in my opinions, just accept it as that and nothing more. Now that I’ve professed my cinematic devotion to the woman, let’s dive headlong into her latest film, Scorched Earth.
Directed by Peter Howitt, the backdrop is an apocalyptic world brought on by the imminent disaster known as global warming, and the air has become toxic to intake, generally leaving inhabitants yacking up blood and other viscous liquids after a prolonged exposure, unless you’re one of the privileged that possesses a filter lined with powdered silver. Filters of water and the precious metal are in high demand, and only true offenders in this world still drive automobiles, effectively speeding up the destruction of what’s left of the planet. Carano plays Atticus Gage, a seriously stoic and tough-as-nails bounty hunter who is responsible for taking these “criminals” down, and her travels lead her to a compound jam-packed with bounties that will have her collecting riches until the end of time…but aren’t we at the end of time already? Anyway, Gage’s main opponent here is a man by the name of Thomas Jackson (Robbins) – acting as the leader of sorts to these futuristic baddies, the situation of Gage just stepping in and taking him out becomes a bit complicated when…oh, I’m not going to pork this one up for you all – you’ve got to invest the time into it just as I did, and trust me when I tell you that the film is pretty entertaining to peep.
While Carano’s acting still needs some refining, let there be no ever-loving mistake that this woman knows how to beat the shit out of people, and for all intents and purposes this will be the thing that carries her through many a picture. There are much larger roles in the future for Gina, and she’ll more than likely take over as a very big player in the industry – hey, I’m a gambling man, and I’ve done pretty well with my powers of prognostication. With that being said, the thing that does hold this picture back is the plot itself- it’s a bit stale and not overly showy, and when I look for a villain to oppose the hero, I’m wanting someone with at least a shred of a magnetic iota, and I just couldn’t latch onto anything with Robbins’ performance – his character desperately needed an injection of “bad-assness” and it hurt in that particular instance.
In the end of it all, I’d recommend Scorched Earth to fans of directionless, slam-bang wasteland pics with a touch of unrestrained violence…plus, Gina Carano is in it, so you can’t go wrong. If you’re not a fan of any of the above, feel free to skate on along to another piece of barren territory.
Looking to get your butt kicked in the apocalypse with extreme prejudice? Drive on up, and allow me to introduce you to someone who’ll be more than happy to oblige.
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