The Rats

Starring: Vincent Spano, Madchen Amick & Shawn Michael Howard
20th Century Fox
Certificate: 12
Available now

Thousands of ravenous, bloodthirsty
rats are alive and starting to harass the residents of New York City. Not only are these genetically altered creatures smarter, stronger and bigger than normal rats, they've also acquired a taste for human flesh...

This, obviously made for TV movie, (you can see where some of the fades have been engineered to cater for the adverts) is beyond silly. Though, sadly, the production is played entirely straight - not one intended joke in sight.

A winning formula, surely. Take an animal that scares people and have lots of them as the main baddie. So that will be spiders or other creepy crawlies, snakes or rats then. So, are the rats really scary? Well, in a word, no! When the female lead is attacked in her car by a single rat I laughed so hard that the office next door started banging on the walls. And when the vermin take charge of a swimming pool, which is packed with children, we are led to believe that there are hundreds, possibly thousands of the little blighters (rats, not children). Yet, when we see the children in the pool there isn't a rat in sight, and when we see the rats they are in little groups of five or six and seem to be in a totally deserted pool. It also doesn't help that we are subjected to some very bad computer special effects.

The movie tries to go down the Jaws plot route - the local officials know about the problem, but there are a number of conventions and award ceremonies about to be held in the area, so they don't want to worry anyone unjustly even when compelling evidence is available. This would have worked if it had been original which, like most of the movie, it was not.

There is one scene which struck me as original. Towards the end of the movie (I don't think I'm spoiling anything here) the female lead falls onto a huge pile of the rats which then completely cover her.

This movie brought home to me the ludicrous certification system in this country. Can anyone explain why season one of Stargate SG-1 has been classified 18 purely because one of its episodes shows a totally naked woman, yet The Rats has been classified 12 despite the fact that we get to see an ear being graphically ripped off a victim as well as see a half devoured human carcass with rats running around an exposed rib cage? A naked woman - tastefully filmed as well - is surely more agreeable than scenes of violence and brutality? Perhaps not in this day and age.

Only those with a low boredom threshold who are also really, really scared of rats will find this anything other than a yawn.

Pete Boomer