The Wrath of the Rats in Cinema Basically Started With 1959 The killer shrewsbut clearer depictions first appeared in the 1970s. This included Bert I. Gordon’s 1976 adaptation of HG Wells’ 1904 book, The food of the gods and how it came to Earth. Food of the Gods was financially successful by AIP standards, although critical opinion was overall negative. Roger Ebert gave a one-star rating, and Gene Siskel called the film’s special effects “rotten” and the screenplay “laughable”. Any small follow-up request wasn’t met until production began on an even more schlockier sequel in 1988.
Damien LeeThe sequel has little to do with Wells’ book or Gordon’s film. In fact, the only enlarged creature to make it to the sequel is the rat. Filmed entirely in Ontario, Canada, but located in New York based on a prominent license plate, Gnaw: Food of the Gods II mainly takes place at a university during the winter. The campus, actually York University in North York, Toronto, is under fire from animal rights activists. The main target is Edmund Delhurst (Colin Fox, Murder by phone), a scientist who misuses grant money to cure baldness rather than cancer, as he originally proposed. Instead of an evil beard, Delhurst’s stealthy villainy is denoted by his ugly topknot.
Meanwhile, the sequel’s main character, a bespectacled and rather beefy Dr. Neil Hamilton (Paul Coufos), relates strictly to plants. Until he got a call from a colleague, Dr. Travis (Jackie Burroughs, Villard). His patient, a boy named Bobby (Sean Mitchell), is now 12 feet tall and swears like a pirate after his parents approved an experimental growth hormone. Travis then asks Hamilton to help him reverse the process. This is where the real trouble – and more importantly, the fun – begins.
The creature-feature element is underway once Dr. Hamilton’s hunt for Bobby’s antidote requires finding lab rats he isn’t so attached to; his beloved white rat Louise is off the table. Resident animal activists, led by Real Andrewsget wind of the experience and break in overnight, minus Hamilton’s double agent girlfriend Alex (Lisa Schrange, Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II). Their attempt to document and release only ends when someone’s face becomes a chew toy for a 20-pound rat and all the voracious rodents escape.
As is always the case with these kinds of movies, a growing death toll isn’t enough for the authorities to do anything but look the other way or think about how their money will go. white dean (David B. Nichols) is not about to jeopardize the inauguration of a new swimming pool in a few days, even if it means allowing man-eating rats on its campus. He channels the mayor of Jaws and asks that this matter be kept under the radar. Then there’s the other ostensible human villain; the previously mentioned Dr. Delhurst makes good on his veiled threat when Dr. Hamilton refuses to help him after militants destroy his own lab. Delhurst’s theft of Hamilton’s serum does not go unpunished in the film’s only human body horror scene. Putridly, Fox’s character is reduced to virtually nothing after succumbing to multiple tumors within minutes.
This film takes place at the university and was made in the 80s, gnaw naturally throws into sex to puncture material. Coufos and Schrange’s lovemaking is awkward, and having Louise the White Rat as an onlooker in said seance was an odd and suggestive choice. One of Hamilton’s groupies, a college student named Mary Anne (Kimberly Dickson), is then involved in two vigorous scenes. The first has her partner Carlos (Eduardo Castillo) getting more than a love bite on his rump after a nighttime roll through the bushes. However, the strangest and most memorable of all these sequences has to be Dr. Hamilton’s serum-induced wet dream about Mary Anne. He suddenly grows bigger – in more ways than one – during their strange encounter.
Whether gnaw has it all, it’s the visual effects. The previously mentioned body meltdown by Delhurst is a gooey delight, accentuated by bursting pustules and oozing orifices. Colin Fox delivers a campy and visceral performance as he deteriorates in real time. The tricks used to make the rats and Bobby look fat are convincing enough, though Bobby’s huge hand prop at the end is as comical as it is rubbery. Models of giant rats are brought in for close range and personal attacks; limiting them to quick hits is for the best. And finally, the inevitable massacre at the opening of the pool should have been the piece de resistance of the film, but most of the action comes from the panicking humans by the pool – a random man grabs a gun fire and begins firing into the crowd, missing the rats entirely – rather than being devoured by the jumbo vermin. Still, the large-scale work at the pool and ensuing extermination scene is solid, all things considered.
As positively junky and sordid as Gnaw: Food of the Gods II is, it’s also immensely fun. The very serious tone clashes with the fundamentally absurd nature of the film, and the audience laughs when the actors themselves cannot. The story gets weirder with every passing minute, and the overall execution is baffling. Even after all the skewering, this sequel still manages to outdo the original in some ways. The way it happens there would never be accepted as “good” in critical circles, but among B-movie fans, gnaw is a treasure trove of absurdity and senseless entertainment.
Horrors from elsewhere is a recurring column that highlights a variety of movies from around the world, especially those outside of the United States. Fears may not be universal, but one thing is for sure — a cry is understood, always and everywhere.