... aka: Gnaw
... aka: Gnaw - Food of the Gods: Part 2
After I saw Bert I. Gordon's masterpiece The Food of the Gods, I stayed up many a night hoping, praying that there would one day be a sequel. I said to God "Could you please make sure the sequel has nothing to do with either the original film or the H.G. Wells novel of the same name. I would like it to focus around only giant killer rodents this time as I do not want giant worms, giant chickens or giant wasps ruining my giant rat fun. However, it is OK if it includes an angry, foul-mouthed 8-year-old giant with a large rubber hand. It must also have an 80s synthesizer score, a man in a cow mask repeatedly screaming "Animals have rights!," a guy in an awful toupee trying to find a cure for baldness by butchering dogs and Clint Eastwood, or at least someone imitating him if he is unavailable for filming. Could you please also throw in a scene where synchronized swimmers get eaten? Thank you very much for your time." And then I waited... and waited... and waited some more, but nothing. After awhile, I had no other option than to give up hope, renounce God for not listening to me and try to move on with my life. It wasn't easy. In the back of my mind I could never completely forget my yearning for a giant rat sequel. It was always nagging at me, eating at me, gnawing at me... My obsession ended up costing me my marriage, as my wife quickly tired of me talking about the film every night in my sleep, as well as my job after my boss discovered the collection jar I set up to help little Timmy get a kidney transplant was actually a ruse and I was planning on using that money to personally finance Food of the Gods II myself. Little did I know, but all this time the film already existed under the title of "Gnaw." Doh!
Note: If you detect a hint of bullshit in the air, it is only to prepare you for watching a film filled with even more ridiculous bullshit than I could ever dream of mustering up.
Neil Hamilton (Paul Coufos); a professor and researcher at some Canadian college who's experimenting with plants, receives an urgent phone call from former teacher and mentor Dr. Kate Treger (Jackie Burroughs), who has run across a little problem. Well, a big problem actually. It's not that her new super growth hormone 192 Methyanol is unsuccessful. It's just that it works a little too well and has turned a sweet, vertically-challenged little boy named Bobby (Sean Mitchell) into a vulgar, volatile 12-foot-tall brat who suddenly has a four-letter vocabulary and won't stop growing. Though Neil specializes in botany, Dr. Treger believes he's the right guy to whip up an antidote. He takes samples back to the college and immediately begins working on a cure. Meanwhile, at the same college, smarmy scientist Dr. Edmond Delhurst (Colin Fox) has been receiving government funding for cancer research but is instead using radiation on monkeys, dogs and beavers (!) to make them lose their hair so he can give them "scalp transplants" (?!) Student and animal activist Alex Reed (Lisa Schrage), who just so happens to also be Neil's girlfriend, along with her likeminded friends Mark (Real Andrews), Angie (Karen Hines) and Al (Stuart Hughes), break into Delhurst's lab, destroy his files, formulas and research data, take photos of the animals and then plaster their university with anonymous fliers the next day about what's really been going on. The Dean (David B. Nichols) can't prove who actually did it but threatens the four with expulsion if he ever does catch them.
Neil manages to whip up his own growth hormone, with hopes of deconstructing and reversing it. He first tries it out on some tomatoes; which grow to five times their original size in a matter of hours. His assistant Joshua (Frank Pellegrino) brings in 35 rats to test the formula out on. Though Neil is anti-animal testing, he decides to try it out on one of them because a child's life is at stake. Joshua accidentally leaves the hormone-laced tomato plant next to the cage and the hungry rodents chow down. The animal activists (sans Alex, who is busy screwing the professor) break into the lab and end up accidentally releasing the monster rats, who chew off Mark's face and then immediately head into the sewers to hide out. The king size rats make short work of a pest exterminator, a janitor riding some kind of motorized scooter and Al and Angie, who moronically go down into the dark sewers looking for "proof" of giant killer rats armed only with a tennis racket (!) and a net. They rip off a scientist's arm, cause a car accident by sneaking into the backseat and bite a Mexican guy on the ass while he's taking a pissing and singing "La Cucaracha," prompting him to to run out into a busy highway and get run over. Many others are also killed and a police lieutenant (Michael Copeman) shows up but he doesn't really do anything.
The Dean turns out to essentially be the same character as the mayor in Jaws and doesn't want the school shut down because of the grand opening of a new sports complex, which will attract rich alumni (and their donations). All the rats see is an all-you-can-eat buffet and promptly invade the place, leading to scenes of giant rat tails flailing in the pool, swimmers and spectators getting attacked, screaming people running amok, police gunning down innocent people, a frantic man getting his hands on a gun and shooting at least a half dozen people in his rampage, the Dean getting pushed off a balcony and all kinds of other chaotic hilarity. Not enough for you? Good news, there's more! During perhaps the film's more bizarre scene, Neil has a bad dream where he's fucking a girl whilst simultaneously growing into a giant (!) When Dr. Delhurst accidentally contaminates himself with a combination of hormone and dog's blood, he melts down into something that would look more at home in a Troma movie. Frank Moore (from Cronenberg's RABID ) shows up as Jacques, a cigar-smoking, Eastwood-impersonating Rat-A-Tak pest extermination with a flamethrower. And lest I forget Louise, Neil's beloved white pet rat. Louise responds when "Three Blind Mice" is played on a flute, ends up getting injected with the hormone and decides to go after Alex because she's jealous the coed is gonna steal her man!
This film is extremely difficult to evaluate. On one hand, most of the acting and dialogue ("If this university is shut down because of giant rats, no one is gonna send their kids here!") is terrible, some of the attempts at comedy are embarrassing, it can't settle on a tone and the whole thing is utterly stupid and ridiculous. The boom mic is visible numerous times and you can even see hands pumping special effects ooze into an actor through tubes at the bottom left corner during the meltdown scene Several cast members have been dubbed over for some reason, including Schrage, who was great in Prom Night II (1987) but comes off horribly here thanks to the awful dub. On the other hand, the production values are decent, it's well-photographed and edited, the special effects (cheesy as they may be) are fun, there's a lot of blood and gore and the whole thing is fast paced and brainlessly entertaining. Some of the cast members (like Fox) seem to be in on the joke and camp it up like nobody's business, while others appear to be taking the proceedings completely seriously. All in all, I can't say that I was ever bored, and that has to account for something, right?
La malédiction des rats (Curse of the Rats) [France]
Denti assassini (Killer Teeth) [Italy]
Die Stunde der Ratte (The Hour of the Rat) [Germany]
A Praga assassina (The Prague Killer) (?!) [Brazil]
Filmed primarily in the winter of 1987 on the York University campus in Ontario, this has a 1988 copyright date and received a very limited theatrical release through Roger Corman's company Concorde Pictures in 1989 before hitting video and cable TV. In 2004, Artisan released it to DVD.