Robert Clouse, 1982
Starring: Sam Groom, Sara Botsford, Scatman Crothers
Based on a novel by James Herbert, Deadly Eyes aka Rats concerns a literally growing horde of rats in Toronto that eat grain coated in steroids and a variety of other chemicals. They reach dog-sized proportions and begin devastating the downtown populace. A local teacher and a health inspector team up to get to the bottom of the rat mystery and locate their nest before the entire city is massacred. I can’t pretend that Deadly Eyes is a good film -- there is a lot of plot filler to cushion the running time -- but damn are parts of it entertaining.
Scatman Crothers (The Shining) makes an appearance as a disgruntled health inspector, one of the side plots involves a horny cheerleader determined to seduce her teacher at any cost, and the dialogue is absolutely delightful, with lines like, “I’ve got to make him forget that he’s a teacher by reminding him that he’s a man. Then something they call animal magnetism is supposed to take over.” Speaking of animal magnetism, the rats are completely ridiculous. The special effects team decided that it would be reasonable to dress dachshunds up as rats and I’m pretty sure there are a few men in costume thrown in the mix, too. The massacre scenes are predictable, but a lot of fun, especially the scenes in the bowling alley, movie theater, and subway. You also have to consider that the first victim is a baby. No holds barred.
Mostly, this is a completely mediocre entry in the killer rats subgenre. The production quality is low and the film itself is very dark. Director Robert Clouse does a somewhat boring job here and this doesn’t hold a candle to his Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan vehicles like the wonderful Enter the Dragon or the lesser The Game of Death. The latter is somewhat hilarious shown in Deadly Eyes in the movie theater sequence. Action seems to be Clouse’s forte, but there is just not enough of it here.
Despite its problems, you could certainly do a lot worse for an animals attack film. The characters are relatively well fleshed out, and, again, Scatman Crothers is in it, there’s a surprising amount of violence, and even a ridiculous, fire-lit middle-aged sex scene. No camels get punched in this film, but a cop does. I’m also interested to check out the novel, The Rats, which was a surprisingly successful entry in ‘70s British horror fiction, probably because it broke away from Dennis Wheatley’s satanism formula. Sadly Deadly Eyes is not available on DVD, but you should be able to find a copy online with a little searching.