HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD / RATS: NIGHT OF TERROR Blu-ray Review
It’s becoming a disappointing fad in modern culture to embrace self-aware exploitation movies that are ironically made to be mocked, and it reignites my appreciation for a time in cinema that will most likely never happen again. Real exploitation movies were great because they were sincere and bizarre. If their intention was to be awful, then what would be the point? Filmmakers always felt the urge when making these films to explore odd obsessions and try daring things. Sometimes they turned out great and other times they failed but they were rarely ever mediocre, which to me is the kiss of death in cinema. Their lack of resources might have prevented them from achieving things they wanted, but it also forced them to be more creative. When these films turned out bad, they turned out really bad. And that, my friends, is a fun night at the movies!
If you really want to have a genuine ‘so bad it’s good’ experience, you can never go wrong with the Italian schlock duo Claudio Fragasso (Troll 2) and Bruno Mattei, Mattei was often considered the “Ed Wood of Italian filmmaking.” Mattei was as reckless as exploitation directors came and he’s made every reprehensible sub-genre you can think of, from erotic Nazi death camp films and porno documentaries like The True Story of the Nun of Monza to Emanuelle women-in-prison films and everything else that could possibly feed your grindhouse appetite. Fragasso directed Monster Dog with Alice Cooper, to give you an idea of what a perfect bizarre match these two were.
Hell Of The Living Dead never disguises it’s Romero knockoff intentions. It begins with an accident at a chemical plant during an experimental project called “Operation: Sweet Death,” which unleashes a lethal virus that reanimates it’s victims with an insatiable hunger for human flesh. A SWAT team consisting of hyperkinetic soldiers hellbent on seeing some action is sent to New Guinea to investigate and get what they bargain for and then some. They arrive on an island, comprised of stock footage that invokes elements from Animal Planet and Cannibal Ferox, where they meet a female reporter who dabbles in nude anthropology, and the zombie apocalypse is there to greet them. The ridiculously dubbed dialogue of the mercenaries keeps the momentum of this gorefest moving at breakneck pace with awkwardly quotable lines like “No, hold it! That’s not polite… I get the first shot!” before unloading ammo between the eyes of a rotting corpse. The recycled Goblin music heightens the atmosphere and there’s rarely a dull moment to be found.
Rats: Night of Terror is Mattei and Fragasso’s spin on the post-apocalyptic genre that has an intriguing setup but instead of diving into the Mad Max-like world that the prologue introduces, the crude biker characters get trapped inside an abandoned establishment with futuristic architecture and become dinner to an evil rat feeding ground. The background sets are very impressive, they were originally built for Sergio Leone’s crime masterpiece Once Upon a Time in America and were given a gritty sci-fi makeover. None of the bikers are really empathetic, they basically behave like the punk trio on a crime spree in Repo Man and they all have their own individual quirks that make them entertaining to watch and of course there’s the dialogue, “This stupid machine needs a kick in the balls!”. Geretta Geretta from
Demons particularly gives an energetic performance and her character delivers some of the most absurd scenes in the movie. The sheer ambition of the concept alone elevates this killer rat movie above most of the others and compliments Hell Of The Living Dead enough to make this pair a horrendously fun double feature.
The presentation for both features is fantastic quality with excellent picture and sound with the special features being a great mix of old and new. “Bonded By Blood” has some awesome interviews with Claudio Fragasso, Margit Evelyn Newton, Franco Garofalo, Ottaviano Dell’Acqua and Massimo Vanni. “Hell Rats Of The Living Dead” offers an insightful interview with Director Bruno Mattei, and the features are rounded out with theatrical trailers, posters, and still galleries. Blue Underground is reminding everyone that they’re a force to be reckoned with in releasing high quality classic exploitation sleaze and they don’t plan on going anywhere any time soon.