People must have been really freaked out by rats in the 70’s and 80’s, eh? Just look at the nest of movies released having to do with rodents in some way. Everything from Food of the Gods to Of Unknown Origin to Willard and Ben, Rats: Night of Terror and eventually even it into more popular fare like The Princes Bridge (rodents of unusual size… I don’t think they exist). Deadly Eyes comes along in 1982 and takes the whole animal genre into a very unique and gory place resting its success on urban decay and fear with window dressings of gore splattered across the screen like a drunk man riding the subway with a lidless Big Gulp. While having been familiar with Deadly Eyes, this is my first viewing. It is in the high ranking to be one of my favorite watches of the year and perhaps one of my favorite Blu-rays (we’ve still got half a year to go). It is an unexpected favorite thus far in the Scream Factory Summer of Fear promotion.
Synopsis from Scream Factory:
Each year they plunder one fifth of our food, spread our deadliest diseases and destroy billions of dollars worth of homes and property.
Grain contaminated with steroids produce large black rats that begin feeding on the citizens of Toronto. A college basketball coach (Sam Groom, The Baby Maker) teams up with a local health inspector (Sara Botsford, The Fog 2005) to uncover the source of the mysterious giant rats. When they discover that the rats are living in the subway, they try to prevent a new subway line from opening before all hell breaks loose underground. This is man’s last desperate, bloody battle to preserve the existence of the human race!
Based on the novel The Rats by James Herbert with a screenplay by Charles Eglee (Dexter, The Walking Dead), this nail-biting thriller is directed byRobert Clouse (Enter The Dragon) and co-stars Scatman Crothers (The Shining), Lisa Langlois (The Nest) and Lesleh Donaldson (Happy Birthday To Me, Curtains).
The first thing you need to know about Deadly Eyes is that it most likely wasn’t meant to be taken any more seriously than say, Night of the Lepus. For some reason this giant rat movie actually pulls on my heart strings. Take for example one of the early kills where a baby in a high chair is first tormented then dragged off and murdered by one of the large vermin all while her inattentive babysitter displays her gift of gab. Nothing more heartbreaking than a cute kid eating food in a highchair being mauled to a bloody splatter line all the way down the hall. Thanks fuck the babysitter gets it shortly thereafter, or I’d have been most put out. Moral of the story, stay off your goddamn phones while watching children (and in theaters). The ending, the very, very end, actually got to me too (though we will avoid spoiling it). For rats that hardly look real and scamper about like dogs in Halloween costumes this is quite a feet. Perhaps the music is what does it or the overdramatic acting or the perfect shock screams. I’m amazed that I was this impacted by a movie of this type that could easily have been nothing more than a cheesy (no pun intended) romp accentuating the decay of major cities in America during the 80’s (New York was a pretty scary place to be).
The Blu-ray itself looks fine. I would like to mention that there is a strange issue with the original recording and not necessarily the transfer during the scene when the health inspector is examining the dock conditions early on in the picture. I guess it was windy? It’s clearly not the transfer, and it’s not a defect on the disc. I just thought it was worth noting because it could be perceived as a flaw in an otherwise nice release that can’t be helped. The extras are good as well with new interviews with actors Lisa Langlois (who even discusses Class of 1984!), Lesleh Donaldson and Joseph Kelly, Writer Charles Eglee, Art Director Ninkey Dalton and Special Effects Artists Allan Apone and Alec Gillis. How’d they find that many people who worked on Deadly Eyes to come out and support it!? Note: 1080p DTS- HD Master Audio Mono for you tech folks. This is a short but sweet gore store at 87 minutes.
Hey, there’s nothing like seeing Scatman Caruthers in a horror picture. Nothing. Whether he’s in The Shining getting hacked to little bits or playing Kick the Can in Twilight Zone the movie, I love seeing this man act and hearing his voice. You get just a little bit of that in Deadly Eyes. I love this release. I love the gore and the camp, but somehow it ends up being a very effective horror picture that can stand up against Food of the Gods even though the rats are smaller. The director who brought you the Bruce Lee classic Enter the Dragon, Robert Clouse, delivers an entertaining horror show worthy of the Scream Factory label that should find a new home in the hearts of animal lovers and animal phobic horror folks. If it got to me, I hope it will get to you too preferably by scurrying into your house and stealing you off your couch and dragging you down the hall screaming.
You can order Deadly Eyes now. Available July 15th.