18 – 82mins – 1988
I was compelled to sniff out this trashy 80’s Italian slasher after listening to uproarious podcast The 80s PictureHouse savagely maul it to death on day four of their recent “12 Days of Crapmas” series. How could a gore-fest about an escaped rat-monkey hybrid – played by the smallest actor in the world, The Island of Dr. Moreau’s Nelson de la Rosa – not be an insanely entertaining, if tasteless, guilty pleasure?!
Sadly, not even gratuitous nudity and genre stalwarts David Warbeck (The Beyond), Eva Grimaldi and Janet Agren (City of the Living Dead) can save director Giuliano Carnimeo’s exploitation abomination from single-star shame. I’m sure a combination of booze and buddies would lead to a riotous viewing experience (at the film, rather than with it), but sober and alone I was all too aware of the dubious effects, lame production values, logic-void script and atrocious dubbing!
But Ratman’s biggest crime is its scandalous underuse of its trump card. Pint-sized de la Rosa surely is the film, yet for the entire first half of this diminutive sub-90minute creature feature, he is granted less than a minute’s screen time!! And when he eventually is seen in all his 72cm glory (emerging from a toilet bowl, no less), the shoddy make-up job presents him as a joke (abnormally giant rodent gnashes being the worst offenders) rather than the uncanny, scurrying murderous mutant maniac “Mousey” is.
So it’s a parody, then, fully embracing its grotesque wackiness? Well… no. Because despite seemingly basking in the ludicrousness of it all – and employing an ingeniously revolting tagline: “He’s the Critter from the Shitter” – Ratman is played straight, preferring to gross us out with profuse video nasty-grade slaughter rather than hamming up the surreal angle. Therefore any ham is unintentional and clearly a fault of the lacklustre budget and *ahem* talents of those behind the lens.
The fact the long-unreleased region 2 DVD is distributed by a company called Shameless Screen Entertainment should have been a big enough hint (even they gamely rip it to shreds on the blurb). Podcast presenters and cheesy film aficionados Dave and Thom also did their utmost to warn listeners away from this forgotten stinker. But like a rodent to cheese I was drawn in like a salivating patsy… and sadly struck by the trap.