Thursday, September 5, 2013

Rat Scratch Fever (Jeff Leroy, 2011)

What would you rather see destroyed by an army of giant rats from outer-space: A computer-generated version of Los Angeles, or a model version of Los Angeles? While you're thinking about your answer, let me tell you which one I would rather see. Put me down for the model version. Why? It's simple, really. The model version is actually destroyed. Sure, it might not look all that realistic. But for all intents and purposes, the version of L.A. being wiped out in Rat Scratch Fever appeared as if it took quite a pounding. Whereas, the computer generated version is basically not even there. In other words, nothing is really at risk. And, if nothing is at risk, why am I watching? What I think I'm trying to say is, I appreciated the amount effort filmmaker Jeffy Leroy (Werewolf in a Woman's Prison) clearly made to recreate the mayhem that would most definitely occur if giant space rats did in fact attack Los Angeles (via Griffith Park) using nothing but practical effects. And one of the best practical effects employed in this movie are the miniatures. With the exception of the truck the male lead drives, the majority of the vehicles driven in this film were remote control models. You mean, toys? I guess you could call them "toys." But from where I was sitting, they looked like fully-functional mobile rocket launchers and radar systems. Now, some might be surprised to hear me talk about a film from a special effects point of view–you know, since I usually to prefer to spend my time highlighting a film's human element. However, this film is different, in that it tries to emulate your typical big budget sci-fi action movie. Only problem being, they obviously don't have anything close to resembling the budget of a big budget sci-fi action movie.

Yet, that doesn't seem to stop Jeff Leroy, who takes elements from Alien, Lifeforce, Night of the Living Dead, The Wild Bunch, Godzilla, and Rats: Night of Terror and mixes it together with his own unique brand of gore-based action to manufacture something truly special.

It's true, the buildings and the vehicles might be models, but there's nothing artificial about the people that populate this rat-infested universe. Which reminds me, the rats were mostly real as well. "Mostly," because rat puppets were no doubt used during the scenes where the rats needed to get up close and personal with their human victims. But in every other instance, the rats were real. And according to end credits, no rats were harmed during the making of this motion picture. If that's correct, then it's one of them minor miracle thingies, as the amount shit that is blown up in this movie while adjacent to live rats is off the charts.

The city of Los Angeles is still standing when Rat Scratch Fever gets underway, as we're immediately dropped onto Planet X, a rogue planet that is apparently orbiting all rogue-like near Mars. On this so-called rogue planet, a group of astronauts are busy being chased by giant rats with large, glowing red eyes. Little by little, their ranks are decimated by the seemingly unending wave of blood-thirsty rats. If you're wondering why the rats–except for the fact that their huge and their eyes glow and junk–look exactly like the rats we have on Earth, that will be explained later on in the film.

In the meantime, an astronaut named Sonja (Tasha Tacosa) is the lone survivor. Somehow able to get back to the ship in one piece, Sonja blasts off, leaving the rat-infested planet behind. A bit of a snag occurs when a dozen or so baby rats (i.e. regular-size rats) manage to sneak abroad the ship. One, in fact, does more than sneak aboard the ship, it scurries up Sonja's pant leg and makes her cozy vagina its new home away from home. Or, I should say, its new... Don't go there. Go where? I know what you were going to do. You were about to use the c-word. What? That's kooky talk. No, I know you. Call me crazy, but I could see the c-word rising in your loins. Well, can I still use the c-word? Sure, go ahead. But make it quick.

A resourceful rat manages to swoop into Sonja's cozy vagina, making the calamitous crevice its new home away from home, or, I should say, its new cunt away from cunt. [Nailed it.]

Just in case some us were having doubts as to what Tasha Tacosa's name is in this film, the always alluring Phoebe Dollar says, "This is ground control to Sonja. Come in, Sonja. Can you read? Come in, Sonja," over and over again. Now, some might say this was a tad on the gratuitous side. I, on other hand, appreciate it when a character's name is uttered ad nauseum, as it lessons the chances that I will forget it at a later date. Anyway, the reason the always alluring Phoebe Dollar is trying to contact Sonja is because she works as some sort of communications expert for Steel Space Corporation, an independently run space program with a base just outside of Los Angeles. The "Steel," by the way, in Steel Space Corporation is Dr. Steel (Randal Malone), a cyborg who literally runs things with an iron fist.

Instructing his ground control crew, including the always alluring Phoebe Dollar, to destroy Sonja's craft, which is about to enter Earth's atmosphere. When their efforts to destroy the craft fail, Dr. Steel orders his mobile rocket launchers to blow it out of the sky. This, of course, upsets Sonja's boyfriend, Jake Walsh (Ford Austin), an ex-special ops...guy, who doesn't want to see his girlfriend killed and junk.

Determined to prevent Sonja from infecting Earth with whatever weird disease she might have picked up on Planet X, Dr. Steel throws everything he's got at her wayward spaceship. Unfortunately, Sonja manages to evade the missiles, and hops in an escape pod before her ship crashes into the S.S.C. command centre. While Dr. Steel is angry by this turn of events, Jake Walsh couldn't be more pleased. Little does Jake know that the downfall of the human race is about to get underway, and his girlfriend is the catalyst.

If you remember correctly, Sonja is carrying space rats in her cozy vagina. Actually, they're not in her cozy vagina anymore. They're slowly making their way up to Sonja's brain. Trapped in the arid, extra dry underbrush located near the S.S.C. command centre with intergalactic space rats burrowing their way through her intestinal tract, Sonja struggles to survive as she is pursued by Dr. Steel's mobile rocket launchers.

It would seem that the space rats want her to survive as well. During a moment of hopelessness, Sonja tries to commit suicide by shooting herself in the head using the gun that used to belong to one of them mobile rocket launcher guys (she ripped out his throat with her teeth). Unfortunately, the bullet, while creating a massive hole, fails to kill her. That's right, it looks like the space rats will be the one's deciding when Sonja dies.

While the always alluring Phoebe Dollar–whose character has since joined the hunt for Sonja–is hands down the film's most attractive cast member, I found myself bewitched by Tasha Tacosa's dynamic face. Given the fact that Jeff Leroy's camera is constantly all up in her dynamic grill for the duration of the film's arid, extra dry chase sequences, it's no wonder this bewitchment occurred. But still, the way her dynamic face was shot in Rat Scratch Fever turned out to be my favourite non-miniature aspect.

Speaking of miniatures, the battle between Sonja, who has commandeered a mobile rocket launcher truck and is now sporting a jaunty S.S.C. cap (she can't walk around with the back of her head blown off), and the mobile rocket launcher trucks still under Dr. Steel's command is pretty fucking cool.

Even though this space rat controlled version Sonja proves she can handle herself, Jake Walsh eventually comes to rescue her from Dr. Steel's goons. Hey, don't call the always alluring Phoebe Dollar a "goon." How about "henchpeople"? Henchpeople, eh? Yeah, that will do. Taking her to "Sonja's Place," a bar Jake plans to open in honour of Sonja (I liked how the name of the bar is on the inside of the door - I guess it's to remind the drunks of where they had just been drinking as they stagger out of the place). Unaware that Sonja's brain is filled with space rats, or that she's missing the back, and some of the side, of her head, Jake does everything he can to make her stay at Sonja's Place as comfortable as possible.

If  Sonja's face wasn't so damned dynamic, I would start to doubt Jake's sanity, as his devotion to her is Wiseau-esque. However, before you give him "The Boyfriend of the Year Award," remember this, he's the one who pretty much dooms humanity. And that's the message I ultimately took from this film. Never underestimate the power of love. Even when it involves red-eyed rats from outer-space living inside your girlfriend's cozy vagina/brain. When Jake finally realizes the error of his ways, it's too late, as Los Angeles is overrun with giant rats. The sight of the rats running wild across L.A. is an excellent metaphor something. What that metaphor is exactly is anybody's guess. Either way, Rat Scratch Fever is a celebration of old school monster movie mayhem. Oh, and it should go without saying, but I want more Phoebe Dollar; and this film didn't have enough of her to satisfy my hunger for the always alluring enchantress/actress.

video uploaded by Jeff Leroy

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