"Rodentz," also known as "Altered Species," is one of those commodities with which lovers of bad cinema so often have a love/hate relationship. In fact, the movie could well stand as the poster child for wildly over the top, awful B-budget horror movies. The director and producers made no effort whatsoever to take any of the proceedings seriously, arguably a wise move on their part considering the atrocious levels every aspect of this film achieves. I imagine the film tried to mimic, and probably spoof in the process, every zero budget monster film made from the 1940s on, but I really, REALLY wished it hadn't failed so miserably. Why is it that every "monster" or "creatures gone mad" film released in the last few years has a low budget, bad acting, and horrible pacing? Why, when the idea of raging sharks, mad octopi, and mutated crocodiles crosses somebody's mind in Hollywood does it automatically mean a straight to video release? How many "Shark Attack" films will we have to wade through before someone gets the formula right? Well, I guess I am just as much to blame for the continued release of these terrible pictures as everyone else. After all, I rented "Rodentz" along with millions of other sheep.
"Rodentz" does have a theme: never pour experimental growth hormones in a sink. When weary graduate student Walter dumps a beaker full of the stuff down the drain, hilarity ensues in the form of giant killer rats. Walt should have known better than to do something this stupid, but he's tired after working hours and hours on Professor Irwin's controversial growth experiment. Irwin, a cantankerous old coot who spends most of his short screen time barking orders at Walt and insisting his hormone is "fine," promptly disappears after searching for his lost cat. So does an alky janitor. And so will a lot more people by the time the movie judders to an excruciating halt an eternity later. In the meantime, Walt has little idea of the carnage he has unwittingly released on the world. He continues to studiously monitor the progress of dozens of rats in cages spread across the laboratory, blithely unaware that the formula is far from "fine" and that crazed rats are doing the cha-cha on the janitor and the professor in other parts of the building. Oh sure, a few warning signs appear. One of the rats, for instance, begins to gain weight at a frightening pace after receiving an injection of the tainted hormone. Don't worry, though. Walt is only slightly concerned about this alarming development. Irwin, before his untimely passing, isn't concerned at all.
Meanwhile, a group of Walt's friends (sigh) head out for some evening fun. With nothing more than that youthful insouciance, a jug of tequila, and a gallon of hair gel, Walt's pals head over to the lab to pick up their hardworking amigo. The group consists of Walter's girlfriend, another girl who fulfills the obligatory "catty" role, and two loud mouthed jerks. Well soused by the time they arrive to get Walt, they bully their way into the lab in an effort to convince the grad student to join them. Walter, unaware that Irwin expired some time ago, tries to keep them out. But you know how it is when a script calls for mayhem; the Chinese army couldn't keep these four kids out of trouble. Predictably, oh so predictably, the carnage begins. The catty girl is the first one to run into the king daddy of the mutated rats, a creature grown to a height of roughly seven feet with teeth the size of daggers. She's one of the lucky ones, though, despite having her face completely chewed away. At least she gets the chance to bow out of this movie early on, a chance denied to Walt and his girlfriend. Panic follows, as do chase scenes and the mandatory "here's how we can save the world from the rats" idea before the movie mercifully ends. I will never, never manage to burn that cheesy image of a seven foot tall burned rat riding on top of a van. Somebody help me. Please.
It is difficult to put my finger on one specific nightmare that makes "Rodentz" such a forgettable picture, but I'll try. Let's start with the acting. It's bad, and not in a "so bad, it's good" way. I could forgive a film if the actors made me laugh with over the top performances. Instead, this film's thespians manage to irritate on a regular basis. Special mention goes to the Gary character; a guy who gets so far under your skin it would take a chainsaw to get the memory of him out. He's annoying in the extreme, and may well rank as one of the most annoying characters in the history of B moviedom. The horror of Gary nearly obscures the many other faults of the film, but not quite. Plot holes abound (How did the rats know how to chew through the phone lines? How did the power come back on?), and the editing is uniformly poor (check out those lousy reaction shots). The CGI effects look rather pathetic, too. Overall, I would say "Rodentz" is an experience akin to having a root canal without any anesthesia.
The DVD has a commentary track from the director, but I couldn't bear to listen to it. I've decided to abandon my usual "Oh the humanity" tag line for a one star movie review starting with "Rodentz." In its place, I'm going to start using "The horror...the horror" from "Apocalypse Now." I think that line, summing up all the mental trauma of senseless brutality in war on the human mind, is an adequate one to describe this and other cinematic atrocities. You'd do well to stay far away from "Rodentz."