Of Unknown Origin

Staring: Peter Weller, Jennifer Dale, Lawrence Dane and Shannon Tweed
Warner Home Video
RRP 12.99
Certificate: 15
Available now

Bart, a high-flying businessman, is offered a lucrative contract to work on. He has everything a family man could wish for: a beautiful wife, a young son, and a personally designed modern apartment in a Brownstone building. Things start to go awry when the dishwasher floods the kitchen. The maintenance man informs Bart that a pipe has been chewed through, probably by a rat. The businessman sets traps, but he soon realises that it's not going to be that straightforward. The rat is intelligent, watching and scheming from concealment. The struggle soon turns into a battle of wits with no guaranteed outcome...

When viewing the beginning of this film it's easy to immediately label it tired and predictable. The assumption is you're going to have to endure the celluloid version of a Guy N. Smith-type conveyor belt mediocrity. This is not the case at all; you just have to realise what sort of film you're watching. Having read James Herbert's The Rats and its successors at a young age, I'll have to admit to expecting something similar. However, this obviously low-budget production portrays a one-on-one struggle of ingenuity. Initial sighs or derision at the silliness of the plot soon turns to smiles and even chuckles as the element of fun sucks you in.

Peter Weller (of Robocop fame) turns in a strangely introverted performance. As all attempts to trap or poison the rodent bring resourceful retaliation, the Bart character becomes physically and mentally exhausted, resulting in unhinged delusions. At a couple of points its difficult to know what is real and what is simply a figment of his fevered imagination. In fact, the more unbalanced he becomes, the more enjoyable the watching experience is. For example, on one occasion Bart arrives back from work and greets the hiding rat with a "Hi darling, I'm home." This is quite a feat because for the greater part of the movie Weller is acting alone.

You won't scream, you won't jump (Well, maybe when the rat surges from the toilet), and your blood won't freeze in your veins. This is much more of a tongue-in-cheek thriller than the horror it alludes to. Okay, so it's not Shakespeare, but it is cheap and cheerful fun. Watch out for the end sequence when Bart devises a cruel weapon and effectively becomes the ex-Terminator.

Ty Power

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