In addition to the usual reviews and comments you would find on a horror movie blog, this is also a document of the wonderfully vast horror movie section of the video store I worked at in my youth.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Giant Rats Attack Toronto!

The 1982 movie Deadly Eyes is another little gem from my video store clerk days. It’s been fifteen years plus since I saw it last. As soon as I heard it was screening at Trash Palace, I dropped everything and made sure I was there last night. It has gone weekly now as two other film buffs have joined Stacey, offering up their collections for our viewing pleasure. Deadly Eyes was one of JC’s proud acquisitions. I talked with him a bit, while he was doing some last minute splicing in the projection booth. I asked him how he had managed to get his hands on it. Ebay, he said. He’d bought a one dollar VHS copy at a flea market sometime ago and after seeing it, knew he had to own a print. He is a big connoisseur of vintage Canadian tax shelter films.

I mentioned before that sometimes movies from our past are not as good as you remember them. This was NOT the case with Deadly Eyes. Holy crap, did I ever have an effing blast watching this again!

When a city’s contaminated grain stores are burned, a colony of unusually large rats are forced to search for other means of food. This soon spells disaster for an unsuspecting populace.

Deadly Eyes is actually a lot closer to the book than I remembered. The main character is still a teacher named Harris (Sam Groom) and Foskins (Scatman Crothers) is a field agent for the Ministry Of Health. The baby, subway and movie theatre set pieces are in there, as well. They changed the setting and threw in a love triangle for filler, but the skeleton of James Herbert’s story is left intact.

I think the most interesting thing about Deadly Eyes is how they created the rats. We’ve talked before about the difficulties involved with rat effects on a tiny budget (Of Unknown Origin used a lot of macro lenses and scaled sets), so Deadly Eyes took a unique approach. They dressed up dogs – namely dachshunds – to look like rats. What a stroke of genius! Seeing dozens of costumed canines chasing Foskins down a sewage tunnel is something that no screen cap could convey. Watching some of those sequences, I couldn’t help but think – you know what? This is kind of awesome… They really go for it! With low lighting on their side, those furry facades really helped the suspension of disbelief. Brilliant job guys! Of course, there is a good deal of puppetry for close ups, but seeing those scuttling hordes is really something to behold. Now that I think of it, I don’t think one actual rat was used in this entire picture.

As with Plague (my first visit to Trash Palace), it was fun to play 'spot the Toronto locations', with Deadly Eyes having been shot there in the winter of ’82.

I left Trash Palace with a spring in my step, knowing that sometimes memory IS as good as reality.

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