A lot of film-makers have has the “worst director of all time” label affixed to them. In many cases quite unjustly. After watching The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here! I’m prepared to believe that Andy Milligan on the other hand thoroughly deserves the title.
It’s not that the premise is bad. In fact it’d the kind of idea that could have given birth to an extremely good horror movie. This is a period piece, set in England in 1899 (and Milligan apparently designed the costumes himself). The Mooneys are a very ancient family, so naturally there is a family curse. In this case it’s lycanthropy, but lycanthropy of a hereditary variety. The problem is so bad that the family has more or less stopped breeding. They still exist because the elderly patriarch of the clan has invented an elixir that can prolong life almost indefinitely. Their long-term survival though depends on being able to reproduce. Of this patriarch’s progeny the only one with a realistic chance of producing viable offspring is the youngest daughter, Diana. Her mother’s blood was still untainted at the time of Diana’s birth.
Diana has selected a suitable husband, but the rest of the family are not convinced of the wisdom of her decision to marry. There is also the question of where she will live. Her father sent her to medical school to acquire the skills needed to help him in his experiments, experiments that may hold the key to the family’s future. When she brings her new husband home tensions start to rise, and Monica (the most spectacularly unhinged of the Mooney females) is particularly hostile.
There’s plenty of potential in this plot. All it needed was a competent scriptwriter to turn it into a coherent story, a skilled director and a good cinematographer to add the necessary atmosphere. Unfortunately in this case all these roles are filled by the same person, that person being Andy Milligan, and he’s equally inept in every department of film-making. Chaotic is the word to describe this movie. Not chaotic in an inspired way, or chaotic in a fun way, but chaotic in a tedious and confusing way.
He’s also managed to assemble a cast of extraordinarily awful actors. The combination of atrocious acting with a poor script would be bad enough, but this is also an unbelievably wordy script. These are actors who should be give as little dialogue as possible, and they’re required to talk incessantly. This is necessary as Milligan seems to have no notion whatsoever of using visual means to advance the story, so every plot point has to be explained by means of lengthy stretches of excruciating dialogue. There are also sub-plots that go nowhere at all.
The rats in the title are only there to justify some totally gratuitous animal cruelty, and as a desperate attempt to cash in on the success of Willard the previous year.
There’s very little gore and no sex, but since the print I saw was a downloaded public domain print I have no way of knowing if it had been cut or not. The running time seemed a little short so I suspect it had been cut.
Truly awful movies can have a certain charm, and there are moments of such utter insanity in this film that at times it almost becomes entertaining, and it’s certainly an experience. It’s not an experience that I personally would care to repeat, but it is an experience.