Over the past few years we have been bombarded with cheap American telemovies like rip-offs of Deep Impact and Armageddon, Joan of Arc and Alice In Wonderland. Some have been reasonable, and others have been simply terrible. Just be thankful you didn’t pay your $13.00 to go to the cinema to see it.
The Rats, or The Colony, is one of these crusty telemovies, or direct-to-video releases. There is a very good reason for this – it was not worth releasing on the big screen due to its B-grade quality. Full of clichés, unimaginable coincidences and corny American dialogue, The Rats should definitely be thrown back down into the sewer to stew and fester with the real vermin.
This is meant to be a horror film, however the only thing scary about it is the script. The rats are sweet, innocent and harmless. It is the sort of film you can watch and walk away from saying “I want a pet rat.” Nothing beats the American corniness and clichés only an American script can produce - this film easily could have been called The Cliché instead.
The characters are paper thin – and I mean rice paper thin. The “damsel in distress” is there and is always in trouble (surprise, surprise) and the big, butch hero is thicker than a semi-trailer and is the atypical American “hero.”
Anyway, enough bitching, the story is based around a colony of rats (you never would have guessed) who are living in the sewers below New York City. Susan Costello (Madchen Amick) works at a department store and after a customer is bitten by a rat, the exterminator Jack Carver (Vincent Spano) is called in. After investigating other cases of rat mishaps, the two are forced to come up with a plan to save New Yorkers from the terrible wrath of the evil rats. It’s just a pity the rats look so sweet, and have more intelligence than the characters. Whoops, sorry, I said no more bitching...
The video is presented in a full frame format of 1.33:1 and obviously is not 16x9 enhanced. Overall the picture is very neat, with a solid grey colour palette of the streets of New York City. Blacks are solid, as you can expect from Fox, and colours are reasonable but aren’t exactly Mardi Gras bright either - and they're not meant to be.
There are no film artefacts, but a slight wash of grain can be seen which causes the next problem. For the duration of the film, the picture is reasonably clear, but does lack sharpness during many scenes. This would have to be the worst part of the transfer, but it is consistent throughout the so-called film.
As with all telemovies, ad breaks need to be inserted. Similar to Joan Of Arc (the Leelee Sobieski version), this has fadeouts to black where ad breaks can be inserted. These disrupt the flow of the film and after a while get quite annoying. But again, it is a telemovie so it is to be expected. Being a single layered disc there is no layer change to comment on.
The subtitles are clear and scarily precise. Every word said is captured in the subtitles from important dialogue down to background effects. This is great for hearing impaired people, as it shows what subtitle tracks could and should be like, however many companies choose to present less informative edited versions instead.
There is only one audio option for this cheap telemovie and that is a surround-encoded Dolby Digital 2.0 English track. Generally audio quality is reasonable, but at times it falls to poor where dialogue is unclear and lacking fidelity. At times subtitles are needed in order to decipher what is being said. Luckily though, the synch is perfect. Just keep the subtitle button handy...
The music is richly mastered, with a strong presence in the rear speakers. This is the only activity from the rear, with the rest of the soundtrack coming directly from the front. There are minimal effects in the rear end too, all of those coming directly from the front of the soundstage.
The disc loads with skipable trailers of Shallow Hal, The Golden Bowl, Behind Enemy Lines, Kung Pow - Enter the Fist, Super Troopers, Bandits, Die Hard: Special Edition, Planet of the Apes (2001): Special Edition and Ice Age. These trailers run for 16:38, and are split up into chapters, making it easy to view a particular trailer.
The menu is the stock standard Fox rental disc menu, with a link to be able to watch the trailers again. This is the extent of the extra features.
Overall the film is poor, as is the audio and extras, but the video is remarkably nice for a telemovie. But just remember that it IS a telemovie, and just watching it makes it so clear why it didn’t make it to the big screen.