Sunday, 6 February 2011

Gnaw: Food of the Gods Part 2 (1989)

They grow up so fast.

I don't know who was clamouring for a follow-up to Bert I. Gordon's killer rat flick Food of the Gods, especially 13 years after the fact. It wasn't me. Was it you? Whoever it was, they'll probably be disappointed since this film has virtually nothing to do with the first one and even less to do with the H.G. Wells book from which it derives it's name. These days you'd give it the same name as the first film and call it a "re-imagining", but in those days it was standard practice to append an incrementally higher number to the end of the title, regardless of how tenuously the stories are related.

University research scientist Dr Hamilton (Paul Coufos) receives a desperate phone call from his colleague Dr Treger (Jackie Burroughs). It seems she's been testing some experimental growth hormones on a 10 year old boy, Bobby, and as a result he has grown to about 12 feet tall and developed severe anger management issues. Hamilton goes to visit Treger at the house where Bobby is being kept under observation, but the introductions do not go well. "Bobby, I'd like to introduce you to my colleage, Dr Hamilton." "And I'd like you to get the fuck out of here! Get the fuck out my room, bitch!"

It's a great moment in cinematic ridiculousness, almost eclipsing the giant chicken attack from the first film. They play it straight too, which makes it even funnier. A giant child cussing up a storm in tiny pyjamas will never not be hilarious, I don't care how scary your synthesiser music is.

Leaving Treger with Potty-mouth Bobby, Dr Hamilton returns to his lab and gets his science on. Coloured liquids are poured into beakers and centrifuged, computers make beep-boop noises; it's a hardcore science montage that yields a few test tubes of synthesized growth compound. Injecting it into tomatoes causes them to grow to the size of melons, and at the urging of his colleague he reluctantly agrees to test the compound on some lab rats (uh, aren't you supposed to be making a cure?). Unfortunately the rats nibble on the tomatoes during the night, growing to monstrous size just in time for some animal activists to bust in and accidentally release them. After making a meal of one of the activists the rats escape into the huge labyrinth of sewer tunnels underneath the university.

I know horror movies would have me believe that every small town in America is riddled with man-sized underground sewer tunnels, but this one is extra goddamn ridiculous. It looks like an oil refinery. There's even a guy who rides around the tunnels all day in a little scooter. For the next hour or so the rats roam the sewers, popping out every now and again to eat some students. When the bodies start piling up (a couple of jocks here, a grad student there... nobody important but it adds up) the authorities finally send in a flame-thrower weilding exterminator, a parody of Clint Eastwood complete with horrifically synthesized faux-Morricone theme music. He doesn't fare much better.

While Dr Hamilton is trying to convince people of the rodent menace he also has to contend with Professor Delhurst, a research scientist who wants to use the growth serum to create a baldness cure, or something. Delhurst steals the compound, but when he accidentally injects himself with the serum his face to erupt in an orgy of bladder effects and squirting goo that lasts for several minutes. It's a pretty elaborate death scene. When Hamilton enters the lab, Delhurst having disintegrated into a puddle of goo, he remarks "God, you look awful" Oh, Dr Hamilton, you joker.

Naturally there's also an evil capitalist in the mix, Dean White, who refuses to shut down the unversity because of the Big Upcoming Event and all the money it will bring in etc. Surprisingly it's not a Cheese Tasting Festival or a Pest Controllers Convention (you know how these movie monsters love irony) but the grand opening of the unversity's new swimming pool that promises to bring in "all the rich alumni, with their checkbooks". Weirdly enough, they decide to show off their new investment with the white-knuckle excitement of a synchronised swimming display, so I can only imagine that the inevitable giant rat attack came as a relief to those assembled. It's also interesting to note that the rats somehow enter the pool through the underground sewer system, which raises some questions about the building's plumbing.

Once the rats do crash the party it's a complete bloodbath. There is mass panic as people get trampled, crushed and, yes, gnawed. The visual effects aren't that great (lots of point-of-view shots, puppet rat heads and forced perspective... not a huge improvement over the film given the thirteen year gap), but it makes up for it with gore and enthusiam. At least there aren't real rats being killed. Soon the SWAT team arrives on the scene and opens fire. Like in the first film the rat colony is led by an albino Wistar but this time it's Hamilton's pet rat, so it's pretty sad when she gets gunned down by the police just as she's about to attack Hamilton's girlfriend in a jealous rage. Hamilton manages to synthesize a cure but it's too late for Giant Bobby, who slaps the shit out of Dr Treger with his giant rubber hand and escapes into the woods. Fin.

This film is that strange mixture of sincere and tongue-in-cheek where you're never quite sure what's supposed to be funny and what isn't. I like that; it keeps you on your toes. For instance, there's a weird dream sequence where Dr Hamilton grows to monster size mid-coitus, which I'm assuming was intended as disturbing Cronenberg-esque body horror but really just comes off as goofy. It's directed by the Canadian Damian Lee, who directed a string of low-budget action films in the mid-nineties (including the Jesse Venture sci-fi Abraxas: Guardian of the Universe) and is still working today. How about a sequel following up the adventures of everyone's favourite foul-mouthed 10 year old? Giant Bobby's Revenge: Food of the Gods Part 3. Make it happen.

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