There will always be an audience for giant radioactive rat films, just like there will always be outlaw critics who love reviewing them, like me. I have relished such off-center stories since the Night of the Rat chapter of Joseph Sargent’s anthology Nightmares. While some A-List prestige titles are the cinematic equivalent of hardcover books and most genre pictures are paperbacks, these B-movies are like the black and white monthly horror magazines that came out in the 1970s, such as Creepy and Eerie. They are quickly produced for a subterranean market seeking cheap thrills with low expectations, like gas station microwave cheeseburgers.
Some will come to poke fun at the meager resources and flaws, while others will be there to discover if there are any flowers in the dustbin. This brings us to producer Scott Jeffrey’s The Mutation, one of the 81 lurid horror titles he has produced in the U.K. since 2016 (this includes a handful of titles in various stages of preproduction). Jeffrey’s wrote and directing results in a potent horror picture with a goofy-looking rat costume at its center.
“…the giant radioactive rat goes on a grisly killing spree…”
Peter (Nick Danan) is having a quiet argument over dinner with his wife, Dr. Linda Rowe (Amanda Jade-Tyler), about her always being on call at the hospital. As she leaves for work, Peter goes down to his secret laboratory in the basement. Unfortunately, he finds the giant radioactive rat (Derek Nelson) he’s been experimenting on has escaped from its cage. The rat chews up Peter in the blink of an eye. The police call zoologist Allan Marsh (Ricardo Freitas) a welcome distraction as his wife just left him. During the investigation, feelings start occurring between Allan and the newly widowed Linda, which the police aren’t happy about. Meanwhile, the giant radioactive rat goes on a grisly killing spree, gnawing through police officers like caramels.
For most of The Mutation, the killer creature is a man in a costume looking like the rabbit from Donnie Darko after a $50 rock of crack. It jumps on people and flops all over them. This will be the first and last element of the film many viewers will notice. However, more adept B-movie watchers will see how Jeffrey obeys the golden rule of successful trash cinema: don’t play anything for laughs. The film maintains a level of integrity that surrounds the silly costume with an aura of menace by treating everything seriously.
The gore effects aren’t bad, with disgusting accents that are a hallmark of British horror. There is one sequence featuring scream queen Megan Purvis as a cop being attacked that is genuinely disturbing. Purvis can do a blood-curdling scream for the ages, and her corpse face while being eaten by the rat will give you bad dreams. A socko finale also utilizes effects that may look bad now but will probably be looked at like 1970s stop motion by future generations. It is nothing fancy, but The Mutation will satisfy its audience’s weird death rat cravings. Because what the world needs now is rats, sweet rats.
"…will satisfy its audience's weird death rat cravings."