Rats! Everywhere, Rats!
John (David Andrews) is a drifter looking for work. He comes into a small Maine town and finds the local textile mill is hiring and, after interviewing with the deranged boss, Warwick (Stephen Macht), he gets employed to help run the thresher. The place is infested with rats, and no matter how hard The Exterminator (Brad Dourif) works, he can’t rid the place of the problem. There’s a sub-basement that needs cleaning out and Warwick chooses a crew led by John to work overnight, promising them pay money to get it done. The dilemma is, this area is even thicker with rats, and something else, something large and monstrous, is living down there too…
I saw this movie at the theaters when it came out in the early 90’s and wasn’t impressed. I didn’t hate it but it also felt like a dud. Based on a Stephen King short story, I remember being disappointed that it wasn’t like the story and found the characters to be rather stiff and wooden. I decided to do a re-watch because hey, it’s been thirty years, why not give it another try? What I found was that my initial instincts were mostly right. The movie isn’t bad. The kills are decent, but the main character isn’t very interesting and it takes too long to get to the final half hour of thrills and chills. Macht is great as the asshole foreman, and Dourif steals the movie, especially his Vietnam monologue. And the effects, especially the rat/bat thing at the end, are pretty terrific. Once the ball gets rolling, the movie is good, but again, it takes too long to get there. Expand that last half hour to an hour of grueling terror and horror, and this could have been something special. The parts leading up to it weren’t boring, but they seem like a slog once the actual action hits.
In any case, this is a fair movie, worth a watch if you want to be a Stephen King movie adaptation completist, but don’t expect to find some hidden gem here. My advice? Watch the first fifteen minutes or so, and after the Brad Dourif monologue, fast forward through the next twenty minutes or so, and then dig in. It does get better, and some of the gore and practical effects are cool. Just don’t expect to get blown away.