Hallie’s review published on Letterboxd:
Hooptober 2020: You Don’t Need No Halloween
Hood Rat (5/31)
2/7 personal choice.
Holy shit, if you have any capacity to enjoy movies on a level of “so bad it’s good,” you absolutely need to see this movie. This is my new gold standard. I am going to become a missionary and preach the good word of Hood Rat up and down the Internet. I doubled featured this with Miami Connection (a movie frequently brought up as one of the best bad movies around) with my sister tonight, and we both agreed that we had a much better and more consistently fun time watching Hood Rat.
The elevator pitch for this, as summed up by other reviews, is “urban Willard,” and that’s pretty much it, yeah. Our homeless hero, Max, befriends a rat he names Tara and uses her command of a giant swarm of rats to go on a killing spree through the run-down apartment building he lives under after his brother dies of hypothermia (in rainy Atlanta) after falling out of his wheelchair outside in the middle of the night, ignored by the other tenants. Yeah.
I really want to know what the release history behind this is since it’s in proximity with the 2003 Willard remake. According to IMDb it was released in 2001 (straight to VHS, of course), but the credits say copyright 2002, and TMDb/Letterboxd lists it as a 2003 release. IMDb is probably the correct answer here (in one scene a character goes back to his girlfriend’s apartment after a breakup to pick up his VCR…), but it’s fun to imagine it being pushed as a mockbuster. Wikipedia also says it was known as Tara in some areas after the movie’s Ben analogue, but IMDb disputes that, and the movie completely sells itself with its new title, come on.
It lacks all of the introspection and emotional depth of Willard but replaces it with side characters like a one-eyed survivalist named Satan, multiple explosions, and vengeful Max wielding a giant walking stick like he’s some kind of D&D ratmancer, so I think it’s pretty clear who the winner is in this head-to-head matchup.
The editing in this is absolutely bonkers. There’s enough Dutch angles to make your head spin, copious slo-mo, color filters, stock footage being reused, really weird transitions that have no place in cinema, colors inverting, the works. There is also lots of footage of rats doing adorable mundane things played for horror, and for good measure they’re also occasionally given glowing red eyes. Max carries Tara around in his hand like Marc Anthony and Pussyfoot, and it’s really freaking cute. The deaths feature a lot of oozy, bright fake blood and rats sitting harmlessly on dead bodies. Despite the cheap, inept feel of the production and the script, it's given a really nice energy by the editing, jaunty music, and the actors themselves, keeping it moving and constantly entertaining. There’s just so much to boggle and laugh at.
I give it 2 bruxing rats out of 5 and, again, my strongest urging to go watch it if you live for trashy movies. It’s on Peacock for free. Go welcome this magic into your life.