The October Diaries: Deadly Eyes (Night Eyes)

deadly-eyes-1982-giant-rats-baby
 
Illustration by Max Brown
Blurbs by Sean & Christof

October 3rd, 2015:
Deadly Eyes (Night Eyes)

Year: 1982
Director: Robert Clouse
Format: Blu-ray
From IMDB: Contaminated grain breeds overgrown, killer rats in this Golden Harvest production. Dachshunds were dressed up as rats for the special effects.
Taglines: Tonight they will rise from the darkness beneath the city… to feed!

 

Christof’s Take:

What I Liked:

I liked learning this movie was actually titled Night Eyes, according to the title card of the film, rather than the title on the Blu-ray box. This is more common for cheap DVD releases, so I really didn’t see that one coming.

Watching the protagonist deliver expository small-talk with a love interest while the actor couldn’t hide how cold he was, that was pretty cool. Also, watching him about to make a Hungry Man meal for himself. Liked that. 

There’s a pretty fun pandemonium scene at the end, if you’re into that scene. 

However, the highlight of the entire picture show was quite early on. During the opening credits, in fact. In the midst of a controlled fire to eliminate corn contaminated by rats, there are shots of Scatman Crothers watching the fire with an amount glee that makes very little sense. It looks like his character either really hates corn or has never seen a fire before. However, there is a third and even less-likely option: as one such shot includes his title card, it almost appears as if he (Scatman, not his character) can sense the presence of his credit and is so overjoyed to see his name in the film that he can’t control himself.

I’m giving a lot of attention to this. It’s difficult to explain. Luckily, someone made a gif so I don’t have to.

What I Didn’t Like:

The lack of focus. The tensions were all over the place. The story seemed to be about teenagers at the beginning — almost pitching itself as a teen-rat-slasher, but it then completely shifted focus to one of their teachers — pitching instead a home-run love-story? And then it barely brings the initial characters back at the end to harvest a forgotten seed from act one, thus complicating the plot in ways suited better for situation comedy than horror, yet the film’s tone asks you to take it seriously.

Built into this lack of focus is the thing I disliked the most about this movie: the feeling of knowing about certain deaths, of which no characters would ever learn. It felt lonely watching the blissfully ignorant on screen for so long. Watching a film that tries to charm an audience into getting on board with a love story that should have began before the body pile feels similar to wearing a hat that doesn’t quite fit right.

Also, there seemed to be no innovation or escalation in the technical side of the horror. The antagonists are souped-up rats, which you think could lead to something interesting, but we mostly just keep seeing close-up shots of fake rat-faces biting slacks.

Final Thoughts:

I don’t regret watching it, but I don’t think I’ll be putting it on again. If for some reason you are looking for a rat-centric movie, just watch Of Unknown Origin. If you have already seen that one and still have the urge, maybe try watching it again?

Do what you will, I suppose, but definitely don’t watch Deadly Eyes/Night Eyes if you have a baby.

deadly_eyes_night_eyes_title_card

Sean’s Take:

What I liked:

The dogs-dressed-up-as-rats component was endlessly entertaining. I loved seeing what were supposed to be terrifying rodents trot around like a horde of cute pups.

The introductory scene where a professor lectures a visiting class on the current state of humanity’s losing war against rats. Set the tone for our villainous rats to emerge into a context of established conflict between species. This makes their mutant-size all the more jarring.

Really dug the opening scenes where Scatman Crothers and our lead health inspector decide to destroy a giant shipment of steroided-up corn by burning it (genetically modified food being the cause of the rats’ incredible growth — keep that in mind this election season!). Crothers smiling and laughing at the massive blaze as his title card appeared on screen gave me the most enjoyment of any scene in the movie.

Speaking of titles, I do love it when you watch a horror movie and get a surprise when the title appears on screen. I’ve always heard of this movie referred to as Deadly Eyes, but the title card that appears in the credits stubbornly lists the film as Night Eyes.

 What I didn’t like:

We never had any reactions to any of the deaths (outside of one notable character). This made the kills feel like they existed in a vacuum, like the characters existed outside of the plot, not as a part of it. It didn’t help that most of the characters were only partially developed — just enough to make us think they would matter more to the plot. Our lead high school character, Trudy, attempts to sleep with her teacher and we are then witness to multiple scenes where she discusses her crush then acts on it. In the end this dynamic ends up adding up to a fat stack of narrative nothings.

There didn’t seem to be a strategy to the dramatic conflict, there wasn’t any clear dramatic moment, instead it felt like violent incidents just occurred in waves. Since the kills didn’t vary too much, this made the scant running time feel too episodic for it’s own good. The film was loosely based on a book, so that could explain why parts of a plot seem to be present, but the rest remains in a skeletal form.

 Final thoughts:

Having been wanting to catch this one for a couple years, it ended up not living up to my expectations. For a rat movie it was kind of a dog. In the canon of great rat horror, nothing can touch the level of affection I have for Of Unknown Origin

 

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