The Rat is about a young woman who is picked up by a young man on their way to a Halloween party. On the way there, the young man tells her he has a surprise for her. They pull up to an abandoned house where they both go to have a bit of fun, if you catch the meaning. At least, that was the plan until the young man realizes he left his protection in the car. Once he leaves to fetch said protection however, it becomes clear to the woman that she is not alone in the abandoned house.
Before I say anything about The Rat, I really need to ask this question. Why, in horror films, do all these abandoned houses look the same? Seriously, every film I see with an abandoned house in it – in fact, in films like Halloween 2018 and the first two Conjuring films, they aren’t even abandoned – why do they all look like Freddy Kruger’s house from Dream Warriors! I swear that they must have used the same set from the It films, as the interior looks very similar.
Anyway, that out of the way, while I was a bit put off by the final note – although that feels like a personal preference on my part – I really enjoyed The Rat. The actors are likeable and somewhat relatable with little effort, all the while sticking to the typical horror character tropes. You know the ones, the smart, timid virgin and the somewhat hotheaded, horny jock who is actually fairly kind in his own little way. Again, likable and fun to watch.
But what really won me over was the atmosphere. As soon as we hear the first ringing sound in the house, I was on edge. It’s dark, with the only light being the dim orange one coming from the windows. The title makes you think of the rodent – which, for the record, I hate with a passion anyway – so your eye will constantly be going to the walls and corners.
Which you can’t see! All the while, the woman is practically naked, she is in the most vulnerable state you can be in. It’s genius! It has been a long time since I watched something that made me want to hit the pause button just to ease the tension for a bit. Well, okay, maybe since Crawl. And when the presence is revealed, I practically jumped out of my seat. Without spoiling, it does look a little goofy and looking at a still image may get a laugh out of you. But it’s used just right here, making it so effective.
Regarding the ending – again, without wishing to spoil it – we get a subversion of the horror tropes with it, which is welcomed. The issue I have is, after the tension is broken the film carries on and something that happens after (nothing gruesome or particularly nasty) had me feeling a little dirty and uncomfortable. I’m sure that that was the intention, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. Again, personal preference there.
I also think that, despite this being a short film, it went on longer than it probably should. I feel that cutting the last couple minutes might have been of benefit. But I suppose that’s easy to say just watching it.
So, while I wasn’t fond of the finish, I can’t ignore how excellent everything before it was. I think a number of bigger horror directors could take a few pointers from this for how to do atmosphere right – it’d certainly make films like Birdbox, It Chapter 2 and The Grudge more tolerable if they had this films skill. It gets a high recommendation – although the more faint-hearted may want to keep the lights on.
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