Nov 28, 2014

The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here!

Certainly, you cannot fuck with a film with a title like The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here! (1972), or so I thought while attempting to watch every single one of the surviving films of sadomasochistic queer gutter auteur Andy Milligan (The Ghastly Ones, Fleshpot on 42nd Street). Easily the worst of the films that the fucked filmmaker made while taking a temporary sabbatical over the pond in London (the others being Nightbirds, The Body Beneath, Bloodthirsty Butchers, The Man With Two Heads), the film is, somewhat absurdly, a lycanthropic anti-family melodrama of the ostensibly period piece oriented sort that was originally titled The Curse of the Full Moon and was shot in 1969, but the producer/distributor thought the film was too banal for even Milligan standards and later had the auteur shoot a series of pointless scenes in the director's then-hometown of Staten Island involving two rats that were actually named ‘Willard’ and ‘Ben’ to capitalize off the success of Willard (1971) and Ben (1972) and was finally released in 1972. Moneyman Mishkin did the same thing with Milligan’s superior English era work The Man With Two Heads (1972), which, despite being a reworking of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886) and being originally fittingly named Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Blood, was renamed to cash in on the unwarranted popularity of Lee Frost’s race-baiting blaxploitation-horror-sci-fi-comedy hybrid celluloid turd The Thing with Two Heads (1972) and released a couple years after it was actually completed. Admittedly, aside from wanting to complete my viewing of the director’s entire oeuvre, my main interest in seeing The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here! is due to the fact that it features auteur Milligan in a cameo role as a ghetto-dwelling arms dealer, which, at least in my less than humble opinion, is worth the price of admission alone, even if it is one of the filmmaker’s more second rate fucked filmic family affairs. Unquestionably, the world’s greatest (and probably only) werewolf melodrama and, for better or worse, easily more ‘idiosyncratic’ than the other American-directed London-set lycanthrope film An American Werewolf in London (1981), the flick will certainly satisfy Milligan maniacs, but probably no one else, not even spastic Troma fanboys. The film depicts in slow and painfully hetero-hating detail the suffering that an ancient English family suffers as a result of a longstanding curse of both the literal and figurative sort. Featuring a decidedly degenerating werewolf family led by a morbidly and elderly half-dead patriarch who is attempting to assemble a formula to cure the family curse, as well as an eclectic collection of siblings, including a belligerent beast-man who is fed live chickens and lives in a cage with said chickens, as well as a savagely sadistic sister who gets off to slaughtering both rats and peasants, The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here! is a vaguely fleetingly charming and charismatic piece of celluloid crap directed by the horror genre’s most exquisitely misanthropic and cynical anti-gentleman. 

 The Mooneys are a very ancient aristocratic family from “Northern Europe” who have been cursed ever since one of the patriarchs was bitten by a wild beast and developed a degenerative disease that he would pass on to every newborn family member. The family used to be much larger, but now only one line exists. It is the early 1900s and the current patriarch of the surviving family is Pa Mooney (Douglas Phair) and due to a formula he created that he is regularly injected with by his eldest daughter Phoebe (British TV actress Joan Ogden of James Mitchell’s thriller series Callan (1967-1972)), he is 180-years-old, though he seems like he will croak at any moment. The eldest son of the family, Mortimer (Noel Collins), who seems like the humorous twin brother of Mr. Bean, is responsible for maintaining the family finances. Unquestionably, the most demented of the Mooney siblings is middle sister Monica (played by Milligan regular Hope Stansbury, who was responsible for penning the director’s debut 1965 queer short Vapors), who is a sadist that wallows in morbidly mutilating and murdering her pet rats and torturing her younger brother Malcolm (Berwick Kaler of Milligan’s 1969 arthouse masterpiece Nightbirds), who is the youngest and most animal-like member of the family. Indeed, Malcolm is so majorly messed up that his family members keep him locked up in a cage and feed him live chickens. When the youngest daughter Diana (Jackie Skarvellis of Milligan’s The Body Beneath and Michael Sarne’s The Punk and The Princess (1993) aka The Punk) returns home from medical school in Scotland with a husband Gerald (Ian Innes), she surprises the entire family, not least of all Pa Mooney, who sent his daughter away so that she could learn enough to help him with his scientific research and certainly not so she could bring home an outsider. Since Gerald is a starving artist of sorts, Diana thought it would be a good idea that she and her hubby move in with Pa so that they will be financially supported. Of course, little does Gerald realize that his wife’s family is comprised of a bunch of loony lycanthropes that are just as liable to rip out the throats of each other as they are that of strangers and enemies. Indeed, as ruthless, degenerate blueblood rabble, the Mooneys are more or less incestuous cannibals who eat and fuck one another (indeed, as the eldest sister Phoebe reveals towards the end of the film, she and Pa used to practice father-daughter coitus). 

 Monica, a deranged bitch with a murderously sadistic streak, introduces herself by humorously stating, “Hello, I’m Monica, the middle sister…the bitch. The one they always talk about behind her back,” and attempts to warn Gerald about his wife by telling him that his wife/her sister Diana is a self-centered bitch who only cares about herself. She also informs him that the Mooney family has a curse that he “better find out about now." Instead of taking heed of Monica's advice, Gerald says to his wife, “She has a few problems, doesn’t she?!” and then proceeds to ask her about her retarded brother Malcolm, who she describes as follows, "He’s a year older than me and he’s not quite normal. He’s almost animal-like. We don’t know how it happened…the genes got mixed up in conception and he never developed into a normal baby. When he was a youngster, we had to keep him locked up in a room. He has the instincts of an animal. Oh, he’s not dangerous or anything like that, but to this day we keep him locked up in a room.” Diana also reveals that Monica hates her because they have different mothers and that her mother was mysteriously poisoned after she was born. Vowing to no longer keep secrets from one another, Gerald also describes his own rather unsavory family background, stating, “My father deserted my mother when I was five. Two years later, he was arrested for raping and murdering a six year-old girl” for which he was subsequently hanged where “he hung there for two weeks. His body became so hideous that they had to cut it down for health reasons. He was buried in an unmarked grave in the yard of an insane asylum. Two weeks later my mother died of grief and shame.” After his mother died, Gerald was shipped to an orphanage in Scotland where he was regularly stripped naked and beaten by sexually sadistic nuns. Instead of being turned off and disturbed by her husband’s story, Diana declares, “my god, I love you so much” and embraces Gerald, who has no idea that his wife is a two-faced wench that has pernicious plans for him and her family. 

 Eventually, Pa Mooney gets around to berating his daughter Diana, telling her that she is “playing with fire” due to her marriage and proclaiming, “…the Mooney’s are a selfish lot…but we need that selfishness in order to exist. When we think of the family continuing, we must not think of ourselves but the family as a whole. We’re the last of the Mooneys and we must protect our heritage. Society does not accept us because of what we are, so we’re an enemy of society and we must protect ourselves by being self-sufficient.” Of course, Pa loves his youngest daughter more than any of his other children and sees the rest of the family as completely expendable. After dealing with enough of his wife’s family’s demented behavior, Gerald confesses, "I’m not happy here” and “there’s something not normal here, I don’t like it” and even offers to give up painting and get a real job if she agrees to move out of Mooney manor, but she refuses. On top of that, Phoebe and various other family members encourage Gerald to divorce Diana, but he flatly refuses, even after discovering the mangled and dismembered corpses of chickens that retarded beast brother Malcolm has rabidly slaughtered and devoured. When brother Mortimer attempts to comfort Diana and recommends she divorce Gerald for the sake of the family, she responds, “I don’t think this family stands much chance of surviving as a whole for much longer. I think we’re on the verge of destroying ourselves.” 

 Meanwhile, in a pointless subplot, Monica goes to a shop after killing her pet rat “Ben” with a butcher knife (since Hope Stansbury refused to kill the animal, Milligan apparently coerced a boy sporting a dress into killing the rodent) and buys a couple human-eating rodents from the cripple vendor Mr. Micawber (Chris Shore), who lost his arm and part of his face (which is partly black, as if Milligan was too cheap to get the actor’s face completely covered in blackface) after his rats got a hold of him when he was asleep. After killing the rats, penny-pinching mad cunt Monica attempts to return them to Mr. Micawber because she doesn’t want any “ungrateful rats,” but he adamantly refuses as he spent all the money on booze, so she malevolently murders him. Meanwhile, Diana goes to a curious queen ‘gunsmith’ (played by Mr. Milligan) and has her hubby Gerald’s silver cross turned into silver bullets, as she expects all her siblings to transform into wolves as a result of the full moon. Meanwhile, Pa Mooney finally kicks the bucket and eldest sister Phoebe becomes so upset that she reveals that she and her father carried on a love affair and that she also poisoned Diana’s mother out of jealously. From there, Phoebe then transforms into a werewolf and all the other siblings follow except Diana. While most of the siblings end up killing each other while in lycanthrope mode, Gerald ends up shooting Mortimer with the silver bullets that were made from his mother’s cross. In a twist ending, Diana finally reveals her true character by telling Gerald that she no longer has any use for him because he has impregnated her, declaring, “I’m different from the rest of my family…I can change myself at will,” transforms herself into a werewolf, and slaughters her beloved. 

 In his biography The Ghastly One: The Sex-Gore Netherworld of Filmmaker Andy Milligan (2001), Milligan’s comrade Jimmy McDonough wrote in regard to his decided dissatisfaction with The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here!, “RATS is hampered by a talky script; flat, amateurish performances; and effects that are bad even by Milligan standards. Seeing Hope Stansbury and the rest of the cast skulk through the shadows in very cheap werewolf makeup is funny for about a second, but the film meanders. It just doesn’t possess the crazed energy one expects from Milligan in this period.” Indeed, aside from dark-haired diva Stansbury, who seems like a meta-bitch prom queen high on coke and PCP, all of the performances in the film are conspicuously plagued by just plain bad and seemingly unending mediocrity and banality, not to mention the fact that the direction is shockingly dull and oftentimes nonsensical (with many of the scenes being far too dark to see anything), and the special effects and makeup are akin to that of a play put on by autistic preschoolers, yet the work will ultimately at least slightly wet the lips and semi-satisfy anyone that has gotten used to the nasty habit of devouring Milligan’s misanthropic family melodramas. Notable for being Milligan’s first PG-rated work despite featuring a pointless scene where a real rat is tortured and killed with a knife, The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here! is arguably the most impotent and insipid werewolf flick ever made as a work where the lycanthropes are slow and clumsy like Special Olympics contestants and ultimately meet their demise in exceedingly anti-climactic ways that make it quite clear that the director had little, if any, interest in the horror elements of the film and was much more interested in the venomous verbal (and sometimes physical) bitch fights between the rather repellant female characters. Additionally, the film is also notable for the fact that the female leads look more like New Jersey-debased guidettes than cultivated members of a Northern European aristocracy, with the pseudo-medieval England of Torture Dungeon (1970), which was shot on the quasi-beaches of Staten Island and starred a number of sub-literate working-class wops, being even more believable. Indeed, despite being shot at the scenic Hampstead Heath estate in London, which was also used for Milligan’s previous film The Body Beneath as well as Joseph Losey’s big budget psychological-thriller Secret Ceremony (1968) starring Elizabeth Taylor and Mia Farrow, the film has about as much ‘Gothic’ atmosphere as an early 1990s mestizo boy band. If Tennessee Williams suffered brain damage after a car wreck, got addicted to Roger Corman horror turds and queer style misogyny, and was sent to England with a couple thousand bucks given to him by some scheming Semitic exploitation producer like David F. Friedman to direct a cheap quickie lycanthrope flick, it would have probably resembled The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here!, which is certifiably Milligan-esque in all the wrong ways!

-Ty E


jervaise brooke hamster said...

"Anally raping a 6 year-old girl" knob nearly ripped through my trousers when i read that. Its so great when i read things that fall exactly in line with my obsession with Heather and JonBenet.

Jennifer Croissant said...

That bit about Tennessee Twat-iams, Roger Cor-girl, and David Fried-girl at the end of the last paragraph made me fall about laughing again, i really like all those absurd compari-daughters.

eddie lydecker said...

It still astonishes me that Milligans movies were shown in movie houses 45 years ago, let alone the fact that people were idiotic enough to pay $2 each to see them, audiences must have been much more forgiving of unwatchable garbage in those days.

Jennifer Croissant said...

"Mr. Micawber" ! ! !, Milligan must`ve been a big fan of that ludicrously over-rated British turd Charles Twat-ins.