OF UNKNOWN ORIGIN, directed by George P. Cosmatos (Cobra) with a screenplay by Brian Taggert based off the novel by Chauncey G. Parker III, pits man against vermin as they both try to lay claim to the house they both inhabit. The film stars Peter Weller (RoboCop), Jennifer Dale (Saving Hope) and Lawrence Dane (Scanners).
The film centers around Bart Hughes; a man who seems to have everything – the house of his dreams, a beautiful wife and son, and a job that’s leading him to a promotion. When his wife and son leave for a vacation, Bart decides to stay at home to work on a project that he hopes will land him the promotion he so desires. Unbeknownst to him, a rat has begun to stake its claim, and claws, into Bart’s stunning New York brownstone. Trying every trick in the book to rid the rodent from his house, Bart begins to unravel at the seams, as the stress and pressure of work collide head-on with the rat’s path of destruction.
I think going into this movie relatively blind was the best way I could have experienced OF UNKNOWN ORIGIN. I figured it would be some type of creature feature, and in a way it was, it just wasn’t the type of creature feature I was used to. On the surface it’s quick to dismiss this movie as just being another B-horror flick, but when you take the time to really digest the themes throughout, it ends up being much deeper than someone would expect. The fight between Bart and the rat, though comical at times, is to me, at least, a metaphor for how life can knock you down. Just when you think you have hit that moment in life where nothing could possibly go wrong, that’s when everything falls apart.
I could go deeper into how depressing that metaphor is, but I think we all know what feeling is like. So with that said, let’s talk about the acting! I’ll be honest, I haven’t seen RoboCop (I know, I know) so I wasn’t overly familiar with Peter Weller, but let me tell you something, I am now! I absolutely loved his performance in the movie, especially the more unhinged he became. There is something about him that is incredibly captivating that I can see why he has such a loyal following. The rest of the case does well in that way that only 80s movies can achieve but no one really stands out as much as Weller does. As for the rat – I was actually surprised that they used real rats (with a disclaimer at the end to inform the audience that no animals were ever in danger of being harmed). And let me tell you, some of the close up views of the rat and its teeth were enough to send shivers down my spine.
In regards to the story, I really enjoyed almost all of it. The only part that I felt was unneeded was when Bart kisses his extremely attractive secretary while his wife is out of town. Not only did I feel that moment was forced, I also felt like it didn’t add any necessary value to the film. I’m sure some would argue that it was a sign of him spiraling due to his obsession over the rat and the mayhem it was causing, but I just felt it was unnecessary and pointless. Other than that, the rest of the story was fantastic and flowed together nicely. Though I wouldn’t necessarily call this a scary horror film, it definitely had elements that would fit within the genre nicely along with ample loads of humor throughout.
After the film was over, I decided to dig into the special features, most notably an interview with writer Brian Taggert titled “That Rat Movie”. During this interview, Taggert talked about how he never wanted the film to be labeled “that rat movie” but does find it humorous now, especially considering horror icons such as Stephen King laud it as their favorite “rat movie”. The film also got a beautiful 2K restoration making it look fantastic on the screen.
Overall, I really enjoyed OF UNKNOWN ORIGIN, so much so that it has now become one of my favorite 80s horror films. I liked the palpable tension between man and rodent and the metaphorical themes weaved into the story. Sure, there were times where it had that 80’s over-exaggeration feel to it but I think that added to the overall viewing experience. If you find yourself looking for a new movie that is unlike anything out in the theaters today, than make sure to pick up OF UNKNOWN ORIGIN, now available on Blu-ray from Scream Factory.