Monday, March 26, 2012

Supersize That Food of the Gods

Synchronized swimming

‘80s stylin'
Cute rats
Cute giant rats

Giant kids that curse

A character named Carlos singing La Cucaracha while peeing in bushes

My question is obvious: in all the list of great sequels, why oh why oh why has nobody ever mentioned Gnaw: Food of the Gods 2?

Quick Plot: Set in a university, Gnaw begins with a bunch of flaky animal rights activists protesting the medical experimentation going on inside. I say ‘flaky’ not because it’s silly to protest this kind of thing, but more because these particular people are idiots who make the monkey releasers of 28 Days Later look like Stephen Hawking. The kind who break into a laboratory after hours to expose its cruelty and embark upon a 'trash the room!' montage (that truthfully, I long to participate in) without actually helping any of the creatures. Best of all, after making the papers and pissing off the administration, the trespassers return...THE VERY NEXT NIGHT.
Although I can't really blame these ill-advised coeds. They only have their education to blame, and considering a university that had been BROKEN INTO the very NIGHT BEFORE has done nothing to beef up its security measures, why would they possibly think repeating their crime would have consequences?

Thankfully for us, these do gooder dumdums are about to kickstart one of the best plot standbys in the history of film: giganticism. See, unbeknownst to the critter crusaders, Dr. Neil Hamilton was experimenting with a growth hormone. Why would a scientist experiment with a growth hormone you ask?

Well, that.
See, Neil’s doctor friend a few towns away was doing some of her own work with hormones and...oops, made little Bobby a hilariously gigantic (and even more hilariously foul-mouthed) monster. Although Neil generally restricts his research to plants in order to still be able to sleep with his horribly not smart animal rights activist galpal Alex (played by Prom Night 2’s Mary Lou herself, Lisa Schrage), he takes the risk and feeds a rat some untested drugs as a few others nibble on supersized tomatoes that would put Lisa Simpson's lost science fair project to shame. In the words of his assistant, Neil has created “an accidental hormone concoction, like trying to make a martini and ending up with LSD.” Shockingly, in the 1980s, this was considered a bad thing.

Naturally, once the lab gets broken into (for a second time in a row, did I mention that?), a few hulk-in-the-making rats get loose and begin a reign of terror on the small college town. Even more naturally for a genre film, there’s a single-minded bureaucrat (in this case, the college president) who refuses to close the campus despite, you know, the threat of Rodents of Unusual Size chomping through the student body. 

But how could one POSSIBLY be expected to cancel class when there’s a synchronized swimming competition on the horizon?
Yes dear readers, Gnaw: The Kind of Not Really Sequel to Food of the Gods features a synchronized swimming massacre. See, such a sport was apparently a HUGE spectator coup back in the day and therefore equals a battleground akin to Gettysburg when the rats decide to crash. What follows is a glorious scene of carnage that cares so much about its audience that it even includes a randomly crazed mob member picking up a policeman’s freed handgun and firing madly at the innocent crowd.

I pretty much adored Gnaw from start to finish. The effects of the rats--what I imagine is a combination of puppetry and forced perspective, much like Bert I. Gordon's original--are colorful enough to not worry you with whether they look believable in any way, and the kills, plentiful enough to keep you watching. It falters a tad in the dullness of its leads, but hey: any film that gives us the transformation of a greedy scientist into a low rent Toxic Avenger can't escape being awesome.

High Points
There are a lot of small touches in the supporting cast that makes Gnaw something clever, including an overly enthusiastic hunter with a flamethrower and minor character with a receding hairline and a subtle but quite funny obsession with scientifically curing baldness

Low Points
Though I loved her bitchy prom queen attitude as Mary Lou, Schrage’s good girl Alex is painfully unlikable here. Paul Coufos fares a tad better, but both roles are just not nearly as much fun as the movie they're in

Lessons Learned
To do experiments you need a lab...and research data
Don’t forget to take the lenscap off the camera
You would think diehard animal activists wouldn’t be afraid the thing they’re trying so hard to protect (i.e., rats). You would think but be very, very wrong

What’s wrong with this country: people not taking pride in their work
I was initially confused as to why the white toast Neil would allow himself to be so easily seduced by the school slut, but then something wonderful happened: Neil tasted some of his hormone juice and the effects were felt by his first confused, then grateful, then understandably horrified new squeeze. Then he woke up.

Crazy Cat Lady Alert
I tell it straight here: Neil’s habit of letting his favorite pet rat drape herself over his shoulder as he goes about his day is pretty much how Joplin and I spend evenings here at the Doll’s House
Montage Mania
Rock music
Bunson burners
Petri dishes
A rainbow of food coloring in glass vials
Fist pumps

That my friends, is science at work
Goof Squad
I am, quite possibly, the absolute worst judge of continuity (somehow I missed the infamous Leif Garrett wig/no wig switcheroo in Devil Times Five), making my catch of the lead protester's hair going from near House Party style to crew cut back to House Party over the course of two days either impressive on my end or really sad for the film. And yes, I rewound to see if I was missing a hairnet and no, I found none.

This is a fun film. Not scary or thrilling or, you know, actually good, but an enthusiastic animals attack popcorn flick made with fresh enthusiasm. Considering most of its competition in 1989 featured silent slashers, Gnaw is ridiculously refreshing for its throwback style. The DVD is sadly sans special features, but nature strikes back fans owe it to themselves to seek out this subgenre with an ‘80s sheen. 


  1. Lisa was hawt in Prom Night II. I'm surprised she didn't work more. Maybe the rats ate her career plans.

    When I think of giant rats, I think of the rat from NIGHTMARES, the trilogy with Emilio Estevez. And this movie of course.

    When I think of sychronized swimming, this movie is what I think of. If synchronized swimming comes up in conversation at a party, I can only talk about FOOD OF THE GODS 2.

  2. I now like to think that you throw fancy pancy dinner parties on the first weekend of every month complete with martini glasses and cloth napkins JUST so that you can casually bring up the subject of synchronized swimming.

    Don't even try to deny it.

  3. Silly mad scientist. When I make super growth serum, I always hide it in a safe full of barb-wire and bear traps! And of course, meat to keep away 28 Days Later-style hippie activists! It doesn't keep away kung-fu zombies though, but luckily for me, they seem to enjoy staying on a sleazy version of The Love Boat rather than attack science labs (I am of course talking of the amazing film, Raw Force! It was awesome! And here's hoping Mahakaal is too!)

  4. not. Yes, there's a Bollywood Freddy Krueger but SPOILER ALERT! He doesn't sing. The teens do...and do...and do...but COME ON! You have a Bollywood Freddy Krueger! Ah well, I'll still be curious to hear your thoughts on it. If memory serves, there's a mean MJ impersonator.