Thursday, October 10, 2013

THE RATS ARE COMING, THE WEREWOLVES ARE HERE - A MOVIE REVIEW

"Hello, I'm Monica, the middle sister. The BITCH! The one they always talk about behind her back!" 
Monica Mooney (Hope Stansbury) The Rats Are Coming, The Werewolves Are Here

Imagine taking an episode of Dark Shadows and replacing the sound track with an episode of Jerry Springer Show. That is what this movie is like. The title alone of this movie 1972 horror film screams bad. It is also a case of a movie being made and then altered at the last minute, in this case to cash in on the popularity of the films, Willard and Ben.

This is one the horror films of 60s and 70s filmmaker Andy Milligan. The films of Milligan are clumsy, blurry, illogical (green vampires chloroform victims), filled with oversights (medieval castles have lights switches) and bad gore effects. They also feature outrageous costumes (Milligan was a dress maker before taking up film), disturbing subtext and snippy, hateful dialog.

The story takes place in 19th century England. It revolves around Diana Mooney (Jackie Skarvellis - who has a nice tan for 19th century England), who returns to her family mansion with her new husband, who she met at medical school. Her father, Pa Mooney (Douglas Phair), disapproves of her marriage, because he feels she is the only hope in curing the family's lycanthropy. The family includes two sons, the Tony Randall-ish Mortimer and Malcome, a mentally deficient feral individual that the family keeps locked up with chickens (I'm not kidding). Diana's two sisters are the overprotective "daddy's girl" (In more ways than one) Phoebe and (my personal favorite) Monica, a deranged, sadistic proto-Goth chick, who acts and talks like a bratty little girl.

Monica Mooney played by Hope Stansbury

Monica is played by the very beautiful Hope Stansbury. Her performance is both over-the-top and yet, she is one of the best actors in the film. She steals the show and every scene she is in. Monica Mooney is also one of the great unhinged women of 70s film, along with Sissy Spacek as Carrie and Jessica Harper as Evelyn in Play Misty For Me. She is the kind of woman Helen Reddy sang about in the 70s. I'm sort of in love with Monica or maybe Hope Stansbury.

The producers, The Mishkins, decided to add another dimension to Monica's creepy persona: Monica had pet rats. She buys rats from a creepy looking, disfigured alcoholic storekeeper named Mr. Mcawber (Chris Shore), who claims his face partially eaten by the rats. When she kisses a rat and it bites her, she throws it to the ground. She goes back to the store and demands her money back. When Mr. Mcawber tells her he "drank it up," she sets him and his store on fire.

Monica also jumps out of a closet and tries to stab Diana's husband. Later, she chops the hand off of a retarded neighbor girl, so she can get her hands on the girl's pet snake. She whips and pours hot candle wax on her feral brother Malcome. When Monica is not killing people, she drives nails into her pet rats. In a recent interview, Hope Stansbury makes it clear that she was not the person killing the rats. She says she was so afraid of the rats that Milligan put a pane of glass between her and the rodents for the scene in the above photo (There is a visible glare during that scene too). Also, the rat she kisses is rubber. Matter of fact in the rat torture scenes, you will notice that Monica suddenly has "man hands."

The original film, made in England, was to be called Curse of the Full Moon, but the Mishkins had Milligan add the rat element later to cash in on the two recent rat horror films. Monica even names two of the rats Willard and Ben. Those portions were filmed in New York with Stansbury, Shore and the rats.

Once we finally see the family change in to werewolves, the make-up isn't that great. However, The Rats Are Coming, The Werewolves Are Here is a great place to start if you want to experience an Andy Milligan horror film. It has all the elements: the bland opening credits, the same Valentino Music used in all of his movies, people being set on fire, bickering, insults, slapping, abusive clergy, whips, torture, hands chopped off, mentally challenged people, incest, bad color, bad sound and (what looks like) the camera being dropped. If you like your horror films bad, you need to try this gem on for size.
Here is the trailer for the film.

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