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Release Date(s)1982 (July 15, 2014)
Before Charles H. Eglee wrote for TV shows like Dark Angel, Dexter, The Walking Dead, and The Shield, his career as a screenwriter began when he was tasked with adapting the James Herbert horror novel “The Rats” for the big screen. It resulted in the cult classic Deadly Eyes (aka Night Eyes), which went on to become another horror film lost to VHS obscurity.
Deadly Eyes was also a Canadian horror film that didn’t make much of a splash at the box office, but thrived thanks to horror film fans on both sides of the border. The film is infamous for its use of rat costumes on dachshunds to simulate larger rats than normal ones, something which gets more laughs than scares. In the story, the rats are a by-product of contaminated feed silos. After the feed has been done away with, the rats take to the tunnels of New York for something new to eat, in this case, humans.
As far as the film goes, it’s not entirely terrible, but it’s not overly good either. It feels more like a TV movie at times to me, in the vein of something like Grizzly or Day of the Animals. The animatronically-puppetted rat faces are actually pretty good, but the rest of the film’s effects aren’t anything to write home about. It was an early film for special effects artist Alec Gillis, who would later go on to work for Stan Winston and help create some very memorable special effects in the Alien series. The film also stars a couple of horror notables, Lisa Langlois and Lesleh Donaldson, as well as Joseph Kelly and Scatman Crothers. The story, overall, isn’t really that important because the plot involves rats devouring humans, which is what you’re paying to see, but it’s never very compelling or all that interesting. It’s a fun watch, but nothing overtly memorable.
For Scream Factory’s Blu-ray transfer of Deadly Eyes, they’ve managed to pull together quite an excellent transfer. Given its low budget origins, I half-expected the film to be full of splices, jittering and scratches that come from years of abuse. Thankfully, that’s not the case with this one, and the results are quite strong. There’s a very fine layer of grain throughout the film, with a very good amount of image detail on display. Color reproduction is excellent and skin tones are very accurate. Blacks are very deep, and both contrast and brightness are at acceptable levels. I didn’t notice any unnecessary digital tinkering or too many film artifacts either, as I mentioned before. It’s a very sold transfer that shows the film’s age but still honors it without a heavy-handed boost. The audio for the film, which is a single English Mono DTS-HD track, is very good without being totally great. I noticed some slight distortion towards the beginning, but it quickly went away. Otherwise, dialogue is clean and clear, and both sound effects and score mix well into the proceedings. There’s not much spatial activity going on and the audio shows its age a bit, but overall, it was satisfying enough. There are also subtitles in English for those who might need them.
In the extras department, you get a few things to dig into if you’re a fan of the film. First up is the featurette Deadly Eyes: Dogs in Rats’ Clothing, as well as separate interviews with actress Lisa Langlois, actress Lesleh Donaldson, actor Joseph Kelly, and special effects artist Allan Apone. There’s also a TV spot for the film, and you’ll also find a DVD version of the same disc, as well. So it’s kind of sparse, but there’s some very interesting material here to check out.
Scream Factory’s treatment of Deadly Eyes on Blu-ray and DVD for the first time yields some very positive results. It’s not one of the best rat-related horror movies out there (if there is, indeed, such a thing), but it’s an enjoyable killer animal movie that should provide you with some laughs (and maybe some scares if you’re among the squeamish). So check it out.
- Tim Salmons