Monday, March 18, 2013

The Rat Savior

Izbavitelj; fantasy horror, Croatia, 1976; D: Krsto Papić, S: Ivica Vidović, Mirjana Majurec, Fabijan Šovagović, Relja Bašić, Ilija Ivezić

An unknown European town, first half of the 20th century. Mass unemployment and poverty in the country just aggravate the position of poor writer Ivan Gajski who cannot sell his novel to a publisher. Eventually becoming homeless, Gajski meets an old friend, now a police officer, who finds him a place to stay over night in an abandoned building. However, Gajski there stumbles upon a secret society that enjoys in luxury when the country is starving. He meets Professor Bošković who informs him that the secret society actually consists of a rat race that impersonates humans and plants their agents in the high positions. Bošković is killed, but his daughter Sonja and Gajski continue the research and find a chemical that transforms fake humans back to rats. Gajski thus eliminates their leader.

Considering that up to 2012 the entire Croatian cinema made only five feature length science-fiction films (they can even be listed here: "Guests from the Galaxy", "Atomic War Bride", "The Show Must Go On" and maybe "Celestial Body"), Krsto Papic's fantasy horror entry "The Rat Savior" came as a huge surprise of unpredictable talent and even today enjoys a cult reputation despite some omissions. Just like "The Invasion of the Body Snatchers" and "They Live", "The Rat Savior" follows the similar vein of stories of an alien race secretly infiltrating the human society by taking over all the highest positions, thus ridding on the paranoia wave of its main hero not knowing whom he can trust anymore since the bizarre agents (of the rat race in this edition) look and act just like normal people. However, the story is far more allegorical here, with scenes of poverty drawing parallels with the Great Depression as a useful environment for extremism to prosper and the human-rats acting like a symbol for the arrival of invisible fascism that takes a hold of people, one by one, yet also for any totalitarian regime in general, which is why the film was doomed "too provocative" by the Yugoslav authorities. Papic directed a few phenomenal scenes and conjured up a great mood, but it is obvious he lacked the budget to fulfil his vision to the fullest, since the second half starts to list too many heavy handed, 'rough' moments, as if someone clumsily edited a few crucial sequences, which is evident especially in the weak, confusing finale. All the special effects were done on the spot, without any post-production additions, consisting solely out of make up that gives an illusion of people with a "rat face" when they are exposed. A good and thought provocative political allegory, enough for Papic to direct a remake himself 27 years later, titled "Infection".


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