31 Days of Hell: The Rat Savior (1976) - Reviewed

The rat, that cunning and dark being, can overcome the human mind.  He controls the secrets of the underworld, which is his hiding place...Ye shall talk to them, not knowing who they are”

After successfully adapting playwright Ivo Brešan's Acting Hamlet in the Village of Mrduša Donja, writer-director Krsto Papić collaborated again with Brešan on creating probably one of the finest horror films to be produced in Tito's Yugoslavia if not one of the greatest Croation films ever made: The Rat Savior.  Adapted from the Soviet author Alexander Grin's novel of the same name, The Rat Savior is a fantasy horror film about an impoverished author who stumbles upon a race of super intelligent rats ruled by a singular “leader“ who can disguise themselves as human. 

Something of a Yugoslav They Live with a hint of Invasion of the Body Snatchers for it's satirical fantasy horror take on totalitarianism, The Rat Savior remains in world cinema something of a clandestine gem sporting fine performances and excellent technical merits.  Ivica Vidović, for instance, shines as the down on his luck author Ivan Gajski responsible for discovering the rat race in an abandoned building.  Joining Gajski's side is Professor Bošković, played superbly by Fabijan Šovagović who channels the Hammer horror icon Peter Cushing to create a kind of Van Helsing character who may hold the key to thwarting the rat invasion.  Special attention of course must be doted upon Relja Bašić, exuding Christopher Lee and giving the film the perfect finishing touch as the titular and mercurial Rat Savior. 

From a technical standpoint, The Rat Savior is splendid.  Ivica Rajković's nightime cinematography, for instance, is a marvel drenching the film in atmosphere while Brane Živković's gothic jazz oriented soundtrack lulls us into a madcap state of mind.  At times the score sounds akin to Sir Peter Maxwell Davies' avant garde score for The Devils, evoking a strange mixture of absurd lunacy and somber existential dread.  And of course it goes without saying the makeup design of the hedonistic rat people is both incredible and frightening, looking vaguely human while still displaying eerie rodent characteristics such as whiskers and buck toothed fangs. 

In conclusion The Rat Savior with its Hammer-esque production value and rich atmosphere is a must see for anyone who appreciates the art of the famous British horror film studio offerings as well as proving you can still make an effective chiller on a limited budget.  As a parable, The Rat Savior illustrates no matter what ideological regime ordinary people are trapped beneath, humans have to work together in order to combat the bourgeoisie and what we take for granted in our lives might be hiding something far more sinister than meets the eye.

- Hrvoje Grahovac 
- edited by Andrew Kotwicki