New Horror Releases: Valley of the Rats (2017) - Reviewed

Tasha reviews Valley of the Rats

Written and directed by Vince D’Amato, known for his work on 2015 Delivery, Glass, as well as The Hard Cut (2011), Valley of the Rats holds a similar fascination with the femme fatale and eroticism, sprinkled over a dish of gruesome murder.

The name sounds utterly intriguing and brings forth expectations of plots and sub-plots, cleverly woven atop a bed of solid acting and promising action. Then the Giallo term pops up, and all those expectations turn, rightly so. This hour-long odd odyssey is clearly Giallo cinema inspired, but with far less credibility in the way of narration and technical aspect.

Valley of the Rats is centered around Jesse, a young man recently released from police custody for the murder of his ex-girlfriend. Hell-bent on finding the real killer himself, he rents a limousine to use as his personal interrogation room. With a full bar and luxury, he aspires to drive around town for hours, picking up his suspects in the way of friends and acquaintances in order to question them (and other pleasures) in the back of the limousine.

As if the film’s art value does not already impair the storytelling considerably during introductions, the sound mixing is horrendous. The latter, coupled with a score that overwhelms in volume, make it impossible to hear and follow any cogent dialogue between characters. Not able to hear the replies of the characters in most cases only confuse more as to the identity and role they play in the murdered woman’s social life.

To those who are not Giallo or art film fans of predominantly Seventies slasher-porn, this film will be a maze of questions. There is no flow in narrative and some of the scenes employ unnecessary tweaks (such as split screens and seemingly endless city streets shots) that does not serve the story. Contrary to what I had initially thought, switches between monochrome to color did not help me differentiate between past and present. Most of the time the viewer is confused, as the killer stalks sassy erotic models and never allows us to find out why.

Apart from the deliberate Giallo cinema inspiration, I found the erotic scenes clumsily executed, which do not allow the film the punch it could have delivered with its subliminal imagery. Eventually, any viewer who is not an aficionado of this type of film will feel smothered by relentless images of bondage, lesbian eroticism, skin art scarring and a general Euro-porn vibe that just leaves us in the dark as to the killer and his modus operandi. I know I felt frustrated all the way through this film.

Only for fans of retro Italian and erotic art films, Giallo and photography. I am sure there are several subliminal messages in Valley of the Rats, as to the repetitive rebirth of death and sex in society, the depravity of the human race and all that, but the metaphors are messy and senseless to those who do not have an eye for this kind of cinema.

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-Tasha Danzig