Movie Reviews 238 – Of Unknown Origin (1983)

Of Unknown OriginHow could this movie have evaded my radar for so long? Peter Weller and Shannon Tweed starring in Of Unknown Origin, the story pitting a man against a solitary rat was filmed right in my hometown of Montreal. But more on that later.

Bart Hughes is the epitome of a successful man. He has a picturesque family featuring a stunningly beautiful wife (Tweed) and a loving, cute-as-a-button young son. He has a great job with a banking firm, and has been pegged as the frontrunner for a promotion he’s been bucking for. And at the end of a day’s hard work he gets to return to his inner New York city corner castle turret topped brownstone Victorian home. His pride and joy dream house, immaculately hand restored and renovated by himself. Basically he has everything a man can want.

As his wife and son depart for a few days with the grandfather, Bart is handed a very important folio to work on. Success with this one project would secure that much sought after promotion. He heads home to eagerly begin this assignment when his troubles begin. It seems that a rodent is scattering around the house, one who easily evades his store bought ‘simple’ traps. Bart then enlists the help of Clete (Louis Del Grande, former star of CBC’s Seeing Things), a neighbor who suggest a few more assiduous, cold blooded concoctions and mortal instruments. But these too, are to no avail.

The tension mounts in an ever escalating game of cat and mouse, where the mouse, an oversized rat, is winning every hand. As the war wages on, Bart’s bloodshot eyes become as beady as those of his rodent foe. Bart’s weapons of choice get bigger and as his psyche becomes focused on his foe, he loses grip with reality and everything and everyone he ever cared for. In the end, his mesmerized crusade begins gnawing the very home he set out to save and there is as much blood piling up in the rooms as there are torn bits of drywall and shattered furniture.

Essentially a message about materialism, the merits of the film lay squarely on the rising tension and Bart’s transformation and loss of context. While the effects do suffer in some areas (I swear the size of the rat changes in every scene it appears as different prop models are used), there are some cool contraptions that Bart resorts to as weapons.

In pantheon of rat movies, this one lies somewhere in between the excellent Willard (the original, the remake or even Ben the sequel to the original) on the high end of the scale, and the movie Rats (A.K.A. Killer Rats) with Ron Perlman on the low side.

Oh, and that Montreal connection? The exterior shots use the Drummond Mansion in Montreal at 3418 Drummond St. just up the street from Sherbrooke. Going to have to pass by next time I’m downtown there.


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