Newest Reviews
Rambo: Last Blood
Sansho the Bailiff
Iron Fury
Ride in the Whirlwind
Deathstalker II
Cloak and Dagger
Love Ban, The
Western Stars
League of Gentlemen, The
Higher Power
IT Chapter Two
Rich Kids
Glory Guys, The
Serial Killer's Guide to Life, A
Lovers and Other Strangers
Shiny Shrimps, The
Good Woman is Hard to Find, A
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
Doctor at Sea
Death Cheaters
Wild Rose
Mystify: Michael Hutchence
Devil's Playground, The
Cleanin' Up the Town: Remembering Ghostbusters
Mega Time Squad
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Souvenir, The
Birds of Passage
Woman at War
Happy as Lazzaro
Mickey's Christmas Carol
Marriage Story
Santa Claus is a Bastard
Newest Articles
Bash Street Kid: Cosh Boy on Blu-ray
Seeing is Believing: Being There on Blu-ray
Top Thirty Best (and Ten Worst) Films of the 2010s by Andrew Pragasam
Top of the Tens: The Best Films of the Decade by Graeme Clark
Terrorvision: A Ghost Story for Christmas in the 1970s
Memories Are Made of This: La Jetee and Sans Soleil on Blu-ray
Step Back in Time: The Amazing Mr. Blunden on Blu-ray
Crazy Cats and Kittens: What's New Pussycat on Blu-ray
No Place Like Home Guard: Dad's Army - The Lost Episodes on Blu-ray
A Real-Life Pixie: A Tribute to Michael J. Pollard in Four Roles
We're All In This Together: The Halfway House on Blu-ray
Please Yourselves: Frankie Howerd and The House in Nightmare Park on Blu-ray
Cleesed Off: Clockwise on Blu-ray
Sorry I Missed You: Les Demoiselles de Rochefort on Blu-ray
Silliest of the Silly: Monty Python's Flying Circus Series 1 on Blu-ray
Protest Songs: Hair on Blu-ray
Peak 80s Schwarzenegger: The Running Man and Red Heat
Rock On: That'll Be the Day and Stardust on Blu-ray
Growing Up in Public: 7-63 Up on Blu-ray
Learn Your Craft: Legend of the Witches and Secret Rites on Blu-ray
70s Psycho-Thrillers! And Soon the Darkness and Fright on Blu-ray
Split: Stephen King and George A. Romero's The Dark Half on Blu-ray
Disney Post-Walt: Three Gamechangers
But Doctor, I Am Pagliacci: Tony Hancock's The Rebel and The Punch and Judy Man on Blu-ray
Once Upon a Time in Deadwood: Interview with Director Rene Perez
  Of Unknown Origin Surviving the Rat RaceBuy this film here.
Year: 1983
Director: George Pan Cosmatos
Stars: Peter Weller, Jennifer Dale, Lawrence Dane, Kenneth Welsh, Louis Del Grande, Shannon Tweed, Keith Knight, Maury Chaykin, Leif Anderson, Jimmy Tapp, Gaye Garfinkle, Earl Pennington, Jacklin Webb, Bronwen Mantel, Monik Nantel
Genre: Horror, Comedy, Weirdo
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Bart Hughes (Peter Weller), a mild-mannered, high-flying executive involved in corporate mergers and acquisitions sees his beautiful wife Meg (Shannon Tweed) and young son Peter (Leif Anderson) off on holiday. He stays behind at their costly, luxurious brownstone apartment in New York to work on an important project that could earn him a promotion. While work is stressful enough back home Bart finds himself distracted by a rat lurking in the walls. The increasingly destructive rodent wreaks havoc with the furniture, chews through wires and proves alarmingly resistant to Bart's best efforts to remove it. Eventually, to Bart's horror, he discovers the rat is unusually large, abnormally intelligent and seemingly bent on making his life a living nightmare. With Bart increasingly unhinged things boil down to a savage battle between man and beast.

A decidedly offbeat monster movie, Of Unknown Origin eschews the straightforward killer rodent antics of Willard (1971) and Deadly Eyes (1982) and heads down a more rewarding, ambiguous, darkly satirical route. Adapting the novel written by the grandly-named Chauncey G. Parker III, screenwriter Brian Taggert implies certain allegorical parallels between the man versus rodent battle at the Hughes household and the wider, equally destructive 'rat race' occurring in the world at large in the 1980s. As addressed in the hilarious dinner party scene where Bart gets carried away discussing the effects rats have on the global economy to the disgust of his fellow guests, people are so preoccupied with work and money they fail to notice society is being torn apart. Under immense pressure to score bigger deals, advance to the next rung, earn more money and buy more expensive toys for his fancy home, Bart begins to crack. With impressive skill and subtlety, George Pan Cosmatos charts the hero's slow descent into madness through disorientating sound effects (the growing cacophony of mid-town traffic, the squelch of a knife through a chicken dinner), vivid, scary dream sequences (including a memorable shock moment with future DTV erotic thriller staple Shannon Tweed) and, most notably, a grounded, nuanced turn from future Robocop (1987) Peter Weller. Weller's quirky, endearing performance leaves Bart Hughes far more sympathetic than most yuppie-in-peril characters in Eighties cinema.

Throughout the film, despite icky glimpses of the sweaty, snarling rodent we are never entirely sure whether the malevolent creature is real or the product of Bart's fevered imagination. Aside from a few witty encounters with a wisecracking exterminator (Louis Del Grande), Bart never mentions his rat problem to anyone at the office. Even when Bart's concerned secretary (Jennifer Dale) ventures inside his rat-infested basement Cosmatos maintains an effective, unsettling aura of ambiguity. The lack of any clear-cut explanation for the rat's unusual intelligence and savage grudge against Bart may prove frustrating or ridiculous to some but does not hinder the film from being a compelling suspense piece. Cosmatos creates a palpable sense of unease and otherworldiness with his prowling low-angle rat-cam, teasing use of reflective surfaces and gross-out puppet effects (the odd shot of a real rat proves less effective and too cute), staging at least one common nightmare scenario when the rodent bursts out of a toilet. The film is well paced with sleek photography and an ominous score by Kenneth Wannberg. Still, as a study of paranoia and delusion Of Unknown Origin pulls a few punches concluding on a satisfyingly ambiguous note that it still upbeat enough for the mainstream crowd. One imagines a more nuanced filmmaker like say David Cronenberg would have expanded the psychological dimensions and social satire whereas Cosmatos concentrates on cranking up the suspense and mayhem much like his more widely known action films: e.g. Rambo: First Blood, Part 2 (1985), Escape to Athena (1979), Cobra (1986). He and Weller later re-teamed for the far less substantial underwater monster romp Leviathan (1989).

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam


This review has been viewed 1183 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

Review Comments (1)

Untitled 1

Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.

Latest Poll
Which star is the best at shouting?
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Brian Blessed
Tiffany Haddish
Steve Carell
Olivia Colman
Captain Caveman
Sylvester Stallone
Gerard Butler
Samuel L. Jackson
Bipasha Basu

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
Andrew Pragasam
Darren Jones
  Rachel Franke
Enoch Sneed
Paul Smith
Paul Shrimpton
  Desbris M


Last Updated: