Judge David Johnson ain't afraid of no rat monster.
So there's this rat monster. And he's a mean bastard.
The Tokyo Shock brand of Media Blasters has imported yet another crazy helping of Japanese monster mayhem. This time, the perp is a gigantic rat creature, which has ingested some kind of gene-reorganizing backwash from—of course—a top-secret experiment and is on the rampage. Meanwhile, there's a plague running rampant through the surrounding city, and its surge is related to the shadowy experimentation. The only serum to fend off the plague is available through a synthesis of big words from the periodic table and a chunk of the rat monster's DNA. Dispatched to take out the rat monster and retrieve its precious germ-fighting goo is a joint team of Japanese and Japanese-American Special Forces soldiers. But the allegiances are flaky, and before the final standoff with Nezulla, there will be much betrayals and traitorous actions, though, these jerks will meet grisly ends, so, whatever.
And there you have it, all the narrative depth and storytelling wizardry that you can expect from this overseas creature feature. But really, are you surprised that a movie called Nezulla the Rat Monster is light in the "compelling plot" department? Well, you shouldn't. And the question you should be mentally projecting at my writer's voice is "So, what's the quality of the rat monster action?" Sadly, the answer is "not good."
Well, that's not entirely fair, because a case can be made that the rat monster mayhem falls snugly into the "so bad it's good" category. We're talking full-on man-in-suit action here, and the lumbering costumed sucker decked out in the unwieldy get-up can do little more than stare into the camera with his goofy mask. Worse, the creature's face is not very fluid, frozen in one expression much like Nancy Pelosi, occasionally stopping to move its tongue or jaw in stuttered puppetry. Nezulla does not make for a fearsome rat monster. He's funny to look at and point at and mock, but for something built to provoke fear, the rat monster is not up to the task.
Another strike against the film is the low amount of screen time for the titular monster. There's an awful lot of talking and a batch of pointless hospital scenes where people just scream a lot about the large sores on their body. Perhaps the filmmakers were going by the Jaws playbook and keeping the monster hidden for most of the runtime, but this tactic backfires: the characters and story are not interesting so it falls to the rat monster and all his gory exploits to carry the day, and his spotty on-screen presence, coupled with the disappointing action when he does appear, leads to 90 minutes of blah.
The attempted subplots—revealed through banter between the soldiers and the doctors—border on the painful, particularly the thread where the leader of the troops forces his subordinate to make a teary promise to deliver his dying words to his son. Sorry, but the emotional impact of the moment is lessened by the fact that you just got your arm bitten off by a grown man in a plastic rat costume. Weirdly, the film thinks it's necessary to keep going, even after the rat monster meets his grisly (and fake-looking) demise, for another 15 minutes that totals to a negative sum in the entertaining column.
Bottom line: it's got a cool name, but the execution and the monster itself fail to live up to the fun schlock that the title Nezulla the Rat Monster implied.
The 1.78:1 video treatment looks fine, though it is non-anamorphic, and that hurts. Sound is 2.0 Japanese with English subtitles. The original trailer and a super-sized 45-minute "making-of" documentary are your extras.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Media Blasters
• Making-of Documentary
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