Deadly Eyes (or Night Eyes as the title card on this release reads) was produced by Chinese production company Golden Harvest, directed by American filmmaker Robert Clause and shot in a Toronto that may or may not supposed to be New York City (characters work at The Museum Of Natural History, but there isn't one in Toronto and you can clearly see a TTC street car in the background… so who knows). When the movie begins, a health inspector named Kelly Leonard (Sara Botsford) is checking out a bunch of corn that she knows is not only infested with rodents but laced with steroids. She tells the carrier and his assistant (Scatman Crothers) that the entire batch will have to be burned and when they oblige, all of those rodents scurry away underground where it would seem that they quickly set up a base of operations from which they will unleash terror on the citizens of whatever city it is that this is supposed to be taking place in.
From here we meet a few teenagers, one of whom has to take care of her infant sister while her parents are gone. Her friends, Trudy (Lisa Langlois) and Martha (Lesleh Donaldson) are more interested in Trudy's fixation on their teacher, Mr. Harris (Sam Groom) than anything else but eventually everyone except the babysitter and the baby head out for burgers. The rats show up, eat the baby and things go from bad to worse. Meanwhile, Trudy is convinced she can bone Mr. Harris but he's not having any of it. He's more interested in Kelly and will ignore her even when the saucy young thing has the landlord let her into his pad so she can hide out in his bed in her underwear. Getting back to business, the rats later attack The Bloor Street Cinema (where a Bruce Lee retrospective features Golden Harvest's Game Of Death on the screen, also directed by Clouse!). When the rats soon wreak havoc in the subway (Toronto's is way cleaner than NYC's) Kelly and Mr. Harris have to team up to save the day.
Very loosely based on the James Herbert novel Rats and famous for using Daschunds in wonky, Muppety rat costumes to create the mutant beasties, Deadly Eyes is a ridiculously silly slice of Canuxploitation that uses those deadly wiener dogs and some even less convincing puppet effects to… never really create any sort of convincing illusion, but hey, points for trying. As bad as all of this is, and it's pretty bad, it is at the very least quite an entertaining ninety minutes of trash. There's a fair bit of gore here and plenty of crazy rat attack sequences scattered throughout the movie to keep things interesting. On top of that we get Langlois in a skimpy outfit and a nude scene from Botsford that's surprisingly nipple-tastic. Make no mistake, this is a trash film but a trash film of a pretty high pedigree and one that certain movie fans are going to have a really good time with.
As far as the cast is concerned, no one here will blow you away but all involved are fine in their respective roles. Crothers' appearance is little more than a cameo but you get to see him hold a grumpy looking cat, so that counts for something (Catman Scrothers?). Sam Groom is fine as the principal lead, he's heroic and noble and at least handsome enough that we can maybe-kinda-sorta see why Trudy might be into him. Botsford plays things straight and buying her as a smartie pant health inspector is never really an issue. The rest of the cast are fine, though they're not given as much to do save for Langlois as the horny high school student who is hot for teacher.
Worth seeing for the theater attack scene alone, Deadly Eyes moves at a super quick pace and builds to a satisfyingly obvious but enjoyable gory finish. It hits all the notes you'd want a movie comprised of wiener dogs dressed as rats to hit and it does so with massive doses of awesome stupidity.
Deadly Eyes debuts on Blu-ray framed at 1.78.1 widescreen in AVC encoded 1080p high definition and it looks surprisingly good all things considered. Color reproduction is quite strong here, you'll have no trouble picking out the bright red of the TTC street car early in the film (Torontonians will notice it immediately) and the reds of the bloody attack scenes pop nicely too. Black levels are pretty solid and shadow detail is surprisingly good too. Skin looks like skin, never too pink nor too waxy but healthy looking and quite natural. There's some film grain here as there should be but no major print damage and the image is quite clean throughout. Detail and texture are both noticeably stronger than you'd get with standard definition and while this was a modestly budgeted picture and should therefore always look like one, this is a solid picture.
The audio is handled by an English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track with optional subtitles provided in English only. There's some hiss and a bit of distortion behind some of the dialogue in a few early scenes but outside of that the quality is fine. Levels are properly balanced throughout and dialogue is easy to follow and understand. The squeals of the rats, as repetitive as they can be towards the end where things really go haywire, are appropriately piercing at times. No alternate language or subtitles options are provided.
Extras? Interviews make up the bulk of them, starting off with the twenty-four minute Deadly Eyes: Dogs In Rats' Clothing which wrangles up screenwriter Charles Eglee (who has since gone on to write for both Dexter and AMC's smash The Walking Dead!), the film's make-up effects assistant Alec Gillis and the film's production designer Ninkey Dalton. Eglee and Dalton talk about how they met here and then got married and discuss shooting the film in a cold Canadian winter climate. There's a whole lot of discussion here about the effects work, primarily how dogs in wacky rat suits were used to create the hordes of rodents seen in the movie. Eglee also talks about some of his influences and they share some interesting stories about working with Clouse and some of the cast members. The nineteen minute long Interview With Actress Lisa Langlois is exactly what it sounds like, a talk with the foxy blonde who caused so much trouble for Mr. Harris in the movie. She talks about how she was cast, what it was like on set, working with the cast and crew and more. The fourteen minute Interview With Actress Lesleh Donaldson lets the woman who played Martha in the film discuss her role and how she wound up going on to act in quite a few other infamous Canadian horror/exploitation pictures. She looks back on this one with a fairly critical eye but seems to have had fun with it. Deadly Eyes: An Interview With Joseph Kelly has the actor talk for thirteen minutes or so about what it was like on set, his character's death scene, working alongside Langlois and other projects he would wind up becoming involved with when this one was finished. Last but not least we get a fourteen minute Interview With Special Effects Artist Alan Apone where the man in charge talks about the trials and tribulations of using a small army of wiener dogs in goofy rat costumes in an attempt to replicate giant rat attacks. It's an interesting and amusing piece, all of these interviews are, actually.
Aside from that, look for a quick TV spot, menus and chapter selection and as this is a combo pack release, the Blu-ray case also contains a DVD version of the movie (with identical extras).
Deadly Eyes isn't even close to good, but it definitely is entertaining. Characters disappear without a trace, logic is often times tossed out the window and the ‘rats' aren't even close to convincing, but there's enough lunacy and goofiness here that it's still a whole lot of fun. Shout! Factory's Blu-ray looks quite good and features some pretty solid extras. Not necessarily the best choice for those who need their horror movies unrelenting and scary, but if you enjoy goofy animal attack/nature run amok films then consider this one recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.