In 1999, a poll of Croatian film critics found THE RAT SAVIOR to be one of the best Croatian films ever made…and yet no official release in the United States! So much media we have here. We are barraged with media, and yet we are so starved…so media poor. How can the “best” of any country exist only on the periphery of our consciousness in the United States? Are we not the melting pot? Are we not the central hub of globalization? These are rhetorical questions, of course.
THE RAT SAVIOR is a fantastical horror story, like a fable or a fairy tale, presented as metaphor for the kind of socio-political conditions and cultural developments that we are currently dealing with in the United States. That makes it not only relevant to a contemporary Western audience but also more frightening.
The story is simple: rats are slowly taking over society in human form and are taking advantage of social and political unrest to increase their power. One could make comparison with the American cold-war paranoia horror of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, though the means by which the rats secure their power is of an entirely different sort. This film is from Croatia, made shortly after the Croatian Spring, and it is unclear which side of that conflict the rats best represent. No matter what “side” they symbolize, they are in essence the power that benefits from any conditions of social instability. They benefit from every side of the problem. In that sense, they are no different from the representatives of both State power and revolution in many different countries in many different times.
Krsto Papić, the director of THE RAT SAVIOR, has gone on to become one of Croatia’s most celebrated filmmakers and THE RAT SAVIOR was actually nominated to represent Croatia in the 44th Academy Awards (it was not a finalist). The film was remade by the director in 2003 under the title of INFECTION, although the settings and atmosphere of the original are, in my opinion, superior to the remake.
The slow burn of THE RAT SAVIOR, its eery locations and lighting, as well as its interesting, satirical take on the standard “invasion” and “mad scientist” themes make it stand out among the European horror films of its time. It is played incredibly straight, down to the detail, and as a result it transcends the folkish / fairy tale qualities of the story and reminds the viewer of the reason that this kind of story has entered into our collective consciousness and remained there. Sadly, the events that THE RAT SAVIOR refers to happen again and again in reality. It is truly terrifying that, in real life, said events continue to have a quality of “unreality” about them, coming as a kind of shock, even though history shows it is anything but a fairy tale and nothing new.
A streaming version of THE RAT SAVIOR has previously been unavailable with English subtitles. I have added the English subtitles and edited them in order to provide the version of the film I’ve linked to below. The available English subtitles were badly written (much like computer-generated closed captioning or Google Translate) and also incomplete. Not being familiar with the language, I was forced to make some creative additions and changes to the dialogue in my English “translation”. I have attempted to do so with respect to the themes of the film and what little I could decipher from the bad subtitles available to me. I tried to change as little as possible without the meaning of the words or the scene becoming absurd. There is one point at which I simply make up a few lines to fill up a gap in the dialogue…I admit it. If you are familiar with the language being spoken, you may very well find some of my interpretations amusing. Feel free to write me with corrections. I really was doing the best that I could, under the circumstances, to make this movie for the first time available and meaningful for English speakers. If it is not immediately taken down by Youtube, it’s perfection could very well be a collaborative work in progress…
THE RAT SAVIOR (1976):