Food of the Gods II (1989)
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When a growth hormone experiment goes terriblely wrong with a human a professor at a local college is called into to help solve the problem but when he takes the stuff back to his lab and uses it on one of the lab rats all hell breaks loose as a bunch of rats grow to 4 times there size and start eating and killing people around campus . OK sequel to Food of Gods creepy factor goes to the rats but this movie might make you laugh cause of the plot still worth a look if your enjoyed the first one
You are at a video store. You happen to spot a copy of Food of the Gods II sitting on the shelf. The video's front cover displays a very lame illustration of some rat triumphing over a fallen woman. What will you say in reaction to all this?
A.) "Man, I think I drank too much 'cause I am imagining things."
B.) "Um...I don't think this film is worth renting. I'll just go rent Autumn in New York, or some other lame melodrama instead."
C.) "Are they kidding me?! This film sounds mad dumb! These filmmakers must have been smoking dope when they were making this movie!"
D.) "Whoa, this film sounds cool! I gotta check this baby out!"
If you answered D, then congratulations, you have strange tastes in movies. But you are not the only one. The specimen I am about to review is Damian Lee's Food of the Gods II, the follow-up to Bert I. Gordon's putrid Food of the Gods. As you can guess, Food of the Gods II (a.k.a., Gnaw: Food of the Gods II) shares the basic plot-line of "mutant growth formula causes rats to grow large and attack humans." Other than that, this film has absolutely nothing in common with its predecessor (and let us hope that it also has nothing to do with the story by H.G. Wells). In fact, this film was not even made in the states; it's a *proud* product of our friends up north in Canada (yes, the native homeland of such illustrious entertainers as filmmaker David Cronenberg, singer Celine Dion, punk troublemaker Justin Bieber, and the Terrence and Phillip duo of "South Park" fame).
You have to wonder who the hell would be dimwitted enough to cash in on one of the most hated films ever made. I mean, the original Food of the Gods was bad enough, but I have absolutely no clue why a sequel was warranted. Food of the Gods II joins the prominent list of "Sequels Nobody Asked For", which includes such movies as Basic Instinct 2, Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 and Cinderella II: Dreams Come True. Sequel or not this movie is, without a shadow of doubt, one of the dumbest and corniest ever made. But it is so damn funny I must file it under the "so bad it's good" category. Food of the Gods II also has its usual clichés: the well-meaning scientist who screws everything up; another scientist motivated by selfishness; the authority figure who wants to keep everything hush-hush; and a couple of horny college students (at least they're not teenagers). In addition, we have the stars of our show: normally docile rats suddenly becoming hostile thanks to an experimental growth formula (yah, the oldest cliché in the manual).
A tale of a nerdy scientist, his pet lab mouse, and a bunch of hungry monster-sized rodents.
At a college campus in New York City (actually York University up in Canada), a bunch of students wearing animal masks are marching outside a scientist's laboratory. They are protesting over animal research, claiming that these poor animals are being used as guinea pigs in the name of science. A bearded scientist named Dr. Delhurst (Colin Fox) is right in the middle of the rally-and that's because the students are protesting right outside his office! Delhurst tells off the student protestors by proclaiming that, "Within the next decade, two of you will die of cancer! I'm doing my best to reduce those figures!" But do not let the beginning fool you. This film seldom delves into the issue of animal abuse for the sake of research. It does talk about human abuse, but that's a different story.
In another research laboratory, Dr. Neil Hamilton (Paul Coufos) and his assistant Joshua (Michael Nouri look-alike Frank Pellegrino)-who looks considerably older than his boss-are doing some science-related things. Neil happens to keep a pet white rat whom he loves deeply (shades of Ben). While researching, Dr. Hamilton receives a call from an old friend and is asked to come to her assistance immediately. It turns out that his former mentor, Dr. Treger (Jackie Burroughs) stupidly chose to test some experimental growth hormone on a kid (obviously, she hasn't watched enough sci-fi movies). The kid grows all right...into a giant psychopathic, petulant individual who is not afraid to use profanity. Besides the rapid growth spurt, the hormone obviously (and quite predictably), had some negative side effects on the child's behavior. Dr. Treger asks Neil to find a way to reverse the effects of the growth hormone so everyone can live happily ever after...
Neil decides to make an exact duplication of the formula so he can test it on plants. Hours later, a tomato plant grows into enormous proportions, and his assistant is extremely impressed. When Joshua takes a look at the hormone, he proclaims that, "This is the food of the gods! You realize how valuable this is! Big cows...big fish...BIG PIGS! Food for everyone and anyone! We're talking the end of world hunger here." Of course, Neil initially objects to the idea of using animals as research subjects because he is a botanist. But he eventually concedes to Joshua's suggestion of testing lab rats. Neil then injects the formula into a rat with a yellow stripe.
Because the plot calls for it, a bunch of idiotic student protestors-the same ones who picketed Delhurst's research-decide to sabotage Neil's laboratory later that night. What they do not realize is that the yellow striped rat and a bunch of other rats look ticked off as hell. Carelessly, the protestors wreck the place and the rats have been emancipated. As gratitude, the yellow striped rat rips off the face of Mark (Real Andrews), the organizer and leader of the protestors.
The aftermath is a mess. The dean (David B. Nichols) shows up and since he is an authority figure, he has to be a jerk. He is intent on covering up this rat attack (and future occurrences) because you see, rats terrorizing his college campus = bad publicity. This, in turn, will result in a decline in alumni donations and student admissions. Meanwhile, many more people are being stalked by giant puppet heads...I mean, rats while Neil and his girlfriend, Alex (Lisa Schrage) are running around, trying to stop the rats from creating more bloodshed. Hell hath no fury like rats scorned...
Why You May Not Like Food of the Gods II
Let's get this out of the way right now. Remember, this is not a good film; it is indeed a bad movie. Keep in mind that the filmmakers wanted to create a scary horror flick, and they failed miserably. A good horror film should provoke a gut reaction of dread towards something we might fear. We fear rats because even though they really are harmless, they act like a nuisance. They smell dirty, they can carry diseases, and they think they own the sewers. Imagine them the size of a St. Bernard dog...with the attitude of Cujo. Yet Food of the Gods II is more ridiculous than terrifying. Its predictability doesn't help either; you know when someone is going to get killed, though I have to give the make-up folks credit for staging some outrageous death scenes. Now granted, monster movies are seldom scary these days, but this film had potential for some frights. At least that's what I was led to believe because of its advertising.
Special Effects: Take for instance, the special effects-a complete joke. Good effects can enhance the horror; bad ones can destroy it. More often than not, I kept thinking, "Oh no! It's the attack of the giant killer stuffed rats!" The special effects mainly consist of laughably fake puppet rat heads and the occasional matte painting to simulate giant rats roaming in the same area as bystanders. Quick cuts and blatant editing are also used to try to hide various flaws in the so-called special effects. Granted, this film is low budget and all, but I don't see any improvement whatsoever in the special effects from its predecessor made thirteen years ago.
Wasted Potential: What's even sadder is that the premise itself actually looked promising from the beginning. It looked like this film might be tackling such controversial issues as medical research, and animal rights. Terror tells a morality tale. Unfortunately, the filmmakers shoot themselves in the foot by abandoning those themes in favor of gross special effects and violence.
General Stupidity: In addition, most of the characters in this movie are hopelessly inept and complete imbeciles. I know the majority of horror films have really stupid characters, but the ones portrayed here are truly an insult to my intelligence. Here are two examples (believe me, there are a lot more). After the rat kills Mark, his two best friends-and fellow protestors-decide to go down to the sewers to track the rats. Of course, these two decide to bring with them a giant net and...a tennis racket?? Folks, when you are going after a bunch of giant flesh-eating rodents, you don't bring a goddamn tennis racket, you bring some real weapons.
When a scientist decides to test a growth hormone on some animal cancer cells, he doesn't wear any gloves. He accidentally cuts himself and some of the hormone enters into his bloodstream. Consequently, the scientist begins to grow malignant tumors all over his face-and his body. Soon, he becomes Tumor-Man! Now, I am no scientist. I am not even a science major (heck, I barely passed biology in high school). But isn't it common sense to wear gloves while handling foreign, potentially dangerous substances?
Why You May Like Food of the Gods II
Now that that's said and done, let's talk about why there are some weirdoes out there who may enjoy this piece of junk. Make no mistake Food of the Gods II is a terrible movie. But the only reason I am not throwing Food of the Gods II into the trash heap is due to this film's abundance of funny moments. Now whether these funny moments are intentional or not is a moot point. Well, one of my friends who watched this movie with me argues that Food of the Gods II was indeed a parody of the monster movie. But if it was, then it seldom succeeds in making me laugh when this film tries to be funny. Instead, most-if not all-of the laughs were unintended. Yes, there are moments of intended humor such as the scene with the two exterminators and another scene with a Spanish guy who has to urinate twice in a five-minute span. But for the most part, this film is not quite intentionally corny enough to be a downright parody (ala the Scary Movie films). Nevertheless, the mostly unintentional humor is enough to make this film sort of worth seeing for lovers of silly cinematic cheese. Believe it or not, this film is funnier than most real comedies-though it doesn't try nearly half as hard to be funny.
Humorous Highlights: This is not a complete list, but hopefully it will whet some appetites (in chronological order, according to the film).
-(When Neil is trying to find a cure to neutralize the growth hormone.) Do you understand what the hell he is saying? That's okay; I don't even think he understands what the hell he is saying.
-There is an amusing scene involving two exterminators: one of them is really rotund and the other talks like Dirty Harry. Frank Moore portrays the latter. He gets to say one of my favorite lines: "This is no ordinary flamethrower. See, I modified this baby myself. I just find the rat, aim, and ka-zoom!" That line may not mean much, but the way he says it is comical.
-Believe it or not, rats can inexplicitly fly like Superman, especially when they chase slow, fat exterminators. (Hey, why are you laughing?)
-While Carlos (the aforementioned Spanish guy) is peeing, one of the rats bites him right in the arse. The giant rat then chases the guy around-with his pants down! Talk about indecent exposure!
-The screaming maintenance guy bit is one of the funniest scenes in this movie. What happens here is that Zeke, the maintenance guy, is riding around on his motorized cart, minding his own business. Suddenly, a rat head appears out of the dark and chews his foot. A funny chase ensues (I love the use of undercranking) where you get to see the action from the rat's point of view.
-As clean-cut as Neil appears to be (with a lovely girlfriend to boot), he still has sexual fantasies. One of his fantasies comes true when he decides to inject the growth hormone into himself. He then meets a very busty girl-a fellow student, mind you-and they begin to make love. Neil grows several feet tall, but the girl doesn't notice that his hands and member have become gargantuan (perhaps she must have assumed he's been taking Viagra). Of course, it is only a dream... However, this dream sequence has nothing to do with the plot whatsoever except that the filmmakers ostensibly wanted to show some boobs. But at least the girl is real hot.
Gore: It's obvious where most of the film's budget went to: the gore galore. The blood and sanguinary effects are copious in this flick. We are talking about rats tearing people apart, limb-by-limb. One victim gets half his face torn off. Another guy gets his arm ripped off and then loses his face. Someone else can't find his head. This film is NOT for the faint-hearted (of course, the pictures on the back of the video's cover sleeve should make that a bit obvious). These gigantic rats can cause some serious damage.
The last fifteen to twenty minutes of this movie are a cornucopia of blood and guts. It is probably the best part of this whole movie in terms of thrills and suspense. The location is an indoor swimming pool, and the dean of the college announces the grand opening of this new facility. Spectators then watch the choreography of several synchronized swimmers. To my knowledge, this is the first horror film featuring synchronized swimmers as potential rat fodder.
Not much to say about the acting. Paul Coufos isn't bad; think of him as a poor man's Richard Dean Anderson. I'm surprised Coufos hasn't done much since his tenure here. Lisa Schrage is best known as the undead prom queen in Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II. She has some appeal, but she doesn't really do much here despite being top-billed alongside Paul Coufos. The rest of the cast though just goes through the motions with the exception of Sean Mitchell (as the ill-fated child patient Bobby under the care of Dr. Treger), whose acting is so overstated it's ludicrous.
Damian Lee's direction is routine at best-though he did do a good job upping the ante near the end. Damian Lee went on to have a lucrative career directing numerous low budget Canadian flicks. I also suspect that he was involved in the making of the Terrence and Phillip movie "Asses of Fire" (no, not really).
The cinematography is nothing to write home about though the underwater photography during the climax was pretty cool. The theme music isn't bad either; it's creepy and ominous, reminiscent of what you might hear in an Italian "giallo". But the frequent heavy metal tunes accompanying this movie seem more appropriate for an action film.
I hope you learned some lessons here. First of, never inject a kid with an experimental growth hormone. Second, never allow a botanist to study and experiment with animals. They are just not trained to do so. Anyway, Food of the Gods II is basically a tribute to two genres: the monster movie of the 1950s, and the splatter film which reached its peak in the 1980s. This film could have been a bit more ambitious, but perhaps I am asking for too much.
Food of the Gods II is totally pathetic, but since I enjoyed making fun of its inept qualities so much, I will give this film a marginal recommendation. I am giving this film two and a half stars (out of five) strictly for its camp value and inadvertent humor. Needless to say, I'm being very merciful here. I don't really enjoy it enough to consider it as a guilty pleasure, but it does have its memorable moments which some (crazy) people may no doubt adore. For these people, this film would be worth checking out just to poke fun at its innumerable inanities. You have to be in the right frame of mind to derive some enjoyment out of a film like this.
Simply put, make your own conclusions. If you are looking for some scares, forget it. But if you are looking for cheesy horror at its worst (I mean, best) *wink*, then knock yourself out. If your favorite movies include Slugs, Alligator, Frogs, Dogs, Anaconda, or pretty much any movie involving nature's creatures going berserk, then you will probably enjoy Food of the Gods II as well. I think you know who you are.
Addendum: For you serious film buffs out there, you probably realize that this film has desecrated H.G. Wells's name (though this film won't admit it, you know it tried to use Wells's name as a selling point). If it is a consolation, at least H.G. Wells does not know anything about this movie. If he did, Heaven help all of us for he would be turning over in his grave nonstop.
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