Of Unknown Origin (1983)


(director: George P. Cosmatos; screenwriters: Brian Taggert/novel The Visitor by Chauncey G. Parker III; cinematographer: Rene Verzier; editor: Roberto Silvi; music: Ken Wannberg; cast: Peter Weller (Bart Hughes), Jennifer Dale (Lorrie Wells), Lawrence Dane (Eliot Riverton), Shannon Tweed (Meg Hughes), Kenneth Welsh (James Hall), Maury Chaykin (Dan Errol), Keith Knight (Hardware Salesman), Leif Anderson (Peter Hughes), Louis Del Grande (Clete), Jimmy Tapp (Meg’s father), Jacklin Webb (Newspaper Vendor); Runtime: 88; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Pierre David/Claude Héroux; Warner Home Video; 1983-Canada)

Too close to home for the extreme rat phobia explored not to sink in as much as possible as scary stuff.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A sci-fi horror pic about a man and an intelligent rat matching wits for survival. Brian Taggert adapts it as a psychological thriller from the novel The Visitor by G. Parker III. The research about rats is top-notch and most interesting, especially when revealed at a business dinner party. Italian-born director George P. Cosmatos(“Tombstone”/”Cobra”) keeps its scares too close to home for the extreme rat phobia explored not to sink in as much as possible as scary stuff.
Middle-class striving to climb the corporate ladder Wall Street trust company executive Bart Hughes (Peter Weller) dwells in a self-renovated Manhattan brownstone with his gorgeous wife Meg (Shannon Tweed, screen debut for the Playmate of the Year 1982) and young son Peter (Leif Anderson). The wife and kid visit for a few weeks in the summer her wealthy dad in Vermont. Once free of his family, Bart strives to finish on time the project his boss (Lawrence Dane) gave him so the board of directors can approve his raise and promotion. But Bart is distracted by a giant rat in his place, one that can’t be caught with traps or poisons or a stray cat. The rat is destroying the house wires and other things, and making things unbearable. Bart is obsessed in killing the rat, as he starts to become unhinged and his previous guise of stability is challenged. A disillusioned Bart appears in the finale as a madman wielding a spiked bat, as he awaits his nemesis to appear while ignoring his job tasks.
If Weller didn’t give such a shrill performance, the film would have had even more impact. It might not be the ‘Mother’ of all rat films as Willard (1971), but it’s a nasty one in its own way that maybe serves as an allegory for surviving in NYC in the 1980s. The well-crafted and intelligent thriller was filmed in Montreal, Canada.