Gnaw: Food Of The Gods Part 2 (1989)

MARCH 18, 2011


There are two egregious offenses committed by Gnaw: Food Of The Gods Part 2 that should be preventing me from enjoying it and/or telling you fine folks that it's worth a look. One is the usage of "Part 2" in the title, which is usually only used for a direct continuation, when in fact this movie has not a goddamn thing to do with the original at all, and if not for the fact that someone says "Food of the gods" I would suspect it was an unrelated movie renamed for distribution. But according to the IMDb, the "Part 2" (and "Gnaw") were added for video, and the movie's real title is the simple Food Of The Gods II. Fine.

The other is more troubling, which is that for a sequel it takes too damn long to get going. Hell, even in the first movie, where they can get away with taking their time, there's a couple of deaths in the first 5-10 minutes, but here, an entire reel goes by before our first killer rat scene, which is nearly unforgivable. We know the deal - we don't need to be left waiting; it's like if Rocky didn't appear in the first reel of a Rocky sequel. Bring on the nom-nom-nom! Plus, even when the action does finally pick up, it's crushingly repetitive for about 40 minutes; someone gets killed, our Dennis Quaid-y hero tells the dean (the whole movie takes place on a college campus) that he needs to close the school down, they argue about that, and then someone hunts around in a tunnel. Eventually they combine these elements so that the hero and dean argue inside the tunnels, which I guess saves some time. But really, after an hour or so, I was pretty goddamn sick of looking at tunnels.

But then, like an angel descending from the heavens, the opening of the new school sports facility arrives ("close the beaches" in this movie is "cancel the opening of the facility", in case you were wondering), and as expected, the giant rats come along and cause massive chaos. Now, I figured it would be like, they kill one, MAYBE TWO people, there's a panic, and everyone runs out except our main characters. But nope! The rats kill at least ten students, and the cops and assorted "bystander heroes" kill about as many as they begin firing wildly, supposedly aiming at rats but often hitting students and other faculty folk. The evil dean tries to toss a student at a rat to protect himself, but then he ends up falling to his death, there's a "hero" rat caught in the middle and they play this sad music when it gets shot... oh, and there's even some synchronized swimming in there before the rats show up. It's like they purposely made the first two acts really generic in order to amaze us even more with this insane, high body count finale.

Oddly, the weirdest thing about the movie isn't its casual lack of appreciation for human life or out of nowhere water aerobics - it's the fact that they actually tried to tie it into the original story with a subplot about a giant child, which seems to be setting up a sequel that drops the giant rats and focuses on giant children running around (hopefully still going after synchronized swimmers, however). But the plot is used so sparingly (three total scenes, spread as far as possible from one another) that the scenes seem grafted in from another script/movie - the hero is supposedly trying to find a cure for giantism in order to save the kid, but he never seems to be thinking about him. Well, consciously anyway - there is a wonderfully nutty nightmare scene where the doctor dreams he has taken the serum shortly before banging his assistant, and while it's underplayed, he seems to be growing one body part at a time, something the assistant clearly has no problem with - a wonderful non-sight gag (just look at her face!) that probably would have gone over my head if I saw the movie when I was 9 or 10. But like the others, the scene sort of comes out nowhere and doesn't feel organic to the story, which is kind of odd when you consider that giant children, not rats, were the backdrop of the ACTUAL story. Luckily, the kid is ridiculously profane (his first line is something like "Get the fuck out of my room, you bitch!") and the composite/forced perspective work isn't that bad, so they're always a welcome addition to the movie.

Unlike the boom mic. You ever see a movie in theaters that's framed wrong by the projectionist and thus the boom makes several noticeable appearances throughout the film (see HERE for a detailed explanation why)? Well that's what Gnaw looks like, albeit on video, when it's not a framing issue because the sides of the image have already been cropped out. I counted at least 4 appearances of the thing sticking down from the top of the frame, including one where it was practically touching the hero's hair. In addition to amateurish gaffes like this, it also feels cheap - take note of how many scenes take place in tunnels or the doctor's (not impressive) lab. I also laughed at the protest in the opening scene, which has about eight people walking back and forth shouting "Animals Have Rights!" over and over. Come on guys, you gotta have a rhyme or at least mix it up a bit in order to get attention to your cause. According to the IMDb, the movie cost 3.5 million, which is quite a bit for a late 80s generic movie like this (to compare, the same year's Halloween 5 only cost 3 million), and there are no 'names' in the movie to speak of, so I guess all of the dough went to the FX.

Or to licensing the music. I couldn't find any information online, but I swear I've heard both the opening theme and a selection of music later on in some other movie, but I couldn't place it. Anyone know what I'm talking about?

Artisan's (!) DVD is, like most of their acquired titles' discs, bare-bones and full-frame, not even offering the trailer or 5.1 sound (and seemingly taken from a VHS transfer to boot). I'm not going to get on a soapbox and demand that Gnaw: Food Of The Gods Part 2 deserves a deluxe special edition Blu-ray, but it's a shame that this is one of probably hundreds of movies that have changed hands a few times, never got a proper release (i.e. remastered for disc and presented at its original aspect ratio, at the very least), and now probably never will as the home video market is in such an awful state. With streaming, Redbox rentals, and On-Demand seemingly being the way everything is going (ugh), I doubt making sure Gnaw has a satisfying release is high on anyone's mind. Oh well. Maybe MGM will pick it up; they always seem to be acquiring these sort of titles and somehow delivering HD transfers for (sigh) Netflix instant or (less of a sigh) their HD channel.

What say you?


  1. Gnaw is so fucking bad, it makes Part 1 look like a piece of art.

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