I don’t know the story behind this film’s multiple titles, but I can almost guarantee that Tara was the original name until some meeting of brilliant minds decided it was more marketable to call it…HOOD RAT. I’m guessing if C.H.U.D. had a black cast, it would’ve been titled T.H.O.T. (Those Humanoids Over There).
A cross between Willard and The Super, Hood Rat finds slum lord Bernard Souilliez (Taurean Blacque) being sentenced to live for 30 days in his own housing project, Forest Tower, only to find it overrun with man-eating rats. If the plot sounds ridiculous, it is, but to give the film some credit, it doesn’t try to play it completely straight — although when Ice-T is your comic relief, you’re in trouble.
Hood Rat‘s resemblance to Willard is thinly veiled: Max (a slumming Isaiah Washington) is a soft-spoken, bullied homeless man who frees a rat from a mousetrap and befriends it. The rat, whom he names Tara, soon develops a fatal attraction (and apparently an ability to understand English), recruiting her brothers and sisters to chew on anyone who wrongs Max…so basically, everyone.
All of the trappings of “urban horror” are to be found: the ghetto (in this case, Atlanta), ghetto people (gangsters, crackheads, Ice-T), ghetto animals (pit bulls, rats, Ice-T) and a ghetto budget. To be fair, though, Hood Rat has a solid cast — including Miguel Nunez, Jr. and Guy Torry — and an OK budget (it doesn’t appear to be shot on video), but it all goes to waste on this toothless retread.
Beyond the stiff writing and minimal gore, overly caffeinated director Leslie Small (who would go on to become one of the preeminent black stand-up comedy special directors) seems to think that any dramatic action necessitates fast and/or slow motion, hyper zooms and stretchy camera effects that feel like a funhouse mirror…without the fun. He even manages to take the fun out of seeing rats come out of a toilet to devour a crackhead’s anus. Where’s a Michael Jackson ballad when you need one???