Review: Of Unknown Origin (1983)


Of Unknown Origin (1983)

Directed by: George P. Cosmatos | 85 minutes | horror, thriller | Actors: Peter Weller, Jennifer Dale, Lawrence Dane, Kenneth Welsh, Louis Del Grande, Shannon Tweed, Keith Knight, Maury Chaykin, Leif Anderson, Jimmy Tapp, Gayle Garfinkle, Earl Pennington, Bronwen Mantel, Jacklin Webb, Monik Nantel, Amber T Chase

RoboCop versus a super rat! Peter Weller is best known for his portrayal of RoboCop in Paul Verhoeven’s science fiction film of the same name. In ‘Of Unknown Origin’, Weller could have put the superhuman powers of RoboCop to good use as he battles an oversized rat determined to evict the protagonist from his lavish New York home. Weller plays Bart Hughes, a savvy banker on Wall Street. The career fighter’s wife and son are on vacation for a while, so Hughes has plenty of room to make his newfound job a success and score a promotion.

The first part of ‘Of Unknown Origin’ focuses mainly on Hughes’ hectic business life. Just when you think you’ve mistakenly put the lost sequel of ‘Wall Street’ in your DVD player, the banker hears an inexplicable rustle while working at home… As soon as household appliances fail, Hughes calls in a local handyman, who says that he probably has an uninvited guest in the form of a rat. Hughes reacts reluctantly at first, but the holes that the sewer rat gnaws in pipes, walls and food packaging makes him reconsider. The busy businessman cannot use the aggressive intruder and therefore decides to take action. However, the rat will not be fooled by a few simple mousetraps. Rat poison also appears to be useless, just like a normally effective domestic cat. Hughes runs out of ideas as the rat ruins his carefully constructed mini-castle in Manhattan. The normally slick businessman transforms into a paranoid recluse who, like a modern-day Captain Ahab, is determined to capture his smaller version of Moby Dick. The only question is who is the prey here, if the rat destroys his life next to Hughes’ house.

The label ‘horror’ is actually misplaced; with the horror elements in ‘Of Unknown Origin’ it’s not that bad. The film is especially interesting because of the aforementioned metamorphosis of Bart Hughes, who, as an arrogant businessman in the economic center of the world, turns out to be no match for a sewer rat. The presence of this rodent with an apparently unusually high intelligence makes the film difficult to take seriously as a full-fledged psychological thriller, while the few bloodshed can disappoint seasoned horror fanatics. Despite the fact that the filmmakers couldn’t seem to figure out which direction they wanted to go in, ‘Of Unknown Origin’ guarantees an entertaining hour and a half and there is a chance that after watching you will postpone your next toilet visit…