Ratter is the latest success story of a short that was picked up to be a full length film. We covered it when it was first announced along with the short itself. For those of you that won’t bother clicking the link Ratter tells the story of Emma, a young graduate student who moves to NYC to make it on her own and soon realizes she is being targeted by a “ratter” that has access to her phone, personal computer, and other electronic devices. While technically a found footage film, Ratter deviates from this predictable path enough times to offer something a bit different.
What makes Ratter fascinating is how its story is told. Because our stalker has access to an entire network of devices we’re privy to some interesting angles that lead the eyes and setup unique vantage points into Emma’s life. It’s this technique that changes Ratter from a found footage film into a more conventionally shot one as our stalker acts as a pseudo cinematographer, always looking for the best angle instead of being locked into one or two rotating cameras. Though it doesn’t always work. There are some odd viewpoints where no cameras should be that left me a bit bewildered but overall it works more than it distracts.
Another highlight of Ratter is the mystery surrounding what’s actually happening. While there are no “gotcha” moments Ratter is smarter than it originally lets on and soon had me guessing about what I knew and what I thought I knew. This type of ambiguity is welcome in a sub genre that tends to lean heavily on the simple wait-until-creepy-stuff-happens technique that the Paranormal Activity franchise is famous for. Don’t get me wrong, there is still a lot of hard stares into dark corners to see if something goes bump, and to be frank, much like in Paranormal Activity not enough actually happens, but at least Ratter isn’t just trying to scare you, it’s also trying to intrigue you.
Speaking of being scared, that’s one important place where Ratter falls a bit short. While the events that take place are entertaining, and the cast of characters are interesting, there isn’t much that I’d consider scary about Ratter. I’ve lived on my own before, I know how harrowing it can feel. But when looking from the outside in, the tension is a bit underdeveloped which is disappointing because when it becomes apparent to Emma who’s played by Ashley Benson that she’s being stalked she does a remarkable job conveying vulnerability and isolation. The problem is we don’t spend enough time with Emma in this state, so the tension has barely enough time to build. I would have loved if writer/director Branden Kramer could have squeezed another ten minutes out of the 3rd act because Ratter’s ending is well worth it. The film has a surprisingly strong ending that I can only describe as well executed and absolutely unnerving.
Ratter is well written and well directed, it could have used a bit more meat on its bones but Branden Kramer shows us he has the potential to write a smart story with realistic characters, and that’s a talent worth honing. I just wish his film was a bit scarier. Though, I will say watching Ratter has made me keenly aware of how many gadgets with cameras I have in my house. Counting my game consoles, phones, and computers I have no less than ten devices ready to record at a moment’s notice. And after watching Ratter that unnerves me a bit so I guess counts for something.
Ratter is available on VOD and DVD March 1st.
While Ratter is a bit thin on scares, it creates a believable story with realistic character reactions. It’s worth a watch if you are into the found footage genre but want something a bit different.