Thursday, March 7, 2013

Certified Rat Assassins

So I'm working for a movie-of-the-week, and this day we're in a really sterling location in downtown, in a vacant building that deserves to be vacant. All the working trucks are parked in the alley in back. We're shooting nights, so we get there just before dusk for an all-night funfest.

And it just happens that the location is right across the alley from the local downtown Taco Bell, who have their dumpster out back. Our alley hits another one in a T, so from the back loading dock, you can see for blocks across downtown.

Everything's going fine, I'm outside grabbing a soda from the craft service truck, and it's maybe 9 or 10 PM. All of a sudden, there's the most ear-shattering scream, and it's coming from one of the 40-footer trucks.

Everyone goes running to the sound, and it turns out that it was one of the special effects assistants, in this case also the girlfriend of the son of the effects master. The male assistant, his boss/dad, his uncle, and their long-time friend, all come thundering out along with a number of other crew members to see what's going on.

The victim calms down enough, and Papa EFX asks her "What happened?"

" was...was a...a big, black...RAT!!!" she sobs out between shudders."Over in THAT dumpster!"

Most of the crew, notified that a rat(!) has been sighted in an alley downtown, yawn, turn away and go back to work.

But not the EFX Family. This is a matter of the Family's honor.

"There, there, babygirl. We'll take care of that nasty old rat, and he'll never bother you again."

Whereupon they all retire to the bowels of the EFX truck. In about 2 minutes, they come out armed for Ratmageddon.

"Hey, Doc, can you point this over there when we're ready?" asks Papa EFX, as he hands me a bazillion-power handheld floodlight.

"Sure, just say when."

We're all standing on the liftgate of the EFX truck, about 5 ft. off the ground, and right across from a Taco Bell dumpster brimming over with piles of the greasy leftovers and trashbag detritus piled up to the top by the dining room cleaners. Grease and salsa literally leak out the bottom through holes, and pool underneath the thing on the asphalt below.

Looking like the Wild Bunch, the EFX family are standing shoulder to shoulder, with me off to the side next to them on the left.

"Okay Doc, hit it!"

I switch on the handheld equivalent of the Bat-signal, and there, in the spotlight, sits Our Villain. And he doesn't even act like we're a threat to his dinner. He's about to find out how wrong he is.

"Open fire!" sez Papa.
All four of them open up with a barrage of paintball guns, all loaded to the brim with spark hits. These are special pellets that make a bright flash when they hit anything, to simulate sparks during gunfire. Well, somewhere in the fusillade, Rat Fink takes a bullseye, and dives into the dumpster with a soprano squeal of sheer rat-terror.

A momentary explosion of laughter is uttered by the Wild Bunch, until about two seconds later, it becomes clear that the squeal is apparently not just an exclamation of Rat Fink terror, it's also evidently the rodent equivalent for "Everyone! Get the **** out of here NOW!" because right then easily 80 rats, all bigger than Rat Fink, come boiling up out of the smorgasbord of grease-laden Taco Bell delights, bounce out of the dumpster, and hit the alley at a dead stampede.

I swing the light onto the new targets, and what ensues next can only be described as a rat-hater's wet dream in a target-rich environment. Spark hits are smacking the rats silly, knocking them over again and again, but not killing them, further terrifying the herd, and driving them in a tsunami of rodentia. They bounce off dumpsters and brick walls on all sides, until finally by process of elimination, they hit upon the open alley to the north, and begin scampering thataway at a ferocious speed as fast as their little legs can carry them.

And the Wild Bunch all have 200-round hoppers of spark hits, and they're going hog-wild, like this is The Matrix, and Neo and Trinity have hit the lobbyful of Agents. In this case, Agent Rat.

Like a strobe light on crack, the sparks fly, the rats bounce, tumble in a maelstrom of tails, fur, and little feet, pick themselves up, and scamper on in a full-tilt panic-stricken frenzy, until, some multiple dozens of yards away, they are finally safely out of range of the Wild Bunch's aim. Which is just as well, because after loosing off hundreds of shots, most of which connected, they're almost all out of ammo, and the laughing they're doing is degrading their accuracy severely.

"There ya go, baby, those rats won't bother you any more, okay?" says Papa EFX.

I'm in tears, and my sides hurt, as I hand them back the nuclear-powered flashlight.

I've never been a Forward Observer for Certified Rat Assassins before, and I'll never forget this mission. That smell...that flash powder smell. Nothing smells like that.
It smells like...victory.


roland said...

Hilarious. Thank you for sharing. Kinda voids the "No animals were harmed..." disclaimer in the credits.

Dwight Brown said...


I don't know about that. It doesn't sound like any of them were "harmed". "Inconvenienced", perhaps, but not "harmed".

Gladorn said...

Oh dear Lord that was so funny! It's even better because it's similar to something my friends did back in high school (with fireworks.) What is it about Taco Bell dumpsters and rats?

roland said...

Dewd, I was shooting for funny. I could give a rats ass about butthurt rats.

Old NFO said...

Oh man, that is absolutely hilarious! Thanks!!!

Anonymous said...

I used to work in a "restaurant". I twas a steak house joint- they had a whole room dedicated to potato that they would turn into the baked variety. Big baskets of potato... there was a water pipe that ran along the back wall in a horizontal congfig- and big fat rats would run along it... we would (teenage busboys) throw potato at rats endlessly for hours of entertainment. They put two cats (supposed mousers) in there over a holiday... came back and all cats were dead due to Rat attack

Cheesy said...

Picturing the rats as liberals.
Made my day.

Aesop said...

But they are liberals!

They travel in a pack, live off of handouts, bring plague and disease to everything they touch, crap on everything, and make life miserable for everyone else.

If that isn't a liberal, I don't know my biology.

Fred Z said...

Couldn't you have used paint balls with rat poison?

Gladorn said...

Fred Z, they could only use the materials that they had at hand. IE: Paintball guns with "Special Effect" markers. To make paintballs with rat poison would have taken a few days to fabricate, plus they would have probably fallen afoul of the EPA. Or PETA.

Come to think of it, even with what they used they probably violated multiple state and federal regulations therefore the next post is going to be about how the lawyers laid siege to the special effects department.

Aesop said...

Actually, the police don't even visit that part of town for less than actual gunfights in progress, or a dead body. The only witnesses were other crew members, none too fond of the rats in the alley either. EFX had a permit, which includes "test-firing". And since the statute of limitations kicked in years ago, we're all off scot-free. There's a reason I don't blog this stuff in real time.

Personally, I wish they'd been using HE, WP, and napalm paintballs, because that part of downtown L.A. could use a little urban renewal. Or a 9.0 earthquake, which amounts to the same thing.