Of Unknown Origin (1983)

R  |   |  Horror  |  24 November 1983 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.2/10 from 1,643 users  
Reviews: 34 user | 38 critic

A man who recently completed rebuilding a townhouse becomes obsessed with a rat infestation until it becomes an interspecies duel.



(novel), (screenplay)
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Bart Hughes
Lorrie Wells
Eliot Riverton
Louis Del Grande ...
Meg Hughes
Keith Knight ...
Hardware Salesman
Dan Errol
Peter Hughes
Jimmy Tapp ...
Meg's Father
Gayle Garfinkle ...
Janis Wycoff
Earl Pennington ...
Mr. Thompson
Jacklin Webb ...
Newspaper Vendor
Bronwen Mantel ...
Florence Riverton
Monik Nantel ...


Bart Hughes has a pretty good life, a beautiful wife, a young son, a good job with promotion prospects, and a renovated brownstone in New York. When wife and kid leave for a vacation, Bart stays behind to work on a project that will earn him that promotion, unaware that a certain inhabitant of his basement has other plans for his time. Bart goes a bit bonkers trying to kill this rat, destroying most of his house in the process. Certain allegorical elements tie the household conflict to the "rat race" in his office, but the main event is certainly the night-and-day contest of wills between man and rodent. Written by Chris Holland <stomptokyo@aol.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Two forces have claimed the house. Only one will survive. See more »




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Parents Guide:






Release Date:

24 November 1983 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Origem Desconhecida  »

Filming Locations:

Box Office


$4,000,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Favorite film of Stephen King. See more »


Meg Hughes: [Meg sees the house is a wreck] Oh, my God! Bart, what happened?
Bart Hughes: I had a party.
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User Reviews

There's a rat in mi kitchen, what am I gonna do?
3 January 2008 | by (the Draconian Swamp of Unholy Souls) – See all my reviews

It's (future) Robocop VS. Rodent in this interesting & compelling but ultimately bland hybrid between an ordinary creature feature and a portrait of psychological downfall. Textbook 80's yuppie Bart Hughes has everything you could wish for in life. Married to the previous Playmate of the year, he owns a personally renovated brownstone in the heart of New York, his parents-in-law live all the Vermont, his secretary has a not-so-hidden crush on him and he's moments away from getting that important assignment everybody at the office was craving for. Bart's perfect universe gets brutally disturbed when an unusually intelligent rat decides to join the household and run a little bit of amok in the house. When all regular rat-catching methods like traps and poison fail, Bart begins to take the battle personal. He gradually goes berserk, isolating himself from his colleagues and neighbors, with only one mission left to live for: annihilate the rat! Okay, what we have here is an ambitious script about an alarmingly escalating obsession, a stellar performance by Peter Weller and skillful photography by René Verzier who successfully manages to depict the ordinary rat like the most fierce and petrifying monster in the universe. That's very admirable and all but, in the end, "Of Unknown Origin" only just remains a film about a guy chasing vermin through the house for nearly 90 minutes. The rodent's intellectual capacities, as wells as some of Bart's desperate measures to catch it, are just a tad bit implausible and actually on the verge of hilarious, even though the whole thing is acted with straight faces and serious undertones. What type of rat are we dealing with here, in fact? Because sometimes the animal is small enough to move through the draining pipes whereas at other times it looks big enough to pass for a warthog. Or maybe its variable sizes were intentional as part of the whole psychological aspect, and then I missed the point again? I know "Of Unknown Origin" isn't meant to be a full-blooded horror film, but still the lack of blood and action was mildly disappointing. Couldn't the rat have killed the irritating neighbor, the exterminator or even Shannon Tweed? Unquestionably the most fascinating moments of the entire film are the rat trivia Bart recites to all his clearly embarrassed colleagues & superiors during a diner party. Now that scene was both creepy and educational.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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