If Steve Harvey surveyed 100 Americans to name an animal they’d most like to watch a documentary on, it’s safe to say “Rats” would not show up anywhere on the Family Feud board. Sharks? 100%. Chimpanzees? Probably. Kangaroos? Perhaps. Rats? No chance in Fedex Field (for the record my answer would have been Hippos). Nonetheless, here comes Rats, a new horror documentary from Morgan Spurlock of Super Size Me fame. This garnered some buzz after premiering in the very fitting midnight madness slate of the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival and was subsequently purchased by Discovery, just in time for Halloween showings.
Rats dissects the most rat infested areas on Earth and details what lengths humans will go to in attempting to gain some sort of control over snowballing rodent populations. The obvious starting point is New York City, but Spurlock also brings viewers to New Orleans, Mumbai, Cambodia, and in the most twisted section of the film, Cheltenham, UK, where otherwise cute, high-pitched packs of terriers are enlisted as the resident exterminators. If all of this sounds like a disgusting viewing, well, that’s because it is. But I also found it to be equally fascinating. The overall theme of the film, “Every action on our part will cause a reaction on their part,” is echoed by a badass Brooklyn exterminator by the name Ed Sheeran (pictured below), who if there’s ever a movie made about him will absolutely be played by Ron Perlman. Leaning back, cigar in hand in a dimly lit basement, Sheehan recounts his many tactics battling these unrelenting rodents over his 40 years of experience, ultimately admitting that there’s really nothing we can do to significantly curb them.
If it’s not already clear, I should warn you that this documentary is graphic. You know those “no animals were harmed during filming” you sometimes see in movie credits? Rats cannot claim that. In addition, it’s a very one-sided approach to the subject, with no mention of any positives rats bring to the ecosystem (I have no idea, but I’m assuming they must bring something to the table more than spreading disease and mentoring mutant turtles). Then again, the purpose of this film is clearly not to inform, but rather to freak you out and motivate you to take out the trash. Currently streaming on Netflix. Grade: C