William Shakespeare once said ‘Let’s kill all the lawyers’ but what he should’ve said was ‘Let’s kill all of the rats.’ Morgan Spurlock (Supersize Me) explored the horrific nature of the most unstoppable type of vermin that plagues nearly every city on the planet, rats. You’d never expect a documentary to feel like a horror film, but that is the reality of the problem that is the rat infestation. They’re here, forever, and they’ll be here after us.
Part of what makes Rats feel like a work of horror fiction is the characters Morgan was able to find from all over the globe. A New York exterminator named Ed Sheehan was Spurlock’s ‘Quint’. He’s seen the rats, he has the stories, he’s been bit, he’s experienced the worst. There is the rat killer from India who kills rats with his bare hands, there are even some adorable terriers who aren’t so adorable once you see what those dogs were bred for.
Fantastic Fest outdid itself with its presentation of this documentary. Founder Tim League introduced the film by talking about a documentary that played in Austin a few years about Nutria, which are giant water rats, and how they’re an American delicacy in some areas of Louisiana. Often times, these movies at Fantastic Fest have a food pairing and guess what kind of food was served up for us at this screening. Some thought the rat meat was pretty good, I did not partake.
I don’t know if I chose wisely or not, but once the movie started I felt like I made the right choice. When researchers from Tulane University trap and perform necropsies on rats from Louisiana fields and discover what kind of, and how many different diseases and parasites often lie inside of rats at all times, I felt ok with my choice of not eating rat meat.
It’s funny how there are many types of pests throughout the world that people dislike, but they do perform some kind of necessary function. Bats, for example eat tons of insects night after night and are essential to an ecosystem for that reason. Rats, however, don’t seem to serve any function. They don’t provide any kind of benefit to their environment, and their extremely high intelligence only makes them a more unstoppable opponent.
Rats are fascinating creatures for sure. The way they can outthink humans, establish routines based on our routines, how invisible they can be if they choose to be, it’s all fascinating. It’s all also incredibly terrifying. Ed Sheehan isn’t someone who looks like he can be easily intimidated. He’s New York to his core, but he even admits he’s afraid of them. Let’s kill all the rats, indeed. The lawyers can stay.