Director: Morgan Spurlock
Watch Rats online in the UK: Netflix
Morgan Spurlock, the man who told us eating McDonald’s for a month was probably bad and that One Direction were just as annoying as we all suspected, returns with one of his most dramatised documentaries yet.
Rats is, surprisingly, about rats. Specifically, the enormity of a global infestation and threat the sanitary-destroying vermin pose to our major cities, while highlighting that, really, they’re absolutely everywhere. Initially set up to pastiche a horror movie, Spurlock does convincing work at putting the fear of God into us, not simply by the way a renowned exterminator is portrayed during interviews – a middle-aged bloke smoking a fat cigar, sporting a smug grin, in what appears to be a dimly lit rat dungeon – but because he gives us the facts.
However you want to dress up the problem, one thing is certain: the ways in which various continents deal with rats is both interesting and, in instances, utterly chilling. For starters, we’re whisked all over the US, from New York to New Orleans, then further afield to Mumbai and Vietnam, where government bodies and locals deal with infestations in polar opposite ways. For anyone who’s dealt with the issue of rats where they live, the visuals and familiar rustling of the quick-footed rodents will be all too real. Throughout, we’re encouraged to be fearful, anxious and repulsed by the nature of how rats live. Yet we’re informed there’s a sense of intelligence and community, as they continue to breed and multiply at an exponential rate. Then comes the horror (and we mean sheer, unadulterated horror), when we learn the true extent of what they do to survive and what diseases they carry – it’ll shock you, to say the least, especially once we get up-close-and-personal with their innards.
Oddly, as the documentary progresses, we’re swayed from wincing at the sight of hordes of damp, inquisitive rats to sympathising with them. Now, this sympathy is limited, it must be said, but it’s difficult not to muster some when we witness the way they are treated before the most horrific of deaths via the most barbaric of methods.
Generally, Spurlock alerts us to the true danger rats pose: the fact they excrete a continuous drizzle of urine and are riddled with parasites and infection is enough to send you running for the hills – only they’ll probably be there too. One eye-opening segment takes us to England, where, instead of blood-thirsty fox hunters taking dogs out for the thrill of the kill, some use rats. The concept still feels somewhat medieval and it’s only when you see the carnage in action that you realise the pleasure some people are getting from literally ripping their heads off. It’s a necessary idea of pest control, but the methods could be refined, let’s say.
So be warned: Rats is often a graphic, gory, and rather disturbing film. You’d be well advised not to tuck into a meal or watch it with anyone of a squeamish disposition, because the results will not be pleasant. Yet despite the unsavoury and explicit nature of things, there’s a wicked sense of humour that runs through the documentary, which serves as a competently told (and researched) public information piece that’s a fascinating blend of entertainment and education.
Rats is available on Netflix UK, as part of a £7.49 monthly subscription.