At this year’s Fantastic Fest in Austin the movie with the highest gross-out factor wasn’t a horror flick. It was the documentary Rats directed by Morgan Spurlock. As a New Yorker who braved the garbage strikes of the 70s, I know a thing a or two about rats. Rats as big as cats. I don’t like them. Spurlock’s film made me hate them. The disgusting little creatures are taking over the world and Spurlock has shot the film in ways that make the invasion as spooky as an episode of The Walking Dead. Using bursts of sound, night-vision photography, jump cuts, creepy point of view shots, skewed camera angles and Pierre Takal’s subtle but unnerving score, Rats shows us that reality can be far more horrifying than fiction.
I ran a few bars in downtown Manhattan in the 80s/90s. One was right near The Bowery. A giant 9000 sq.foot space. We had a serious rat problem. I came up with a somewhat effective solution. I offered my night clean-up crew $10 bucks for every rat tail they’d bring me. In the mornings when I got to work there would be a plastic bag containing dozens of rat tails in a box near the door to my office. One guy was picking them off with a .22 caliber rifle. No shit.
Some of the best moments in Rats feature battle-hardened exterminator Ed Sheehan who’s been in a Sisyphean war against the rat population in New York City for more than fifty years. He’s a cigar-chomping character right out of central casting. Here’s our next Netflix hero.
In addition to screening the film, Alamo Drafthouse had a special treat for the people attending Rats. Drafthouse chef Brad Sorenson prepared some delicious (so I’m told) rat curry. Here’s a shot of some stouthearted men (including Drafthouse CEO Tim League) chowing down on vermin vindaloo. Supersizing was not an option. Rats can carry up to 5 million viruses on just one of its tiny little gross rodent hands. So no rat sushi.
Photo: Scott Weinberg.
As repellent as the idea of eating rats is to westerners, the fact is that rat is a commonplace dish in many parts of Asia. One can see this as nature’s way of dealing with a rodent problem. As a vegetarian, the thought of eating a rat isn’t that much more repulsive to me than eating a chicken or veal calf. And all rats are free range and locavore. Rat is going to be the next foodie trend. Just wait.
Rat Thai-style goes nicely with red chili sauce.
Rats will be screening on the Discovery Channel on October 22. Tune in. Just don’t watch while eating a TV dinner. Or anything else.