Documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me, Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope) musters up his most stylish film yet with Rats, a horror tinged look at one of the world’s most resourceful and deadly mammals.

Spurlock travels around the world from the New York gutters to Cambodian rice farms to the English countryside to look at humanity’s complicated relationship with the not-so-humble rat. Episodic in structure, Spurlock looks at the scientific and cultural value of a creature seen as a menace to a large portion of the world’s population. While revered as a God in certain civilizations throughout history, mostly they’re rightfully known as spreaders of diseases and parasites, thanks in part to their remarkable resiliency, cunning, and continually evolving immunity to certain ailments that can prove deadly to humans.

Spurlock’s work here is assuredly ambitious, employing a synth-heavy score, fast paced editing, and intricate, smooth cinematography that make the film seem like his most cinematic effort yet. He stays completely out of sight here, allowing a great cast of researchers and rodent hunters to tell their own tales.

There’s a reason why this one is playing in the Midnight Madness programme instead of with the other docs. It’s very gross, and it will definitely trigger strong feelings in those who hate seeing ill befall any living creature. Don’t worry though, rat lovers. There is some balance here with talk of the deification of rats in Hindu culture, almost begrudging admission of their intelligence, and through the fact that Spurlock makes a rat’s life look like a hard one that’s sometimes worthy of sympathy.

Is Rats essential festival viewing?

It was made in part by Discovery, which means it should be airing on television soon, and while the film looks great, it might be best to watch this one at home with all the lights off while wondering what that noise is coming from the walls. Still worth a watch at any rate, unless you firmly draw the line at scenes of animal cruelty.

Rats screening times

Click here for all our TIFF 2016 Coverage