Set in Louisiana’s coastal wetlands, Quinn Costello, Chris Metzler, and Jeff Springer’s brisk documentary Rodents of Unusual Size could also have been called Beasts of the Southern Wild. The creatures in question are an invasive species of 20-pound rat known as a nutria, bred by humans and imported into Louisiana during the Depression to bolster the fur trade. They soon went rogue, and things only got worse with the bottom falling out of the fur market in the 1980s. After a 2005 hurricane, the nutria’s decimation of the wetlands became even more catastrophic.
Something of a spiritual successor to the Baltimore-centered Rat Film, Rodents of Unusual Size looks at the way all ecosystems are interconnected, and the unintended consequences of good intentions — in this case, the anti-fur movement. Notably, the haves and have-nots regard the rodents in different ways as well; the former don’t see what the problem is, and the latter are attempting to overcome the modern cultural biases against wearing fur and eating rodents to make the best of their lot. Note for gorehounds: Seemingly every indignity that can be visited upon the body of a nutria is shown, so in terms of violence and overall onscreen carnage, Rodents of Unusual Size is the film to beat so far this year.
Opens Friday at the Alamo Drafthouse New Mission.