Distribution/Production Company(s): Starz Digital Media
Directed by: Jesse Thomas Cook
Written By: Tony Burgess
Starring: Jason David Brown, Molly Dunsworth, Tim Burd, Robert Maillet, Julian Richings
Guest Starring: Stephen McHattie
Running Time: 87 minutes
Rating: Rated R for disturbing vile and gruesome images, violence and language
Before we get going with a synopsis for SEPTIC MAN, I’d like to treat you to the very opening scene of the film. It may give you a little insight into what you have to look forward to throughout the rest of the film.
And thus our tale begins…
From the creators of MONSTER BRAWL, EXIT HUMANITY, and PONTYPOOL comes this award-winning origin story of Jack, a sewage worker who’s determined to uncover the cause of the town’s water contamination crisis. But when he becomes trapped underground in a septic tank without food or water he undergoes a hideous and repulsive transformation. In order to escape the tank, he must team up with a docile Giant and confront a murdering madman. Hailed as a “stunning” (Little Red Umbrella), “funny” (TwitchFilm), and “visceral story that will leave you shaken – and desperate for a shower” (Rue Morgue Magazine), SEPTIC MAN is a cinematic odyssey into the darkest depths of horror and beyond.
After that opening scene I was incredibly excited that we here at BackwoodsHorror were about to get a new cult classic like Slime City or something of that nature. In a certain way, we did, but in every other way, we got a story about a guy in a hole that goes on forever and ever with brief interruptions now and again as he, Jack, the titular Septic Man, delves deeper and deeper into physical and mental decay. Not that I don’t dig on our protagonists being driven slowly insane by torturous methods such as falling into an overspill pit with the hatch slammed and locked shut on him.
In fact, there were quite a few parts I really enjoyed about SEPTIC MAN. I’m a fan of just about anything with Stephen McHattie (PONTYPOOL) & Julian Richings (Death from the television show SUPERNATURAL), and to have them both together in a film (though sharing no actual screen time) was a brilliant move on the part of the director, producer, and casting director because, like me, there are many fans of those two out there and they’ll pick this film up for sure based on that alone. Unfortunately, neither had much in the way or screen time, probably sharing a few seconds between the two of them. Additionally, every actor but one (Molly Dunsworth) did a fantastic job of truly portraying their role. You could actually fall into their story and believe every action was theirs and they weren’t just getting a paycheck to read a few lines casually. Of course, my disdain for Molly Dunsworth may come from her lack of use in the film and I often wondered why, except to establish the main character Jacob had a pregnant wife, she would keep showing up in random shots that only once progressed the story forward.
More of the good: This movie is, at times, absolutely insane. Once Jack is trapped down the hatch, he finds himself suddenly surrounded by corpses and realizes the water he’s standing in is the same that has created mass hysteria, panic, fear, and evacuation of the entire town of Collingwood Township. If that wasn’t bad enough, there’s very little light, no way out, and to throw a wild card into the mix, two absolutely twisted brothers, “Lord Auch” (played by Tim Burd) and “Giant” (portrayed by Robert Maillet) who know Jack’s down there and is in need of desperate help, but instead laugh at him or taunt him (amongst other things I’ll not mention for fear of spoilers). The brothers are vile creatures who even seem to hate each other. The tenderest moment between them, it would seem, would’ve been when Giant filed Lord Auch’s teeth (as he loved keeping himself looking like a skinny human shark, I suppose). Afterwards, of course, for shits ‘n giggles, Lord Auch takes a chunk out of Giant in punishment to a prior infraction I also won’t go into here for fear of spoilers.
Another, and the last interesting thing about the film is to watch as Jack, the Septic Man and incredibly nice fellow with a wife and child on the way, sinks further and further into madness. Though it’s been done before, it was still a brilliant move on the part of screenwriter & director to follow this path to hell by showing in full gory detail how he becomes more and more symptomatic to the various water-borne diseases down there with him. And the more insane he became, losing himself, the more horrific he looked until one couldn’t tell it was him either by sight or emotional stability (or lack thereof).
The image above is just a small taste of how what could now barely be called a man was originally this,
a hard working soon-to-be family man just trying to do the right thing to provide for his family. Of course, this being a horror movie, we know how that’s probably going to turn out. The special makeup effects, additionally, should be made special mention of because, in addition to being practical and thus better anyway, I could almost feel the suffering of that poor man, every chimp Lard Auch took out of Giant, and the septic pool of corpses was, ahem, to die for.
Sadly, however, it’s time for the bad news. There were too many issues going on at some points in the story, and not enough in others. For example, How did this town’s water supply become overrun by diseases both deadly and rare in North America? Was the Mayor (McHattie) in on it, or perhaps Prosser (Richings) whose interesting business card gives an allusion that he is part of a consultation service for, potentially, disaster scenarios (though they aren’t quite clear on that or why he’s even there). Additionally, I understand that due to budget complaints, sometimes you can only get an actor for a day (or less), but it would’ve been nice to see some of the water-borne disease questions brought up by the two of them sharing the same screen. I suppose there’s a theory that the brothers are serial killers and, as that’s where they’ve been dumping the bodies, bad things tend to happen, but it’s a poor theory and one I don’t hold to. And oh, yes, the brothers, Lord Auch and Giant? Why are they there? Where they hired by some outside force or are they just squatting and a couple of homicidal maniacs just happen to be lurking where and when Jack falls in.
These are just a few of the plot holes and questions that came up during my second or third viewing of the film (I LIKE TO BE THOROUGH), but they’re overall passible as, ,like I said, the actors (for the most part) did a fantastic rendition of true emotion and feeling when embodying their characters and that’s something that can carry even the dullest movie. Oh, damn, which leads me to another issue… Nearly the entire film takes place in the overfill pit with just Jack and a bunch of corpses (one of which he begins to speak with regularly) with very little else occurring. This could’ve been a one man show due to the sheer overabundance of time spent at that location. If it hadn’t been for Jason David Brown’s acting, it may have been enough to put you to sleep.
Overall, however, once you get past about the 20 minute mark, things begin to go to the dark side with a little bit of Cronenberg thrown in for good measure. Therefore, I’d definitely give the film a watch. Though, as I’ve stated, there were a few minor unexplored questions and potential, it holds up very well as a psychological horror tale with just a pinch of body horror thrown in.
Therefore, SEPTIC MAN gets 2.5 out of 5 stars! BackwoodsHorror.com Approved Viewing!