Septic Man, 2013
Directed by Jesse Thomas Cook
Starring Jason David Brown, Molly Dunsworth, Robert Maillet, Tim Burd, Julian Richings
A sewage worker gets trapped inside a septic tank during a water contamination crisis and undergoes a hideous transformation. To escape, he must team up with a docile Giant and confront the murdering madman known as Lord Auch.
From the synopsis outset, Septic Man sounds like Troma’s The Toxic Avenger just with a (ever so slightly) larger budget, but there is actually a lot more to this tragic and very gross horror than meets the eye. It certainly isn’t for the faint of heart, and it really shouldn’t be watched before or after a big meal, but there is something beautiful about Septic Man.
The plot of Jack falling into the pit and attempting to get out with the help of a misunderstood giant is really just the cover for the movie as Septic Man is really about one man’s decent into utter madness. As the days and weeks go by, he starts to hallucinate, freak out and does whatever he possibly can just to stay alive and get back to his pregnant girlfriend. Its a very visceral movie and it shows a lot of maturity on the part of director Jesse Thomas Cook, whose last movie Monster Brawl was virtually unwatchable. He feels like a director who was born for the Troma stable but never came from it, especially when the opening scene of the movie features a woman essentially diarrhea-ing herself to death, which could have come straight from Return to Nuke ‘Em High Volume 1.
Cook gets the most out of his miniature budget and low number of settings and just as Steven Knight did with Locke, Cook manages to keep the sewer fresh with each scene. This is helped by the terrific make-up work done over Jason David Brown which grows slowly and gets more and more disgusting with each passing scene, helping the movie’s slow pacing. Brown himself is superb as Septic Man, a moniker given to him prior to falling into the sewer, and he gives a very decent performance as he falls further and further into his own madness. His visions seem real and at times feel more real that what’s actually happening around him and Brown sells everyone of these moments beautifully. There’s a moment in the movie that is very reminiscent of David Cronenberg’s The Fly, which is visually captivating but also performed excellently.
Although its hard to find negatives within Septic Man, this is not a brilliant movie. The performances are top notch, the simple story actually works to its advantage and the special effects are great, but it feels like there is something missing. The war between Giant, Septic Man and Lord Auch isn’t all that gripping and it lets the movie down somewhat. When it all comes to a head in the final act, there is no real drama or interest as Jack’s developing insanity feels more compelling.
For this flaw though, Septic Man is a really good horror movie. It feels harsh to keep bringing up Troma as the movie’s synopsis will always get those comparisons, but Septic Man feels like a Troma movie made for adults and not adolescents who should know better. It has some childish humour at the start which contrasts against a muggy and disgusting visual, but there is a lot of heart and soul to Septic Man that you might not expect.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Luke Owen is the Deputy Editor of Flickering Myth and the host of the Flickering Myth Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @LukeWritesStuff.