In the words of the great poets of WORKAHOLICS…”Let’s get weird!”. If there is a film that absolutely lives by that motto, then it would definitely be the Tony Burgess (PONTYPOOL)-written, Jesse Thomas Cook (MONSTER BRAWL)-directed SEPTIC MAN. It’s a film that takes the “Shit just got surreal” tagline it had during last year’s festival circuit and just runs with it, giving audiences one bat-shit insane film, guaranteed to either make you want to vomit or cheer, and perhaps oddly falling somewhere in the middle of both at times.
Plot is second to visual aesthetics with this one, but the story line it does have involves a town on the brink of being quarantined, due to some gnarly contaminated water. After one disgustingly dirty opening scene (I don’t mean dirty in the kinky-way, I’m talking vomit and feces EVERYWHERE), the film gives viewers the plot of everyone having to leave town, as the contamination has spread all throughout the town, and Jack, a sewage worker trying to figure out what’s causing the contamination. Jack’s wife is pregnant and also is ready to leave, but when a stranger offers Jack a hefty amount of money to stay behind and figure out what the issue is, Jack takes it and heads into the sewers, where the shit hits the fan, in the worst ways (for Jack, it’s great for viewers). Trapped inside of the sewers, Jack soon finds dead bodies, and almost immediately realizes that not only is he stuck in the dirtiest of places, but that two crazy, murderous brothers live there too, just above the sewer. Unable to escape, Jack slowly becomes infected with the contaminated water, which turns him into what could only be described as a visual hybrid of Astron-6’s BIOCOP character and Louis Gossett Jr.’s Jerry Shigan character from ENEMY MINE.
While the gross-out approach might turn some away (well, most to be honest), SEPTIC MAN uses its flair for surrealist storytelling in a successful way, giving viewers more of a visually odd yet engrossing film, allowing its audience to witness a man slowly losing his mind, his grasp on things, and well..his face in the process. It’s a very interesting film, that only gets more and more weird as its goes on. Having Jack slowly turning into some sort of monster is crazy enough, but adding the two crazy brothers to the mix, makes the film just as OUT THERE as possible, with the two characters feeling like they’re distant cousins to THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE‘s Sawyer family, one a extremely large oaf, and the other a whacked out, skinny maniac with sharpened teeth. It’s almost as if Burgess and Cook sat down and said, “Ok, this is weird,..but let’s make it even weirder”, and well, it continually gets that way. While Jack is going through his transformation, the town’s water becomes sanitary again, and Jack’s wife begins to wonder why her husband never came home, leading to some slight investigative work on her part, but as an audience, your focus in on Jack and the crazy brothers, they’re definitely the highlight of the film. Jack’s transformation from a man just trying to get a job done in order to make some good money for his family into an unrecognizable monster is a fun one to follow, showcasing some pretty impressive yet horribly grotesque makeup fx and some very interesting set design as well.
If you’re expecting a very coherent film with a standard plot, look elsewhere, but SEPTIC MAN should undoubtedly find its audience with crowds looking for a surreal and very visual movie, with a Lynchian weirdness to it. I don’t see the mass public digging on this one, but SEPTIC MAN is a film destined to be a popular film among the midnight movie crowd, and hell, that’s a success in my opinion.