Starring Jason David Brown, Molly Dunsworth and Julian Richings
SEPTIC MAN is a rather disgusting film, and if you’re grossed out by vomit, feces, rotting corpses or peeling flesh then you’re best to stay away from this Canadian indie film. It opens with a woman on the toilet retching and vomiting in one of the most disgusting bathrooms I have ever seen. She scratches at her skin, which easily peels away and screams in agony, ejecting out of both ends until she finally falls over dead. This sets the tone for director, Jesse T. Cook’s third feature and it follows suit for at least 3/4 of the movie.
A viral outbreak has shut down the town of Collingwood (incidentally, Collingwood is where SCARCE, Cook’s feature debut, was filmed), where dozens have died and hundreds are sick causing the entire town to be evacuated. One lone septic worker, John (Jason David Brown), has been persuaded by lots of money and a town coalition (fronted by Julian Richings) to find out the cause of the polluted water. His wife and the rest of the residents leave town and John begins to explore the water and septic system. Searching through creepy hallways and underground tunnels, he eventually stumbles upon a septic tank that might be the cause of the town’s problem. But while examining this particular tank, the lid suddenly closes shut, knocking him down into the tank. Trapped and unable to find his way out, his desperation causes him to hallucinate and the exposure to toxic chemicals eventually turns John into an infected, melting mess of a man. While the problem as to why the town’s water is toxic has been solved, there are other forces at work below ground level, evil forces that are keeping John underground and fighting for his life.
SEPTIC MAN, which was written by Tony Burgess (PONTYPOOL), is unabashedly trying to make its audience gag. The effects are potent in what they aim to do (there were a few times that I had to cover my mouth and found myself saying, “Ew,” aloud) and they are the best thing the film has going for it. From the very beginning we are treated to a disgusting mess and the film rarely lets up. The creature that John eventually transforms into is quite grotesque in itself, almost something of a Citizen Toxie homage. What the film struggles with however is the plot, which bounces from social commentary by way of the upperclass treatment of blue-collar workers, to B-movie gross out fest, but struggles to find a commonplace. About half-way through the film it reaches a lull; there just doesn’t seem to be enough plot points to be explored and the slowness of the middle of the film can really be felt by the viewer. It seems like SEPTIC MAN is going for a TOXIC AVENGER homage, and it does the b-move parts really well, but seems to lose its footing with the introduction of two characters that are the cause of the problems of both the town and for John.
SEPTIC MAN ultimately doesn’t go anywhere, and I mean that literally as well. Most of the film is spent on one character trying to find his way out of the tank, and far too little time is spent on something actually happening. But this isn’t to say it’s not worth your time. This is one of the better Ontario productions to come along in a while and, despite its shortcomings, it is one that definitely achieves its goal, which is to gross you the hell out.