This weekend my husband and I decided to rent a few movies – among them “Gingerclown,” which you can read of a review of here. We also rented “Septic Man,” which reads like some kind of “Toxic Avenger” knock-off.
Synopsis (courtesy IMDB): 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.
Everything I look up about this movie says that it’s a horror film. It is not. At first I really disliked this film just because I expected horror and maybe some comedy, since I was thinking, “OK, here’s another ‘Toxic Avenger,’” and there is nothing like that within its 83 minutes. So if you’re going to watch this, put all thoughts of horror out of your head. This movie is really a drama.
At the onset we know something is terribly wrong – we hear, under the credits, news clips and interviews about a water crisis; “confirmed cases of cholera,” “numerous hospitalizations and deaths,” and other jargon gets thrown around so you know we’re in bad business. All city residents are asked to evacuate. Cut to: Jack, our protagonist, knee-deep in filth. He is approached by a mysterious man in a trench coat (never a good sign), and told that he will receive an outrageous pay boost and a promotion if he will go inside the city’s sewer lines and find out what is causing the infectious outbreak. Jack’s married and has a baby on the way, so of course he accepts. And we all know everything will be awful from here on out.
A warning: If sewage bothers you, and/or you can’t handle gross-out scenes, then don’t watch this movie. They don’t cut away from the sewage and filth, and it is disgusting. That is, in face, the only horrific part of the whole movie. The rest is simply psychological terror because Jack does indeed find out what’s causing the problem – about ten bodies in a watery grave. He has unexpectedly found himself at a madman’s body disposal site, buried deep beneath the city. The murder, we later discover, is Lord Auch, a weird cannibal (?) who files down his teeth and barely speaks. Auch lives (probably as a squatter) with his brother, who is a gentle-hearted giant and the one who actually throws the bodies into the sewer. Once Auch and the Giant learn Jack is in the sewer, they stab him, trap him there, and leave him for dead.
Jack tries to befriend the Giant, who knows what he and his brother are doing is wrong, and tries to find some means of escape, while the sewage starts to mutate his skin and psyche. The rest of the movie goes between hallucinations and reality, ending in heartbreak.
I’d like to give a big shout out to Jason David Brown, the film’s star. He won Best Actor at the Austin Fantastic Fest for his work on the film and he deserved it. Outstanding!
All in all, this movie is actually pretty good if you can get past the disgusting setting and (literal) muck that permeates every frame. There are times when things get a little confusing, but in the end it’s pretty satisfying. Just don’t think this is a horror film.
Rating: 3-1/2 out of 5 skulls.