Septic Man

Posted by Joel Copling on September 1, 2014

And now for something completely different: "Septic Man," whose title and promotional trailer promised schlock of a Troma-esque order, is actually a thought-provoking analysis of the darkest recesses of human waste and decay. Sure, it's depraved, offering up imagery not easy to shake and even more difficult to justify (such as the shriveled, blackened remains of an infant, which is not the limit of its depravity), but that darkness is justified, offering a compelling character to rally behind and a truly memorable series of events that happen to him. The result might be pitiless insanity, but it's also exquisitely horrifying.

Jack (Jason David Brown) is the "Septic Man," the lone defense for our near-future, which has been so ravaged by a sewage-related disease (The opening minutes are particularly grotesque, depicting the extent to which the disease impacts a single victim of it) that a small town has been almost entirely evacuated. Jack seems to be immune to this disease, as a mysterious man named Phil Prosser (Julian Richings) tells him. Shelley (Molly Dunsworth) is about to have his kid but doesn't truly understand why he won't evacuate with them. Sent to investigate the source of the disease in the very bowels of the sewage system, what Jack finds there alters the course of his life forever.

From here, "Septic Man" segues rather shockingly from the potential of an ironically pleasurable horror movie to bring its viewers something far more resonant--a one-man show that becomes increasingly more depraved. Jack encounters some dark secrets in the tunnels the heart of the sewer, not least of which is a pair of deranged brothers (Robert Maillet and Tim Burd) involved in some sort of game to trap the unwilling where they will likely never be found. A lot of the unshakeable effect produced by "Septic Man" falls Brown's shoulders, and this is one of the year's best performances so far; even when asked to act through makeup that transforms him into a mutilated shell of his former self, the actor never abandons the underlying tragedy of a soul that has pretty much shrunk into shadowy depths from which there is no return.

Film Information

Jason David Brown (Jack/Septic Man), Molly Dunsworth (Shelley), Julian Richings (Phil Prosser), Robert Maillet (Giant), Tim Burd (Lord Auch), Stephen McHattie (Mayor), Nicole G. Leier (Girl).

Directed by Jesse Thomas Cook and written by Tony Burgess.

Rated R (disturbing vile/gruesome images, violence, language).

83 minutes.

Released in select cities on August 15, 2014.