A rare example of a slow-burning gross out flick, Septic Man might spend a bit too much time wallowing somewhat dully in the predicament of its main character instead of the literal pile of shit he finds himself in. Thankfully, there are still some elements that float above the sometimes messy narrative.
From a script by Tony Burgess (Pontypool), it's the story of Jack (Jason David Brown), the best plumber in the sleepy hamlet of Collingwood. The town is on the verge of full scale evacuation thanks to a water contamination that has left 16 dead and hundreds of others sick and dying. Enticed by an unknown consortium (represented by Julian Richlings) for a chance at $200,000 and a desk job - both of which he thinks would make his expecting wife (Molly Dunsworth) happy - he agrees to stay behind. The problem itself is easily fixed, but a mysterious, grunting razor toothed man (Tim Burd) and his doofus giant brother (Robert Maillet) lock Jack in an excrement and dead body filled watery tomb. Instead of dying, Jack slowly becomes something much, much worse.
Burgess delivers a great set up, and the film certainly isn't for the squeamish. Director Jesse Thomas Cook (Monster Brawl) serves up plenty of vomiting, poo crawling, rat eating, skin dissolving, and even a filthy washroom that makes the one in Trainspotting look positively subdued. But once the film hits its middle section, nothing much happens. It's a long time between Jack getting locked in the tomb and his transformation into the titular beast, and Brown can't find a way to make it really that compelling. Once the transformation occurs, the film does become more psychologically interesting, but the narrative itself kind of goes off the rails - drifting in and out of dream-like sequences and not fully explaining really anything that went on or why it even matters. When the middle slows down as much as this one does, an explanation of things would be greatly appreciated.
But that doesn't mean that Burgess and Cook aren't coming up with some good material for Brown, who's consistently watchable and eminently sympathetic and sells both the dramatic and body horror elements well. The film has the sense to pick a sombre and dour tone and stick with it despite the story's stranger elements, and the consistency adds quite a bit. There's also a definite special shout out to be made to The Brothers Gore for the great make-up effects. In the end, though, really the best that can be said about Sceptic Man is that it's not shit. (ANDREW PARKER)
Sunday, October 20th, 7:00pm, Scotiabank Theatre