Septic Man (2013)
★ / ★★★★
A Canadian town with contaminated water is ordered by the government to evacuate immediately due to concerns of serious health issues. So far, no one knows what caused the contamination. In the midst of fear and chaos, Jack (Jason David Brown), a sewage worker, is approached by a mysterious man (Julian Richings) who offers a total of two hundred thousand dollars if he stays and figures out the water problem. Jack accepts especially since he and his wife (Molly Dunsworth) are expecting a child.
“Septic Man,” written by Tony Burgess and directed by Jesse Thomas Cook, offers only one idea and fails to either move beyond it or explore that idea so deeply that, despite its limited budget, we are entertained anyway because it sheds a light on corners barely seen. I enjoyed that the protagonist is a person who has a dirty job. However, the filmmakers define him as only that which is a fundamental mistake. They prevent the picture from taking off and venturing out into interesting avenues.
It is bearable up until Jack falls into a hole in the ground while trying to solve the contamination problem. In an earlier scene, we see blueprints of underground waterways and so we expect the main character to explore the maze and discover hidden horrors. Instead, he becomes stuck in the same room for about three-quarters of the film. Because the water is infested with all sorts of toxins and microorganisms, we see him transform physically. Regardless, the makeup is not very convincing.
Over the course of the movie, we watch Jack develop warts and tumors on his face and body. It is so extreme that it becomes too unbelievable since the body can only take on a certain level of foreign elements before it goes into shock. The character’s teratoid appearance hearkens that of the monster flicks back in the 1940s and ‘50s. It would have made more sense if the material were a little bit cheesy, even comic at times—not a straight-faced horror flick. And I laughed that the character’s face becomes increasingly unrecognizable and yet his hands remain unaffected.
The movie’s attempt at horror is one-dimensional. Every other scene offers only a gross-out element: excrement in toilets, people vomiting profusely, a bout of evisceration, wading in sewage water—not one generates suspense, thrill, or even a minuscule attempt at playing with our expectations. It is the kind of horror picture that cannot be bothered to get its viewers to think, let alone feel for someone else’s plight. It tells its story within a town where people are dying and yet it fails to take into account human elements like people having to be displaced, people losing their loved ones, people preying on others’ fears. Clearly, the film needs not only a proper execution but also a bit of ambition.
Hobo with a Shotgun (2011)
★★ / ★★★★
After a homeless man (Rutger Hauer) rescued a prostitute named Abby (Molly Dunsworth) from being kidnapped, the crime lord’s sons (Gregory Smith, Nick Bateman) carved the word “scum” across his chest. Hobo, sick of the senseless violence and drugs that plagued the streets, decided he would clean up the city by shooting crooked cops, pedophiles dressed as Santa Claus, and murderers with a shotgun. Written by John Davies, Jason Eisener, and Rob Cotterill, “Hobo with a Shotgun” began with a manic energy so intense, it seemed unknowing in what to do with itself. It was proud to a grindhouse picture; terrible dialogue, laughable acting, and obvious make-up were purposely not reshot. It wasn’t afraid to show breasts for the sake of showing them, gory decapitations, and even a school bus filled with children being torched for mere shock value. Clocking in under an hour and thirty minutes, it was a lot to swallow. Unfortunately, the film only really had one joke so it felt thirty minutes too long. The relationship between Hobo and Abby wasn’t developed in a meaningful way. Having an emotional core is critical in a movie like this because the symbolic father-daughter relationship was a beacon of hope in a city ruled by demons and depressed denizens. Hobo and Abby talked about leaving the city and starting their own mowing business. It was as close as we got to learning about their motivations as a team. The rest of the scenes were fun but they quickly became convoluted. Take the men in the metallic suits. While it was very funny that they kept a giant octopus as their pet (and sparring plaything), they were tedious to watch because barely anything could stop them in their tracks. Who were they and, since they had the brain to build their own weapons, what made them decide that working for a crime lord was a good idea? We didn’t even get to see their faces. The movie started as a fake trailer for another groundhouse movie. Maybe it should have remained that way because the material was stretched way too thinly. The writers were obviously capable of making a statement. That’s why the ironic bloody violence worked. But by allowing the material to go on autopilot, it made me think that perhaps they got lazy. They should have taken more risks by exploring homeless people’s roles in our society. We see them in our streets but when we pass them, most of us pretend not to see them. We force them to take embody the role of the invisible. But hand them a weapon and they suddenly have our attention. Directed by Jason Eisener, “Hobo with a Shotgun” was a gory good time only in its first hour. It ran out of creativity over time which was reflected by a lackadaisical conclusion. Its message was obviously violence never being the answer to violence, but it didn’t need to be so obvious. The writers rested on their laurels.