Nauseating, disgusting, vile and vulgar, that much is obvious about “Septic Man” before the opening credits are done.
A horror story/survival tale set in sewers awash in condoms and corpses, this sets itself up as a monster comedy in the “Toxic Avenger” mold, for those who remember their ancient film history. But the screenplay produces little humor and makes less sense the further it progresses, even as it is assaulting our senses with every manner of vomiting known to man.
Collingwood is a town forced to evacuate due to its toxic soup of a water supply. Typhus, e.coli, dysentery — too many locals are coming to a bloody end in the loo. Since nobody there knows what to do “a-BOOT” it, we can assume they’re Canadians and we can understand why they’d flee.
Jack (Jason David Brown) is a local “civic minded” septic man with a high tolerance for the work, so he’s the guy the mysterious Prosser (Julian Richings) bribes to stay behind, go through the city’s sewers and figure out the source of the contagion.
Jack packs his pregnant wife (Molly Dunsworth) off and sets out, alone, through the massive plant, where he is promptly injured and trapped in a dank, underground tank. There are people who might help him, but they (Robert Maillet, Tim Burd) don’t seem human. Lacking even a cell phone, Jack must methodically go through the blueprints of the place, crawl down pipes and try to find a way to freedom, or negotiate an escape with the sewer dwellers before the sewage turns him into something less than human himself.
The Tony Burgess script is idiotically vague about what is the source of the contagion, and Jesse Thomas Cook directs this dawdling 83 minute movie as if he’s more interested in The Gore Brothers’ makeup work and his star’s production design.
That’s right. On tiny budget indie films, everybody does double duty, none odder than Jason David Brown’s leading man/production designer credits. Of the two, it’s the convincing, revolting city plumbing that’s more impressive.
Richings plays Mr. Prosser as a hissing, quietly villainous Bill Nighy impersonation. Veteran character player Stephen McHattie (“A History of Violence,””Seinfeld”) is the mayor, seen only on TV.
The title was right, but the premise needed tweaking. The picture lacks a sense of urgency, and a palpable villain. The filmmakers needed to re-watch “Toxic Avenger” before locking down the script.
MPAA Rating: R for disturbing vile and gruesome images, violence and language
Cast: Jason David Brown, Molly Dunsworth, Robert Maillet, Julian Richings, Stephen McHattie
Credits: Directed by Jesse Thomas Cook, written by Tony Burgess. A Starz Digital Media release.
Running time: 1:23