The first two screenings in Toronto After Dark’s Sunday line-up were supposed to make the audience squirm and howl. I only stayed for one and didn’t do much of either.
The festival’s gross-out night warned moviegoers beforehand about the content they were going to be in for… while also rubbing their hands eagerly and barely containing their excitement to show such weird stuff. At least, that’s how senior programmer Peter Kuplowsky appeared.
As the spotlight faded up, Kuplowsky headed to the stage. From stage left, he clasped his mic and loudly barked his exuberance into it. Note to Peter: While I appreciate your enthusiasm for these oddball picks, the microphone does most of the heavy lifting when it comes to projecting your voice.
The filmmakers from both the short film (Under the Neon Lights) and the night’s main feature (Septic Man) were in attendance. Right as Fabian Velasco and his Under the Neon Lights crew walked on stage, everyone could tell they were happy to be there. The team gave lighthearted answers, almost all of which led back to their love for The Sopranos – a major influence in their strange short.
Afterwards, Septic Man’s director Jesse Thomas Cook and its screenwriter Tony Burgess chatted for a bit about the “aha!” moment that happened during spitballing sessions.
Burgess, who’s a well-equipped writer with a dry sense of humour that’s nearly impossible to read for a first timer seeing him face-to-face, jokingly chastised the crowd for seeing a movie called Septic Man on a lovely Sunday evening. But that slight sheepishness and anxiousness he expressed while introducing the nauseating film could have a little bit of truth behind it.
Under the Neon Lights (DIR. Fabian Velasco)
In Under the Neon Lights, a female mannequin plays a prominent role and the comedy revolves around her. Her husband, an Italian soccer junkie with a warm heart, treats her to nice things but only really takes notice of her when she appears to be ill.
Velasco’s short is much like that mannequin though. It sits there motionless, people don’t necessarily know what to do with it except to stare at it, and the team behind it is most likely proud of their product and have received utter satisfaction after completing it.
The jokes are supposed to stem from the obvious fact that these characters are treating a mannequin like a human being. It’s a one note joke though that doesn’t have the longevity to last for how long Under the Neon Lights goes on. Even when more absurd humour is brought in by a doctor with muscles and his foxy nurse, the punchlines are invisible since Velasco is still gunning for his audience to guffaw at the obvious.
The only people who get out of this scot-free are the cinematographer and anyone who was in charge with the locations and set dressing. These qualities give the short a competently aged feel that’s admirable.
As they say, humour is subjective, so I’m willing to chalk Under the Neon Lights up as something that wasn’t particularly my plate of cannoli. It may strike the funny bones of others, but I won’t be surprised if I have followers also looking for greener pastures.
Septic Man (DIR. Jesse Thomas Cook)
I don’t want to spend a lot of time talking about a movie that wasted so much of mine. Simply put, Cook and his cronies are wanting to generate a huge reaction from moviegoers – good or bad – with their gross-outs and immaturity. I fall into the latter category of moviegoers who loathed Septic Man, but I can’t be bothered to give the outrageous and scathing reaction these people are looking for.
It’s not that I think my critical opinion is better than the movie, but when a film is poking and prodding its patient willing audience who is just wanting a little bit of fun with their serving of oozing gore, it’s easier to ignore the problem than to get upset about it.
Septic Man is in the same vein as other containment movies such as 127 Hours and Buried, but unlike those effective bottle films, Septic Man has a lead character who’s uninteresting and becomes unlikeable by the end of the movie.
Jason David Brown plays Jack, an unstoppable septic man who can fix any sort of plumbing problem. When Colingwood is quarantined due to fatal water contamination, Jack is given a pant load of money to stay and solve the problem.
His problem solving puts him in a sticky (and stinky) situation as he’s accidentally locked in a septic tank, leading him to mutate under the fumes.
Septic Man starts on a good foot as screenwriter Tony Burgess undergoes similar small town crisis territory he reigned victorious with in the infinitely better Pontypool. But, once Jack is – quite literally – in the sh*t, the film turns into an exercise by the filmmakers seeing how far they can push the audience’s limits and taste. If SAW was considered torture porn, Septic Man is torture porn created by the same minds behind Two Girls, One Cup.
I want to commend the make-up artists for coming through on their disgusting mandates, but as an audience member, it’s a shame seeing such talent be used to cover Jason David Brown in feces and festering boils only to have someone throw up or bleed on them.
In hindsight, I suppose Septic Man could be an origin story of sorts. Jack becomes very different by the end of the film, ending up looking like if the Toxic Avenger was teleported and the DNA of a burnt marshmallow got caught up in the transfer.
But if that’s the case, we can’t help but think of how filmmaker Lloyd Kaufman did something similar and made it a rollicking ride while keeping its provocative tone. All Septic Man wants to do is stew in its own yuck and stare back with an s-eating grin.
They’ll want me to say I was offended by Septic Man and that Jesse Thomas Cook should be ashamed of himself, but in all honesty, the most truthful thing I can say about my experience watching this mess is that I was a bored person watching an awful movie.
For more information on Toronto After Dark, the other films that will be screening, and purchasing tickets, click here!
Read my anticipated Toronto After Dark picks here!
Read my reviews of KIN and We Are What We Are here!
Read my reviews of The Last Video Store and Big Ass Spider! here!
Read my reviews of The Guest and Silent Retreat here!
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