I should have known better. The press release accompanying the invitation to review Septic Man came with a warning, all in caps, so you know they’re serious: WARNING: DON’T WATCH AFTER EATING … OR DO IF YOU DARE. So I dared. I didn’t eat before turning it on. No, I went out and grabbed fast food, which is kinda rare for me, laid everything out in front of the computer and hit the play button.
Septic Man opens in a bathroom. Not just any bathroom. This toilet makes the one in Trainspotting look like the loo at The Palace hotel. There’s a woman, worse for wear, she’s, well, covered in sores and gore and all sorts of bodily fluids and there’s more of them coming out of both ends.
I put more ketchup on my burger and turned the sound up. The producers didn’t skimp on gross. The opening of Septic Man delivers on the gross-out film’s fecal promise. Two minutes into it I realized it’s so much better than Sharknado. I know that’s not saying a lot. But at least the inner logic comes more from Mad Magazine than 90210. More on that later.
The town of Collingwood is besieged with plagues of all kinds, e coli, typhus, cholera, and the like. The, HIC, the Provincial Health Board, CDC, and the National Institutes of Health and all the other federal agencies are trying to figure out what’s going on. Agencies know the contamination comes from the water. Collingwood is being evacuated so a consortium can set Jack the Septic Man (Jason David Brown) loose to figure out what is going on in town. For $20,000 Jack, a glorified sewage worker, not even a plumber, will be paid off with a desk job and easy money to lay low after the town is empty and find the cause of the craps.
For $20,000 he could at least buy himself a new van. The one he’s driving looks like it has a shit stain on it. From the beginning of the movie, everything seems to have some kind of little stain. Septic Man’s shitty little septic tank cleaning van, the shitty upright piano in the shitty living room in his shitty little house that he shares with his pretty but shitty wife Shelly (Molly Dunsworth). She’s outta there. Shelly is pregnant and that shitty little town is being evacuated and she’s going to take a shitty trip and stay with her mom while Septic Man stays behind to wipe up the shit.
So Septic Man starts to get his shit together. He has a beer in the bath and rust stains cover his arms. Of course the first thing you’re thinking is … shit, what is that shit on his arms? Then you see that the whole tub has run to rust that never sleeps. I see where this is going. Most horror films crank up the suspense. Septic Man turns up the excrement in shitty little increments.
Septic Man’s family is filled with bad luck. Shelly wears an upside down horseshoe around her neck and her personal consultant is Phil Prosser of Roll Thy Die Consulting. His business card has a picture of a skull and pair of dice that has rolled out onto snake eyes. Unluckier than that, it is the same man who sent Jack on his mission to give that town an enema.
After plunging into the depths of some miasmal sewers, Septic Man unclogs the drains, which were stuffed with corpses. No health hazard there. There are some surprises, like how Septic Man can climb a chain to a giggling man without realizing that the man is going to stab him in the ribs. I love the denizens of the underworld though, the big crybaby and Lord Ock, the chain saw guy who just snarls and bites now and then and makes an “Ock” sound. The actor who plays Ock is all inner turmoil, just as his not so gentle giant brother is all contaminated waterworks.
When Jack first hits the sewers and gets covered in shit, all I could think was “wipe that off your face or you’ll get a rash.” Little did I know what that rash would turn into. But after the first skin peel, I knew what was coming. Septic Man is kind of a prequel to Don Martin’s classic Mad Magazine ecological disaster, the Yecch Monster. Some people plunge to their deaths, others are plunged to death.
As Jack goes through his gastrointestinal metamorphosis his mind changes and he becomes accustomed to his surroundings, which moments before were making him gag. A sewer isn’t the most hygienic place to have a baby, until you see the baby. It’s cute in a parasitic worm kind of way, looks just like his decomposing compost heap of a dad.
The final showdown between Ock and Septic Man is ultimately touching. I had been rooting for Lord Ock. His stealthy ways and pointy teeth barely belie a true sociopath. I didn’t realize I was seeing the birth of a new hero for young and old. As he crawled his way out of the drain pipe as a frightening bloody stool, I saw how Mr. Hanky, South Park’s Christmas Poo, was born. Thank you Mad Magazine. Starz Digital Media probably never heard of the Yecch Monster. But I will never forget.