Review by Justin Monroe (@40yardsplash)
Director: Jesse Thomas Cook
Stars: Jason David Brown, Molly Dunsworth, Robert Maillet, Tim Burd, Julian Richings, Stephen McHattie, Nicole G. Leier
Running time: 83 minutes
There's a new cult hero in town and he's covered in shit, piss, vomit, blood, pus, and whatever other foulness lurks in the sewage system.
Canadian filmmaker Jesse Thomas Cook (Monster Brawl) and writer Tony Burgess (Pontypool) pinched out the loaf that is Septic Man, the rather simple story of a plumber named Jack (Jason David Brown) who gets trapped inside a septic tank while investigating a deadly water contamination. He soon discovers the disease-spreading source that led to the mandatory evacuation of his town and refreshes Collingwood, Ontario's water supply, but while stuck in the filth slowly transforms into "Septic Man," a slimy, disfigured, and maddened mess of his former self. Further complicating matters are a random-ass feral murderer with sharpened teeth named Lord Auch (Tim Burd) and his giant, dim-witted, and submissive brother (Robert Maillet) who live in the sewage treatment plant and refuse to free Jack.
If you're looking for deeper meaning in Septic Man, there is little that was intended. According to producer Matt Wiele, the premise was surface-level symbolism from a troubled and depressing period when both he and Cook felt like making an origin story about an anti-hero who lives in a world of shit where those above him constantly rain excrement down on him until he somehow emerges from it a "better man." (How exactly the decent, hard-working husband and expectant father is improved is unclear.) If you want to read Septic Man as an allegory for class struggle between the bourgeoisie and proletariat, go ahead, but the movie is basically an attempt to disgust and amuse, more Garbage Pail Kids trading cards than Communist Manifesto. Cook goes nowhere with the "consortium of interested parties" that pays Jack, the self-described "civic minded shitsucker," to deal with the contamination crisis, or with the mayor (Stephen McHattie), who hints at unexplored eccentricities.
If all you seek are stomach-turning gross-outs, there are many effective ones, from rat-eating and the peeling back of bubbly skin, to blood-and-guts showers. Oddly enough, with all that floats in Jack's stinking cell (reportedly this included crew member's actual vomit), there are no turds. Fecal matter is reserved for the nasty opening scene, which features an explosive "Diarrhea Woman" (Nicole G. Leier) in a filth-smeared bathroom and may relate to the town's contamination or simply have been an excuse to show a beautiful woman spurting foulness from both ends.
It's a shame that Septic Man lacks the significance and social commentary of The Toxic Avenger, to which it's frequently compared, and settles for a straightforward plot to please fans of gag-inducing humor. The promise of a complex, meaningful live-action anti-hero that resembles Shithead from Mark Millar's Wanted comics was great but depth will have to be assigned by its inevitable cult following, because ultimately the movie's potential goes the way of so many chucked deuces.