The Canadian town of Collinwood is suffering a serious sanitation problem. Something has come along and gummed up the works. People are getting sick, evacuations are in order, death looms et cetera…basically, something stinks. In a situation as dire as this, when shit’s going down, there’s only one trusted name in the game and that is Septic Man. Jack (Jason David Brown) is thee titular septic man, a chap of few words with a rough edged can-do spirit. Earlier in his career he saved the town from suffering through shoddy infrastructure and prevented a whole bunch of crap from happening. If there’s a problem with the pipes, he’s the man of the hour.
Jack is a reluctant fellow though. He has a kid on the way and a wife that just wants him to be home longer than he’s away. But they have bills to pay, responsibilities and all that jazz. To put it square, he’s no slouch. So it’s only fair that when the government comes-a-callin’ (Julian Richings channeling a day-walking Max Schreck), dangling their loonies and toonies in his face, he takes a big bite of that government cheddar.
He hits the scene, boots on the ground, sniffing out the problem and comes across a mysterious manhole. It takes some work to open, but he’s the septic man and if there’s a job to be done he’ll knuckle up and get to it. Through a misfortunate turd of events Jack finds himself trapped in the belly of a particularly nasty cesspool, one populated by a rogues’ gallery of rats, pees, poops, vomits and bloated corpses (all of these things are plural. ALL OF THEM). Things get complicated when a shirtless, sharp-toothed troglodyte named Lord Auch and a soft spoken but dim giant enter the picture.
If it sounds insane that’s because it is. It takes all of ten seconds to immerse you in its diarrhea-caked bliss. The script by Tony Burgess (Pontypool) is as sly as it is disgusting, and if you bloat to its charms then you’ll be happy to soak in its juices. For a film that mixes human drama with human excrement, Septic Man manages to do so reasonably well. Jack, after all, is a man who just wants the best for his family and puts himself on the line for them. He’s a relatable sort, at least until mutations come calling, and it’s what lies beneath that glistening, warty husk that counts after all. Everyone goes through some shit, it’s what makes people grow. For Jack, he just happens to be face deep in it while others are standing on the shore discussing how glad they are to not be face deep in crap.
Septic Man plods along like Cronenberg’s Fly banged the Toxic Avenger on a sloppy late night bender, one laced with hallucinogens and hanging out in bilge water left over from a Disney cruise. It’s a nasty character study that finds the subject deposited into his own personal hell, unable to pull himself out and forced to confront everything he fears. It is also shot well and has some humor which keeps it from completely drowning in waste. Cook and Burgess definitely had an axe to grind, and while the messages may get mixed up, their intent to provoke shines like a diamond in some soupy brown gravy.
The Upside: If you love vomit and feces then get on the bus.
The Downside: If you hate vomit and feces then don’t get on the bus.
On the Side: Director Cook and writer Burgess recorded the Septic Man theme in one drunken night.