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Toronto After Dark: “Septic Man”

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  • Written By: Tony Burgess
  • Directed By: Jesse T. Cook
  • Starring: Jason David Brown, Molly Dunsworth, Robert Maillet, Julian Richings, Stephen McHattie

Toronto After Dark: “Septic Man”

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During last night’s Q&A portion of the screening for SEPTIC MAN, director Jesse T. Cook revealed that inspiration for the film came after writer Tony Burgess had a particularly large bowel movement. Cook and Burgess then assembled as a creative team and produced another large bowel movement in the form of the film SEPTIC MAN. Attempting to ride the line between gross-out gore and social commentary, the film miraculously succeeds at producing neither.

Set in Collingwood, Ontario, the small town has been overrun with… something? Some kind of infectious disease maybe? That part is never explained as a handful of shots of townspeople vomiting into bushes is supposed to make clear that the town is under threat. Frankly, it looked similar to the last case of food poisoning I had.

With the government evacuating the town and the CDC moving in for containment purposes, Mr. Prosser (Julian Richings) approaches Jack aka Septic Man (Jason David Brown) about staying behind in the city for the night to try and fix the problem as they believe it has to do with the water filtration. Mr. Prosser promises Jack a large sum of money and a cushy desk job if he’s successful. When Jack tells his wife Shelley (Molly Dunsworth), she tells him to forget it and get out of the city with her. Jack lets her leave and goes to the water filtration plant that night. Once there he falls into a septic tank. He manages to fix the problem but now has no way of getting out as the diseases slowly overtake him.

Burgess’ previous writing effort for film was the 2008 cult-classic Pontypool, which dealt with the similar themes of isolation and disease but in a much more powerful and controlled way. Director Cook simply can’t seem to get a handle on the proceedings. The basic set up of the film is unclear and many of the brief scenes meant to establish chaos in the city do little to establish anything and raise more questions then are answered.

Once Jack is trapped in the tank the direction goes totally off the rails and so does the writing. The film decides to pick up several story lines rather than trust its main character and stay with him as he descends into madness. Suddenly, there are killer brothers on the loose, or are there? The town has returned to normal, or has it? Unfortunately for us, we completely lose the plot with Jack as Cook and Burgess attempt to set up other plot lines that never pay off. The scenes we have with Jack are a mess with no sense of time or his deteriorating mental state.

As Jack, Jason David Brown does a fine job of giving himself over to the demands of the part but since the film doesn’t support the character’s journey, Brown’s efforts are all for naught. Dunsworth, with her endlessly trembling lower lip, is fine as Shelley, but again, she’s given so little to do that it feels unearned as we follow her character as well through the film. Canadian genre-film favorites Richings and Stephen McHattie both have fun with the material and imbue their scenes with energy, but again, their scenes lack clarity or a sense of purpose resulting in what I would call an experimental film. But the experiment is in confusion and futility.

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