For fans of horror films there is always the allure of the unknown and the unseen. There is always the pull of the forbidden. When I was in my teens and twenties the bootleg horror market was booming. There were all kinds of horror movies from Asia, Europe, Mexico, even the U.S. that went unseen, or at least only seen in heavily edited forms and the only way to find these movies was on the underground dealer circuit, at conventions, or on sketchy websites that lived as close to the edge of legal as possible. This was such an exciting time to be a fan because, while so many films were unavailable many of them were out there waiting to be discovered and their discoveries were amazing. Now there is little that is unseen and there is less that is undone. Now that some of the great and rarely seen horror films are available, and can now be seen cleaner, crisper, and louder than ever before there is little undiscovered country for the hardcore horror fan. Ah, but there is always the draw to the underground. The underground is where the gore is thicker, the violence harder, and where the only thing off limits is being boring. The underground is where you head if you want something that the indie and mainstream filmmakers are not giving you. Enter S&Man a pseudo-documentary that delves into the world of underground horror films and the people behind them.
The film begins discussing how director J.T. Petty first got into directing by doing an extreme horror film and that when he saw the filmmakers doing the horror con circuit and the brand of horror he decided to link that to a voyeur he had heard a story of when he was young, and this is where the film begins. When the neighborhood voyuer refuses to be interviewed though the film Petty had planned seems in question but within the underground horror world he finds his focus. Here is where horror becomes more extreme, more taboo, and where nothing is off limits. Here we meet several pundits and filmmakers who talk about the allure of the underground, the power of it, and why people are drawn to it. As we are meeting these people we also meet the director of the S&Man series, a quiet man who directs a series of videos where his ‘character’ stalks young women, steals mementos from their homes, and eventually kidnaps and ‘kills’ the women. Petty and his crew are immediately suspicious of how he makes his films and what they really are but he is the only one of the filmmakers that not only wants to talk about his movies but wants the crew to understand them and what they are. Just the same, as Petty and his crew get to know the filmmaker more they start to push for answers – who are these women? do they know you are following them? where are the women now? The more they push for answers though the less the filmmaker will reveal and the more the questions mount, creating a mystery that may prove deadly in the end.
This is a pretty interesting film. On one hand the documentary is very good and deserves to be longer and deeper as the underground scene is getting a lot bigger these days. Sadly, of the two main filmmakers interviewed you only really take one of them seriously where the other really lives down to the stereotype. As for the fictional part of the film it’s very fun but not terribly believable. I won’t ruin the film, and am dicey about whether or not to say what is or is not real but honestly, if you believe that someone put a movie out about a serial killer on the prowl well, you are a big gullible. Which is not to say that this aspect of the film is poorly done. It’s very creepy and when played against the ‘extreme’ horror the nature of the ‘real’ killer and how reserved his murders are really pushes the question of which is more disturbing – the reality or the preceived reality? The movie is good, to be sure, but it just didn’t pull me in. As interesting as the extreme horror subgenre is I really have no interest in that stuff and have seen things that disturbed me more. Not having seen a whole film from the filmmakers of this stuff I can say I saw enough to know that Nekromantik and A Serbian Film were much more disturbing because there was depth there and more art. The scarier stuff for me was definitely the ‘fake’ part of the film about the killer. It was handled very well and really showed the difference between gross out and tone in horror films.
While not a great film., this is a find and a lot of fans will find something to like here. The extreme footage is definitely a bit much and will turn of many viewers but if you can get past that it’s a solid entry and worth a watch. As a fan of this type of film it’s pretty well done and handled and has a very creepy ending.
6.5 out of 10