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Dustin Putman

Muck  (2015)

Reviewed for by Dustin Putman

The Film
Zero Stars
(Release Date: March 17, 2015) – "Muck" ends with a "special thanks" credit to actress Lauren Francesca's ass, and that is arguably the film's high point. What precedes this is 98 minutes so head-shakingly moronic it can be counted as pure negligence that the picture doesn't come with a disclaimer cautioning viewers of whiplash at best and catatonia at worst. No matter which malady befalls the unfortunate souls who choose to watch this stalk-and-slash calamity, one thing is for certain: they will be entirely different people from the ones who naively decided to give it a whirl an hour and a half earlier. Debuting writer-director Steve Wolsh has an interesting speck of an idea in that his story begins after the survivors of a murderous rampage have escaped from the marsh where the rest of their friends have just been killed, but that's where its promise comes to an abrupt end. What follows plays like the work of an assholic frat boy hailing from a different planet. Moving far, far beyond the expected exploitation one typically finds in a low-budget slasher movie, "Muck" gleefully embraces a stench of misogyny so strong the act of viewing it is enough to make one feel skeevy and unclean. Adding insult to injury, the characters are hair-brained beyond comprehension, so lacking in relatability and sense that never at any point do they resemble actual human beings who might exist on Earth. They are so stupid, in fact, that it is amazing they are able to survive day to day even when they aren't being chased by rapey albinos.

In the sleepy Cape Cod town of West Craven, a gaggle of scantily clad airheads and muscled dickfaces make their way out of the forbidding marshlands. Bloodied and caked in mud, they have narrowly survived a horrible ordeal, but are still clearly on the run from something or someone. When they come upon a house and no one answers, they invite themselves inside. Do they desperately search for a phone to call for help? Of course not. Instead, they help themselves to a stash of booze in the kitchen while the injured, misanthropic Billy (Grant Alan Ouzts) bleeds all over the furniture and the perpetually shivering Mia (Lauren Francesca) covers up her legs with a blanket while confidently showcasing the skimpy bra that is her only clothing. Meanwhile, Desiree (Laura Jacobs) heads upstairs to luxuriate in the shower—a logical plan if there ever was one until the aforementioned boob-crazed albinos lay siege to the house.

While they are doing a bad job fending for themselves, the comparatively levelheaded Noah (Bryce Draper) has already taken off down the road, looking for some sort of assistance yet oddly bypassing every house along the way. When he reaches a bar filled with St. Patrick's Day revelers, he heads to the bathroom to clean up and look at himself contemplatively in the mirror, grabs a drink, and then—and only then—borrows someone's phone. Finally, he is going to dial 911, right? Not a chance. He instead calls up his hunky douchebag friend, Troit (Lachlan Buchanan), mentions nothing of the night of terror he has experienced, and instead casually asks if he might have room in his car for five more. Clearly, there are going to be no Mensa accolades in any of these dumbasses' futures.

"Muck" kicks off with a frightened young woman clicking her heels together while saying, "There's no place like home." The opening credits that follow feature a stark-naked gal looking vulnerable while meandering in a field. She is never formally introduced or seen again. The film that follows has a barely coherent clothesline narrative, betrayed by the kind of perplexing scripting that bears no relation to the real world. Is it supposed to be a full-on slapstick like "Scary Movie?" A self-referential satire like "Scream?" A knock-off of "Hatchet?" The answer is probably a little of each, yet director Steve Wolsh exhibits nary a hint of knowledge on how to tackle humor. The finished product he has conjured is tone-deaf, wavering between gravely uncomfortable scenes of molestation and dismemberment and broad dialogue like this humdinger: "You could've told me I was walking into a fucking nightmare, Noah! I would've jerked off first!" There are no less than three montages of girls in skimpy underwear posing in bathroom mirrors, not to mention jarring close-ups of jiggling cleavage in the middle of scenes where the actors are just sitting and talking. Let's also not forget Noah's walk back to his friends after calling Troit, the horny fellow passing by a stranger's house and stopping long enough to drool over the unsuspecting babe who just happens to be stripping in front of the window. You want racial insensitivity and casual homophobic slurs tossed in for fun? The film's got those, too, and so much more.

The mind boggles over "Muck." Did Wolsh think he was sending up the genre, or did he want to make a legitimately scary movie with black humor sprinkled throughout? Whatever the case may be, he has fashioned one of the most obnoxious horror pictures in recent years, a low-rent cinematic charade that goes beyond spoofery and into a realm of distasteful, tacky, IQ-shrinking tedium. The performances are screechy and unconvincing—it is obvious why most of them were cast, and it wasn't for their Shakespearean skills—with only Puja Mohindra walking away relatively unscathed as Troit's vivacious Hindu friend (and possible love interest) Chandi. Theirs is a love-hate relationship, but she can't help but be drawn to him when he likens her to a Muslim terrorist. As lead so-called "Creeper" villain Grawesome Crutal, Kane Hodder (2013's "Hatchet III") pops up, no doubt biting his tongue at the amateurs surrounding him, while 2012 Playboy Playmate of the Year Jaclyn Swedberg is on hand for basically nothing more than a marketing gimmick. When "Muck" reaches its resolution-free non-conclusion, it comes as both a godsend and a joke. One is thankful it is over, but left to wonder if the rented digital camera had to be returned before the ending could be shot. Somehow, against all odds, the film has found distribution with Anchor Bay Entertainment, the company touting the project in its press release as "a bloody love letter filled with just the sort of jolts horror fans have been waiting to hear—and see!" Alas, the only honest part of that statement is "bloody."

Read Dustin's Theatrical Review

Blu-ray Picture/Sound

For a film that, as the press release for "Muck" proudly proclaims, was "shot in state-of-the-art 4K Ultra HD resolution," it is understandable for viewers to expect to be wowed by the Blu-ray's 1080p presentation. In actuality, it looks basically like any other modern-day, digitally lensed horror movie. Sure, it is slick and professional enough, but it is also a predominately dark affair (the entire picture is set at night) and image detail and clarity are solid but nothing spectacular. Black levels get the job done but occasionally are a little on the grungy side, while a couple minor issues with banding are apparent. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is showcased by lots of screaming and a pleasant, if ill-fitting, soundtrack of emo-pop songs. Surrounds are especially active when the baddies move in for the kill and the score and sound effects ratchet up accordingly. "Muck" sounds great. Whether it is worth listening to is another matter.

Blu-ray Features
There are no special features included with this release.

Bottom Line
"Muck" is a one-of-a-kind slasher flick in that there has rarely been one as ceaselessly asinine as this—and that is saying quite a lot. Anchor Bay's Blu-ray release is in desperate need of a commentary track so that writer-director Steve Wolsh could explain himself. Without insight into how this thing got made and what his intentions were, viewers will be left scratching their heads over just how obnoxiously, brain-shrivelingly stupid its every last frame is. This isn't just a bad, cheesy, dime-a-dozen horror movie, but something that would have to be seen to be believed if it wasn't so interminably repellent. There are two very distinct categories of people in the world: those that have laid witness to "Muck," and those that have not. Much like the cursed videotape from "The Ring," once you've watched it, there will be no going back.

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© 2015 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman

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