If it's crap ... We'll tell you
S&MAN [SANDMAN] (Blu-Ray and DVD)
Hoaxing an audience with your film into believing that it might actually be true, is not an art form. It was, at best, a gimmick, one which has been played out completely with "The Blair Witch Project" (some more savvy film geeks might even say "The Last Broadcast" or even the English show and best of the bunch, "Ghostwatch"). Still, director J.T. Petty (who made the excellent horror western "The Burrowers" after this film), has figured out a way around his jaded horror audience's experience. The question though, isn't if you can still find a way to create doubt, but if you should bother at all with this kind of hoaxing anymore. I'll hand it to Petty, he found a way to use his trickery to try and evince a fear that whether or not his made-up character is real, there might very well be people out there like him. At least for some. I can't stay interested in the subject matter long enough to be afraid.
A mixture of real documentary and fake, "S&Man" takes a little too close of a look at the underground world of psuedo-snuff, an actual subset of horror that features very little to no plot and detailed amounts of rape, murder, and gore with the illusion of being real. Real interviews with famous gender horror expert Carol Clover, directors Bill Zebub, Fred Vogel, and minor scream queen Debbie D, amongst a few others, are intercut with the fake story of Eric Rost (Eric Marcisak). Eric is presented as the sole creator of the popular (among seriously fucked up people) series of cinéma vérité murder films known as "S&Man". While the real people interviewed discuss the reasonings behind making these films, the psychology of their audience, and the generally harmless on-set atmosphere, Eric is a bit of a cipher, never answering any of the questions put to him with a straight answer, despite his generally friendly demeanor. Is is possible he's actually making real snuff films?
The answer to the film's question is not one of any importance, and even the movie itself downplays it by the end. "S&Man" knows it's audience well enough to guess that they'll figure out for themselves that Eric isn't for real, but hopes they'll take his imagined story and the reality background provided by the other interviews, and be frightened speculating the existence of people like him out there. All this might have actually had some effect on me if I bought into any of it. Do I think that people out there have tortured and killed people on tape for their own jollies? Almost certainly. Do I think any of them have been getting away with it for years, selling their tapes online? No. Not scary. Nor, on a reality level, do I find this subject matter all that interesting. I don't know why anyone would want to watch the product these people deliver, even as a horror buff, nor am I curious enough to see them talk about making it. Maybe if Petty had decided to interview more people, focusing on the psychology much more of both the audience and the creators, I could see the value of this. I'm apparently in the minority, as lots of horror film sites gave this a glowing review, but I was pretty bored. For me, "S&Man" was a neat idea that desperately needed a better execution.
--CLICK HERE TO BUY S&Man (Sandman) [Blu-ray]