Movie of the week #6: Muck (2015)
Recommendation for the week of May 9, 2016
Muck is a 2015 horror film and the directorial debut Steve Wolsh, who also wrote and produced the film. It stars the Playboy Playmate of the Year 2012, two former Miss Cape Cod winners, a YouTube star, and Kane Hodder in a very brief appearance. The movie, which was partially funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign, is about a group of very attractive 20-somethings who find themselves trapped in the middle of a murky marsh that’s harboring some great evil.
Having recently been attacked by some unknown entity we know nothing about (we’ll get to that), the friends make their way out of the marsh and take shelter in an abandoned vacation home. But they are far from safe, as the pretty young coeds begin to be picked off by a group of savage albinos in bloody and brutal fashion. This movie ends up being packed with gore, nudity and plenty of scantily clad women, very cool effects, great cinematography and some decent acting… sort of.
Muck is one of those movies that is very hard to explain. Many (and I mean many) flat out hate this film, and it’s hard to find many willing to sing its praises. Just do a quick Google search for reviews of this movie, and you’ll see what I mean. The criticism is fair, and this is definitely not a movie for everyone. Ultimately, the movie fails in a lot of ways. But I still think there’s a lot to love here, and I’d like to highlight some of the reasons this movie is highly watchable (at least for me).
In Defense of Muck
Let me just start out with the basics. This movie is actually meant to be the second film in a trilogy of movies, yet it was the first to be released. I assume this was all intentional, but it could definitely turn some people off. The biggest problem is that most people didn’t know they were being thrown into the middle of the story when they watched the film. You can tell immediately something is off when you watch Muck because the movie starts without any context or set up. In other words, it goes right into the action without any character development or explanation for what is happening and why. It also ends just as abruptly, setting the stage for the third part of the trilogy.
Before I watched the movie, I had already heard so many awful things about it. I went into it ready to hate on this movie along with everyone else. But I was surprised by how much fun this movie really was and how much I enjoyed it, in spite of its many flaws. One of the main complaints I heard a lot is that horror legend Kane Hodder was top billed and heavily touted during the marketing of the film. However, he’s really only in it for a few minutes, and his role is very underdeveloped. I didn’t let this bother me. It’s always a treat to see Kane, even in a brief appearance.
Like I said earlier, this movie is a ton of fun. The director Steve Wolsh knows exactly what his audience wants… tons of gore and nudity. And that’s really all there is to this film. It doesn’t really try to be anything other than a vehicle to show some cool practical effects and a bevy of beautiful women in various stages of undress.
For example, one of the scenes in the film has become rather infamous for its absurdity. Basically, Playboy Playmate Jaclyn Swedberg is on a date at a bar. She excuses herself and heads to the bathroom, where she proceeds to strip down to her underwear. She then pulls out a seemingly endless supply of sexy bras from her purse, seductively trying them on in front of the (very public) bathroom mirror. The scene seems to go on forever as she poses for herself and tells herself things like, “I’m a sure thing.” Yes, this all happens for absolutely no reason. And, yes, no sane woman would ever do anything like that. But this movie doesn’t try to make sense, and we’re left to just appreciate scenes like this for what they are… a chance for Wolsh to get his gorgeous leading ladies undressed and vamping for the camera.
Besides the superficial entertainment value, this film is actually made quite well. It looks great. Even though most of the film is very dark, the shots look surprisingly great, with crisp and clean images. Technically speaking, the film looks and sounds like it has a much bigger budget, proving that Wolsh knows what he’s doing behind the camera. The real failure of this film lies in its script, and that is what keeps this from being a great horror movie.
Where Things Get ‘Muck’ed Up
While I did enjoy this movie quite a bit, it is heavily flawed. Let’s start with the characters. As a result of being thrown into the middle of the story, there is almost zero character development. People start dying rather quickly, and I promise you won’t care about anyone. While a couple of the characters are marginally better developed and slightly more likable than the rest, most everyone is just stupid and annoying. These characters make some of the worst decisions in the history of film, and the dialogue is rough to say the least. As a result, the kills in the film look really cool, but they lack any emotional impact whatsoever.
Now let’s talk about the “monsters” in the film — a group of silent, hatchet-wielding albinos called Creepers. While I didn’t entirely dislike them, I do wish they were a little more intimidating and truly scary. They just looked very human and didn’t elicit a lot of fear or dread. And because this film essentially has no plot, there’s no explanation for who they are, why they are killing, what they want or where they came from. Even the great Kane Hodder, the leader of the Creepers, is sadly underutilized. He looks imposing, but he dies almost immediately without much of a fight.
The biggest complaint you’ll hear about this film, and one that is completely valid, is the lack of any plot or coherent storyline. Really, nothing happens in this movie. A bunch of pretty people get killed. That’s it in its entirety. I think a great deal of that has to do with the decision to release these movies out of order. While that’s certainly an interesting and maybe even creative concept, it’s poorly executed and left a lot of people scratching their heads. I always appreciate when a filmmaker does something different and takes risks. But the movie has trouble standing on its own, and I understand the frustration viewers had while watching it.
There’s some humor throughout the film, and it’s really hit or miss. There’s a couple of obvious homages to the late Wes Craven, including a Scream-like monologue about horror cliches and the order everyone should die in. The town where all the bad stuff happens is even called West Craven, and the name of the town is mentioned an infinite number of times. One of the characters even talks about how the town used to be really cool, but now it’s not very good. He even complains that he doesn’t want to get into any boring West Craven shit. While it’s probably meant to be good natured fun, taking cheap shots at a horror legend may not be the best way to endear yourselves to genre fans.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Overall, I highly enjoyed this movie. The purpose of this review is more to explain why I personally liked it than to recommend it to others. This movie is not, I repeat NOT for everyone. But it’s not without its charms, and there’s some great stuff to enjoy if you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into. If you really just want to have some fun and don’t care too much about plot or highly developed characters, you may find yourself actually having a great time while watching this.
Muck is an hour and 40 minutes long, and it did not feel long at all. Delivering some amazing effects, gorgeous women, a cool atmosphere and some pretty good cinematography, it’s a real shame that so many people hate it with a passion.
Final score: 7.5 out of 10 (for pure entertainment value)