“What the hell?” That’s the exact thought that crossed my mind after seeing JT Petty’s brilliant “documentary” “S&Man” (pronounced “sandman”). What starts off as an entertaining documentary about makers of underground horror movies turns into something much more sinister as Petty and crew stumble upon Eric Rost, a New Yorker who makes movies in which he stalks a girl and then kills her in the end. He doesn’t tell them he’s following them and taping them as he then gets to know them and convinces them to allow themselves to be filmed being murdered in one of his movies. It’s beyond creepy as we follow along with Rost as he embarks on a new chapter in his “S&Man” series. Lets get back to Rost later.
Other folks in this “documentary” are Carol J. Clover, a medevilist who wrote a book called “Men, Women, and Chain Saws:?Gender in Modern Horror Film,” Bill Zebub, a horror porn filmmaker with a credit that includes “Jesus Christ: Serial Rapist,” and Fred Vogel who runs one of the most popular underground horror film companies. There’s also some sexologist woman and a psychologist of some kind, but they really aren’t needed. The real fun and intrigue lies with the filmmakers, guys like Mr. Zebub who is never shown when he’s not drunk and/or drinking. A particularly funny scene shows Zebub drunk and trying to film a hot, semi-nude woman in a bar. This poor girl has to lie on the cold bar floor for a few hours while Zebub gets drunker and plans his shoot. And then there’s Rost.
What makes “S&Man” so damned awesome is that it splays everything out there in broad daylight. There are some sick and twisted people who make sick and twisted movies to sell to other sick and twisted people. It’s not really a shocking revelation, but I really like the way Petty (himself a low budget horror filmmaker) cleverly builds his film around the idea that horror films are like sex. Especially like deviant sex. No one publicly claims to like “scat” movies or any number of odd sexual peccadilloes that come out on porn DVD’s everyday. Yet someone’s buying them because they make a ton of money. However most people still claim to be shocked by such things just as there’s often an outcry when something happens in a fictional film that seems too far over the edge. Take for instance the recent uproar over the Dakota Fanning “rape movie” “Hounddog.”
But here’s the rub (eww…bad word choice), we secretly like seeing really messed up stuff onscreen. Ever since the advent of cinema we’ve sought new ways to see nudity and show death. Cinema is the ultimate in voyeurism especially now that we can have movie theater quality films in our home and access to anything you’d ever want to see or not see via the internet. We can sit in the dark at home and allow ourselves to be “visually penetrated” as much as we would ever like. Yet there’s still the hypocritical outcry over what’s to far against the social norm. And that’s where “S&Man” is so damned smart. By watching this film and the “horrors” within, you’re complicit in the horror. By merely sitting by and watching Rost’s sick stalking and impotent male fantasy killings, you might as well be doing them yourself. The question you then have to ask is: if it’s so “offensive,” why didn’t you turn away?