If I had to guess, I’ve been waiting the better part of two years for the release of Steve Wolsh’s debut feature film “Muck”. A self-aware teen slasher/comedy, successfully marketed through an online campaign that went viral. Muck is the middle part of a series of three films planned to be released over the next two years. It also claims to have used 100 percent practical blood and gore effects, which would make it one of the first modern Horror films to do so. Muck is about a group of friends, consisting of three girls and two guys that narrowly escape an ancient burial ground. They trek through the marshes of Cape Cod to find shelter at an abandoned house. Upon arrival, the group’s alpha male Noah (Bryce Draper), opts to go for help because his good friend Billy (played by Grant Ouzts) has been wounded. Mia, Kylie and Desiree (played respectively by three gorgeous girls in Lauren Francesca, Stephanie Danielson and Laura Jacobs) stay at the house with Billy, where the group must fight off evil from the marsh known as “The Creepers”. The film also stars Jaclyn Swedberg, Gia Skova, Lachlan Buchanan, Victoria Sophia, Puja Mohindra and Kane Hodder. I may have had huge expectations for this film after such a long wait, and maybe some would say they were unrealistic. I figured with the promise of Beautiful women, nudity, some comedy and bucket loads of practical blood and gore, that I was in for a winner. Read on and find out what Muck is all about (Minor spoilers included).
Before you all start saying, here we go again yet another slasher film, What makes this one so special? We’ve seen it all before etc. Writer and Director Steve Wolsh knows this. Clearly he intended to make an incredibly self-aware Horror and to a degree Comedy, inspired by the likes of “Scream” and “Friday the 13th”. Those films both came at a time when the slasher genre needed rejuvenation. Everything has now been done to death in this genre originality or lack there of, shouldn’t really be a factor that makes or breaks a movie. This isn’t original and nor does it claim to be, but there’s a heap of potential for an interesting franchise when you know the type of film you want to make and you stick to your guns. The camera work in this one is pretty good. Steve uses a lot of wide sweeping shots, and shooting actors through the muck gives it a really dirty, gritty feel. Aesthetically that’s the coolest part about it. This is considered low-budget film making but I’m not sure what the total budget was. I think I read somewhere it was estimated at $2 million. It’s quite an undertaking given that relatively small amount of money. Though I’ve seen great slashers that were made for a lot less. The audio started out a little flat but once the intensity was raised, the sound effects bought it to life. It’s a fairly stock standard score that we’ve heard countless times in similar films, but it accompanies the tone just fine.
Let’s talk about the characters for a minute, because there’s a lot to cover. Everyone in this film is clichéd, but it’s purposely written that way. Steve takes a page from something like “Cabin In The Woods”. These are the types of characters we are used to seeing and we want to see them, otherwise we wouldn’t watch these types of films. Bryce who plays Noah, is your pretty boy lead or so it would appear in the beginning. He is probably the most likeable guy of the bunch. He’s dating Kylie, and he seems to actually give a shit about the group as a whole, and their survival. Then we have Billy, whose clearly the Stu (Matthew Lilliard’s character from Scream) of Muck. Not to be confused with the Billy of Scream (haha). Grant does a nice job with his comedic timing and conviction behind the things that he says. He’s kind of your foul-mouthed immature type, but right off the bat he starts to tell us all about how this thing is going to play out, after all it is a slasher film. Some of those lines he rattles off in the opening twenty minutes, are the funniest parts of the film. Buchanan who plays Noah’s cousin Troit, is the surprise packet. I don’t want to spoil the details of his character arc, but he’s pretty much the linchpin in the second half of the movie. Lachlan played it pretty well, the problem I had with it was that I just didn’t like his character. I didn’t think he was funny or charming, yet the ladies loved him (but it seems to be like that in real life though so yeah haha).
Now a new paragraph to discuss the female talent in this one (haha). Not so sure about the talent when it comes to the acting, which is a bit of a mixed bag. Male viewers will not be disappointed with the array of stunning girls in this one though. Yes it’s all about the fake boobs, the skimpy outfits, and in some cases nothing more than underwear. Steve must be an extremely loveable guy to be able to get away with casting this caliber of women, and getting them to do exactly what he wants, kudos (haha). The lovely Lauren Francesca plays Mia, kind of the final girl of the film. She does a pretty good job, and I give her mad props for spending long hours on countless cold nights, trekking around in the marsh in just her bra and panties, not easily done. Kylie was probably the most likeable of the female characters though. Billy so elegantly explains how she fits into this one, it’s quite entertaining so I will leave it with him. Forgive me if I’m wrong, but I liked that she was at least one actress that appeared to have real boobs (haha). Don’t get me wrong I’m a guy, I like the fake ones as well, but still. Both Victoria and Laura looked fantastic as well. With each of their bodies being on display at some point. Laura in the high denim shorts that too few can pull off, and Victoria looking naturally gorgeous to boot. I will touch on Jaclyn Swedberg, former playmate of the year in her brief but memorable role a little further down.
I’m just looking back at what I’ve written and that seems like a lot of words, considering a lot of what Muck does isn’t good, at least in my opinion. Now bear in mind, I had huge expectations for this. It’s partly on me, but to a degree the marketing team for this film as well. If the technical issues were the only thing wrong with this, I wouldn’t have much to complain about. I won’t pick the movie apart for completely missing the mark with its suspense, because most films in the genre suffer the same problem. Scream was an exception, somehow with Wes Craven at the helm he executed the perfect blend of suspense, mystery and comedy, It’s not as easy as it seems. The soundtrack for Muck was just a mess, I couldn’t work out what the intended tone was supposed to be. It’s not even that its a mash-up of ten different genres, it’s more about the placement that’s all wrong. The wrong pieces of music for the wrong scenes, one of the worst arrangements I’ve heard for a while. The bigger hitch is the lighting though. I understand the choice to shoot certain scenes with minimal light for a certain ambiance. What I don’t get, is filming your much-anticipated action sequences primarily in the dark. At times it works, it’s a little creepy and reasonably effective. In the rooms of the abandoned house for example. We get some lovely establishing shots all through the house, with just a glimmer of moon light, that quickly cuts between different rooms. Once some of the action moves out into the marsh or down into the basement, it loses all it’s desired effect because everything is so dark. Kane Hodder is barely unrecognizable, and not because of a great makeup job (which was okay), more because someone forgot to light the scene. The film is riddled with poorly lit shots, most of which occur in all those potentially decent action sequences.
Let’s forget for one second that most of the characters are only there to add to the body-count. Which disappointingly, isn’t anywhere near as high as you would think for a film like this. None of these characters appear to have any kind of arc, nor do they reveal any background information through the dialogue. I’m not going to get hung up on that because they are things that will probably be covered in the upcoming prequel. A lot of the dialogue is pretty dumb. Nonsensical lines being said by either Lachlan or one of the not so mature girls. Embarrassing stuff like “You should have told me we were going to die, I’d have jacked off first” (or something to that effect)…. Seriously are we 15??. What is the point of a line like that?? It’s not funny or witty or clever, it’s just cringe-worthy and totally out-of-place. I’m all for a bit of profanity too, but there’s a continuous use of the F bomb even when it’s not needed, that got old pretty fast. Onto the action now. Muck breaks the cardinal rule of slasher 101. It goes way beyond the 20 minute mark before killing off its first character. Sure, when that axe comes into play at around the 40 minute mark it’s a pretty cool kill, but that’s way too long given what you’ve promised here. I was so excited when I heard this was going to be all practical blood and gore and no CG. To be fair, I think everything was practical. Sadly, what I thought I’d be getting was cool inventive deaths, with a great effects team using gnarly prosthetics and making an impact. Instead, what we get is a bunch of heavy-handed blood sprays, don’t get me wrong they are practical and they look good, but their still just blood sprays. So in that sense I’m not surprised it was all practical. There’s no prosthetic limbs, no decapitation and making matters worse, the kills that are there nearly all take place off-screen. I felt so cheated through each of those scenes, I think viewers like me have been terribly misled and others will be very disappointed much the same as I was.
If the aforementioned were still the only problems with Muck, it would remain quite a good movie, but alas. For every cleverly cut and edited scene, something sloppy and repetitive follows it. Instead of incorporating the missed scene, where we should have seen Billy get dragged out to the marsh by the creepers, we get repeated cuts between the local bar, the house, the marsh and different sides of someone’s conversation. We get the same scene from a different perspective and it adds nothing. It doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know, we don’t see anything important relating too, or foreshadowing what might happen it’s just a pointless exercise in extending the running time. We have convenient plot points like the group being in the middle of nowhere, but apparently not that far from a semi-well populated bar. Noah can borrow a phone to call his cousin, who’s at another bar somewhere else, in the hopes of getting his help. I thought this was supposed to be a secluded area??. On the same note, Noah is totally relaxed for most of the movie and doesn’t seem worried about the severity of the situation at all. Not even enough to tell Lachlan what’s actually happening. Don’t even get me started on the random scene where a car miraculously gets flipped over and crushes my favorite girl (haha). What the hell was up with that?? Can anyone say continuity issues?. We also get pointless scenes like Terra (played by Swedberg), changing her underwear 27 times like she’s an escort getting ready for a big private night out with a wealthy business man. Instead, after some more screen time has been swallowed up, it’s made clear she is Lachlan’s current fling and is irrelevant to the plot. Don’t get me wrong Jaclyn is unbelievably sexy, and looks great changing in front of a mirror, hell I’d watch that all day (haha), but in real life this is a movie. Predominately I’m watching a slasher for other reasons. Just a little advice to the writers, If you include someone like Jaclyn you might want to write a sex scene. I only say that because if you are paying homage to those slashers before you, you should have one.
What have you done to me Muck? This is one of the longest, if not the longest review I’ve written to date and it’s for a movie I don’t really give a crap about. Actually that’s not true I do, but only because I saw the potential for something fantastic. When the credits began rolling, I realized it was probably the most disappointed I’ve ever been by a film. This is one of the rare times a Horror/Comedy blend has been a total mess and really didn’t work. The only saving grace is that it’s not a stand alone film, and call me a sucker but I do want to see where Steve actually goes with it. While it’s a bold decision, telling the middle part of your trilogy first is extremely risky and in this case it’s a lost cause. Muck has the most beautiful cast of women, a few funny moments, practical blood and some good camera work but it doesn’t even come close to delivering what it promised. It’s a valuable lesson to learn, don’t dream big if you can’t deliver. I wanted to love this but it’s got zero context, one-dimensional characters, mediocre lighting, plot holes galore and nowhere near enough action/ blood and gore to make it remotely memorable. I can feel that wave of disappointment coming on again…
My rating for “Muck” is 5/10