Monday, 13 April 2015


I'm a big fan of the way that the Internet has changed the face of independent film making. Crowd-funding projects have made a real difference, and helped projects that may not have got off the ground otherwise.
Recently filmmaker Steve Wolsh successfully funded the prequel to this movie via a popular Kickstarter campaign. As a part of that campaign, backers were able to get access to Muck, the first released but actually the middle chapter of his marsh-horror trilogy.
I was one of those backers and finally got to sit down with the film that has certainly polarised reviewers.
Would I think it Mucking rocked?
Or would I be telling Wolsh and co to get the Muck out?
Read on...

MUCK (2015)

Dir: Steve Wolsh
Starring: Bryce Draper, Stephanie Danielson, Laura Jacobs, Grant Alan Ouzts, Lauren Francesca, Lachlan Buchanan, Puja Mohindra, Jaclyn Swedberg, Kane Hodder

SPEEDY SYNOPSIS: I'll try not to spoil too much here but continue at your own risk.

In the dead of night a bedraggled and terrified group of individuals emerge from the Cape Cod marshland. Led by take-charge hero Noah (Draper), the others including his good-girl ladyfriend Kylie (Danielson); the acid-tongued bitchy Desiree (Jacobs); the injured and smartmouthed Billy (Ouzts) and the panicky, near-naked Mia (Francesca).
Two of their number are dead or missing, victims to a Mysterious Muck Marsh Menace (as I shall address their assailant) that has stalked them through the swamp.
Stumbling across an isolated house the group break in to look for assistance or a telephone. Unable to find the phone, Noah volunteers to run along the main road to seek help while the others rest, clean themselves, tend to Billy's injuries and, in Desiree's case, drink herself silly.
Noah is able to find a rundown bar on the edge of a small town, West Craven (ho ho!). Here, in a bar full of nearly naked drunken Cougars, Noah borrows a phone and, on account of having been involved in breaking and entering and theft of property, opts to phone his party-animal cousin Troit (Lachlan), who he knows is nearby, instead of the police.
Troit is out drinking with long-term buddy Chandi (Mohindra) and Troit's lust-interest, Terra (2012 Playmate of the Year Swedberg), who also happens to be nearly naked.
You may be spotting a pattern here.
However, unbeknownst to Noah, the house and friends to which he is returning have fallen into the deranged sights of a sadistic group of scarred, mute albino Creepers led by the diabolical Grawesome Crutal (Horror legend Hodder).
Will Noah return in time? What do the Creepers want with the group — and what is the Mysterious Muck Marsh Menace that they are so scared of? And how many women can strip in front of a mirror and fondle themselves in a mere 90 minutes?

THE BEST BITS (mild spoiler warning): Some reviews out there have been unduly harsh on Muck. In truth, there are some things in here that are very good.
The film looks incredible. The budget has been put to good use and the cinematography by Michael Solidum gives the movie, a hot, grimy and menacing atmosphere. The steamy swampland is reminiscent of Adam Green's Hatchet, a film that Muck reminded me of plenty of times throughout.
Unlike a lot of indie horror flicks, this one feels, sounds and looks a lot like a Hollywood picture. Wolsh also uses quick cuts, fades and eye-catching slow-mo to make this movie a real feast for the eyes.
Undoubtedly a lot of the appeal for this movie comes down to two things: bare-flesh and blood — and Muck delivers high quantities and quality of both. If you like to see geysers of gore and good-looking women in next-to-nothing, this IS the film for you.
The gore effects and stunt work (that naked window stunt is pretty damn impressive) all looks awesome, another element in which the flick's budget was well spent. With splatter and some impressive death scenes throughout, this is most certainly not an area in which I can see the naysayers finding fault.
As for the sex-appeal, well, this is a film in which there are more unfeasibly toned, gorgeous bodies on display than any other I've seen. The ladies are all undoubtedly stunning (with the jawdropping Swedberg sure to win plenty of admirers here) while the Gap-model good-looking guys (including the ruggedly handsome Draper and boyish but chiseled Buchanan) both flashing their rock hard sixpacks and pecs throughout. The Creepers all reveal their athletic torsos, Hell, even Kane Hodder goes topless! If you want skin, and plenty of it, Muck delivers.
Of course, there's more to the cast of Muck than just supermodel looks. I really enjoyed the work of Buchanan, whose borderline dickish character (combined with the manner in which he ends up dressed) really reminded me of Bruce Campbell's iconic turn as Ash in The Evil Dead movies. His shovel rampage is awesome and his face-off with a gang of vicious Creepers is definitely one of the movie's highlights. It's likely we'll see more of him in the other chapters of the Muck trilogy — personally, I can't wait.
I also really liked Mohindra and Danielson. Likeable, pretty performers with some definite acting chops — I can see big things for both of these and look forward to seeing what else they are given to work with in the other Muck flicks. Danielson has a real Scream Queen quality to her so I hope she sticks with the genre.
I think credit must also go to Draper, Francesca and Swedberg. As all are undoubtedly very good-looking and/or spend the vast majority of the film in very little clothing, it would be all too easy to dismiss them as mere eye-candy. However, Draper is a fine hero and could well be a big star judging by his performance here, while Francesca manages to overcome the fact that she spends the entire film in the skimpiest of bra and knickers and give a performance with some emotional impact, which is both believable and sympathetic. While Swedberg has less to do, she is a far more capable actress than her comparative inexperience would give reason to expect. Very impressive!
The Creepers are all great and suitably, well, creepy. Hodder can do this sort of thing in his sleep and he's as awesome as always. I also got a real kick out of the equally imposing Josh Diogo as the equally insanely named Craxious Gigas. This is a guy that GETS being a beast.
Finally, I loved both Jacobs and Ouzts in their more-humorous roles. Jacobs Desiree is the bad girl you love to hate and she's clearly having a great time chewing up the scenery with her spiteful and selfish character. She totally gets the role and is a pleasure to behold.
Ouzts is gifted with some of the finest dialogue in the film and, while his is the character that gets the least to do (on account of his injuries), he spits one-liners with aplomb. His self-aware horror film speech, in which he discusses each character's survival chances, is wonderfully 'meta' and summons memories of Scream's Randy. 
This is just one of the witty moments in the film's script, sometimes it borders dangerously close to offensive (Troit's good-natured but decidedly racist jibes towards Chandi could well overstep that mark) but it all seems to be coming from such a fun place that it's difficult to take it seriously. It is precisely this balancing act — combining extreme violence, gratuitous nudity and coarse humour with a knowing wink and levity — that reminds me of Hatchet. As a big fan of Green's films, this is very much a compliment.
The writing (also by Wolsh) is not just witty but also shows some imagination, not just in its daring decision to start slap-bang in the middle of the story, but also the interesting and clever way that it plays around with time jumps to keep audiences guessing. If this level of trickery goes into the upcoming prequel/sequel, we could be in for some intriguing times ahead.
Finally, real credit must go to Muck's AMAZING soundtrack. It's packed with great rock tracks and I'll almost certainly be downloading (legally, of course) a pretty big selection of the songs from the film. Kickass!

THE WORST BITS (mild spoiler warning): Ok, I'm going to jump in and deal with the single biggest complaint I've seen levelled at Muck — it's a film with no beginning or end. Before I watched the movie I knew that the prequel Muck: Feast of St Patrick was on the way (after all, I helped fund it!) and had read Wolsh's plans to make this a marsh horror trilogy. With that in mind, I don't think that the film is overly confusing. Sure, some plotlines are left unresolved and certain questions remain unanswered but, having watched plenty of horror films in which the ending is basically one big 'To Be Continued', I had no problem with Muck. However, if you want everything wrapped up in a neat little bow inside 90mins, well, Muck will undoubtedly leave you disappointed.
While I praised the writing of the film, there were still some somewhat jarring plotholes and decidedly terrible decisions by characters that bordered on insanely self-centred. These were characters we're meant to care for, but Noah's actions in the bar scene (even taking into account that he was highly traumatised) made me want to hurl my shoe at the TV. Of course, this is a throwback-style slasher flick, so moments like this are par for the course (and maybe even a part of the reason we love these films). Just be warned, if you are a screen-screamer, you'll probably be hoarse by the time this is over.
Now, let's hit another of the critics' peeves — the huge amounts of gratuitous nudity. To be honest, I can kind of see where they're coming from. Now don't get me wrong, I admire the female form as much as the next guy, but there are so many slow-mo shots of boobs and butts that I actually started to find myself getting bored with them. I lost count of how many women strip down to look at themselves in underwear/nude in a mirror throughout the film, but after a while it actually felt as if they were being stuck in at random intervals to pad out the run time of a film that could have been a good 20 minutes shorter without them. Still, I guess Mr Wolsh and co had a great time on set.
Also, while I praised the atmospheric shooting and editing, the movie did almost overcook it at times. The darkness and quick-cuts hampered what could have been some killer grue shots and, while I understand that the 'Mysterious Muck Marsh Menace' was deliberately kept offscreen to heighten the intrigue, sometimes scenes in which it featured were a little choppy, which hindered the ability to accurately work out exactly what was happening. Luckily these were pretty few and far between.
One thing that did disappoint was the comparatively small amount of screentime given to Hodder. I'm sure we could have skipped one of the mirror scenes to get more of this legit horror icon?
Finally, and this is nothing to do with the movie itself, there was some controversy in the crowd funding campaign. Some backers made contributions on the proviso that they would receive a copy of the film before it went on general release. Now, for some reason or another this was not the case and, while I don't have the facts to hand as to what caused this delay, this clearly was not on. Luckily all pledges have been fulfilled now so, bygones.

THE VERDICT: Man, Muck has been given a bum rap. There are a lot of haters out there but I can see plenty to like. No, it's not exactly a picture for the Academy, but then, so few horror movies are. No this is one best watched in a large group with beer, pizza and an open mind. It's fun, sexy, bloody, creepy and hilarious and offers enough body parts (attached or otherwise) to get slasher fans and horror hounds onside. I for one cannot wait to see Wolsh and his team have in store for us with next year's prequel. 
Until then, be sure to pick up a copy of Muck and, while you're at it, hit the official Facebook page to show some support and get all the news on the prequel.

If you haven’t already, do please check out and like the Hickey’s House of Horrors Facebook page, which you can find here. It gives you a nice quick link to any new posts on this blog, plus regular news updates from around the web. I check the Internet so you don’t have to! Alternatively, follow me on twitter: The House@HickeysHorrors

Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.

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