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Muckman (2009)
Director: Brett Piper

review by Mark West

Deep in the backwoods of Pennsylvania, according to local legend, there exists a creature called Muckman. Falling somewhere between the missing link, Swamp Thing, and Bigfoot, he trolls around and occasionally attacks and kills people, though he smells so terrible that it's clear when he's in the vicinity.

Mickey (Steve Diasparra), a washed-up TV host whose career went down the toilet when he faked Muckman footage previously, decides to go for it one last time and despatches a small crew to the woods. Consisting of diva-like presenter Asia (Anju McIntyre), cameraman Curly (Ian Piper), soundman Drew (Jared Warren), production manager Pauline (Danielle Donahue), and RV driver Billie (Alison Whitney), they team up with local guide Cletus (Ken Van Sant) and set out on the hunt.

The director, Brett Piper, is credited as saying that this is the cheapest film he's ever made and it shows. The image has that harshly lit video quality, though I assume it must be on digital at the very least and the sound is, at best, woolly for most of the film (you never really hear what Piper says). The acting ranges from not-bad-actually - Donahue and Whitney, to over-the-top - come on down, Mr Diasparra, who never knowingly underplays a double-take or surprised expression - to the dreadful Piper and Warren - and the script, whilst clever in some parts, often feels like it's trying too hard.

The pacing is measured (not slow, exactly, but not brisk either), with the horror element of the film only really kicking in about 20 minutes from the end (the film itself is only 80 minutes long), and the characters often do things that make no sense whatsoever - a bikini-clad cat-fight in a river anyone? The monster itself is only glimpsed briefly but it's not a bad creature-suit and, towards the end, there are some smart and clever stop-motion effects.

To be honest, that's what saved this for me. Yes it's cheap, yes the acting is generally poor, yes the locations are clearly in people's homes and places of work and, yes, the whole thing does require a huge suspension of disbelief. But this is a B-movie, a man in a suit running around in the woods, with some cracking stop-motion effects that make it feel like a bunch of friends made it to have some fun, rather than dozens of people sitting around laptops all day tweaking CGI imagery.

This won't win awards, this won't be liked by everyone who watches it, but if you have a taste for a cheesy horror film that doesn't take itself too seriously - yet always tries to deliver the goods - then you probably can't go far wrong with this.


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