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Overall Rating

Awesome: 6.67%
Worth A Look86.67%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 6.67%

2 reviews, 3 user ratings

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by Scott Weinberg

"What is it that freeway 'rubberneckers' hope to see?"
4 stars

SCREENED VIA THE 2006 SXSW FILM FESTIVAL: A documentary that aims to draw a line between the observation of horror flicks and a propensity for unhealthy voyeurism, JT Petty's "S&Man" (pronounced "Sandman") is a darkly insightful and entirely fascinating study of the most disturbing material out there ... and why we like to watch it.

Back when filmmaker JT Petty was a kid, a creepy scandal rocked his Washington DC suburb. Seems that only a few doors down lived a guy who liked to secretly videotape his neighbors' nightly activities. The video voyeur was brought in by the police, but the victims promptly dropped the charges, mainly because they didn't want the creep's video footage to become a matter of public record. And to this day, the guy still lives in the same house, surrounded by neighbors who probably pull their curtains down extra tight every night.

Hoping to draw a parallel between this type of criminal voyeurism and the activity of watching "hardcore" horror movies, Petty requested an interview session with his local Peeping Tom. His requests were refused outright. But given that JT Petty once directed a cult-type horror flick, 2001's Soft for Digging, he had easy access to the "underground" filmmakers who dabble in the nastiest sort of indie horror material imaginable.

Even without the participation of the peeper who kick-started the project, Mr. Petty found more than enough interview subjects to fill his documentary. Alternative horror-makers Fred Vogel (August Underground) and Bill Zebub (Jesus Christ: Serial Rapist) join psychiatrist Dr. Richard Krueger, sexologist Meg Kaplan and Professor Carol J. Clover, PhD, author of Men, Women and Chain Saws, each of whom are interviewed by Petty on the subjects of voyeurism, "hardcore" horror, and the sort of personalities that gravitate toward these subjects. Petty also visits a horror convention, talks to some indie actors, and employs clips from films such as Peeping Tom, Halloween, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer to make his horror fan/vicarious voyeur connections.

And then there's Eric Rost, aspiring undergrounder and persistent stalker who's banged out more than ten volumes of his "S&Man" series. This is where Petty's film gets really interesting -- mainly because Rost is a guy who's clearly a little unhinged, and it soon becomes clear that the guy might also be a little dangerous. Like any good documentarian, Petty doesn't theorize or editorialize about Eric's gradually discombobulated behavior, but as S&Man goes on, Eric's the one you'll be watching most closely.

Taken as a straight breakdown on why some (most) people love to see gory and graphic images, S&Man is a pretty brave and insightful piece of self-reflection, but Petty's film really comes alive in its third act, which is when the flick unwittingly transforms into one of the very films it's exploring. As Petty and his crew dig a little deeper into Rost's unsettling activities, S&Man becomes kind of a horror movie in its own right.

(Fair warning to the squeamish: "S&Man" contains footage from a variety of mega-low-budget pseudo-snuff flicks that you'd never find at your local Best Buy, so be prepared for some rather disturbing images. The fact that they're fake doesn't change the fact that they're all sorts of creepy.)

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originally posted: 02/28/06 16:15:16
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2006 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2006 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Philadelphia Film Festival For more in the 2007 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 San Francisco Independent Film Festival For more in the 2007 San Francisco Independent Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Fantasia Film Festiva For more in the 2007 Fantasia Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

11/25/08 jewbo23 Just one correction. It wasn't Fred Vogel who was the one doing the tailor made fetish film 4 stars
10/11/06 marcello7013 ottimo 1 stars
3/17/06 Rebecca The film needs a little more focus, but otherwise it's great. 5 stars
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  DVD: 12-Oct-2010


  DVD: 12-Oct-2010

Directed by
  J.T. Petty

Written by

  Fred Vogel
  Bill Zebub
  Eric Rost
  Meg Kaplan
  Carol Clover
  Richard Krueger

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