Director Jesse T. Cook on his gross-out horror film 'Septic Man'
In the new Canadian horror movie Septic Man, Jason David Brown plays a sewage worker who falls into a septic tank and gradually mutates into a monstrous beastie. Brown won Best Actor in a Horror Film award at last year’s Fantastic Fest genre festival for his performance—but this gross-out film is not one to watch while you’re eating. Then again…
“At Fantastic Fest they actually handed out chocolate pudding in the middle of the screening,” recalls Septic Man director Jesse Thomas Cook. “It was a funny touch to see people eating chocolate pudding while Septic Man was knee-deep in the sewage.”
Septic Man is now available to watch on VOD and arrives in cinemas on August 15. Cook talks more about his creature feature below, where you’ll also find an exclusive clip from the film.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was the genesis of Septic Man?
JESSE THOMAS COOK: We have a small production company up here, just north of Toronto. There’s a small group of guys I went to high school with, and we just started this indie film studio. It’s myself and two other filmmakers: John Geddes—we did a zombie film with him [called] Exit Humanity, and one that’s coming out called Hellmouth—and Matt Wiele, who’s a producer and also just directed Ejecta. We were working on a few projects with Tony Burgess, who wrote (the 2008 zombie film) Pontypool. I approached Tony with this idea of doing a horror film about a man trapped in a well. Tony came over, and I was going to pitch him this idea, and he actually clogged my colleague’s toilet. It was sort of a funny joke at the time, and we started playing around with the idea of, “What if a man was stuck in a septic tank and couldn’t get out?”
This looks like it was a horrible film to make.
[Laughs] It was very challenging indeed. We had to build that set from nothing. We just built it under this huge canvas tent in the middle of nowhere and filled it up with water. It became very cramped. It was a small crew, but even with seven or eight of us in there, it was very stuffy and very hard to navigate around. Just passing someone an apple box or tweaking a light became a nightmare.
A few of the crew threw up right in the septic tank. The funny thing was, we didn’t even have to clean it up. It just added to all the garbage and the debris that was already in there. So it became very smelly and god-awful to be in there.
That leads nicely to my next question: There is quite a lot of throwing up onscreen. What did you use for the fake vomit?
It was a horrid combination of baby food mixed with beef casserole mixed with oatmeal. And it had sat out in the sun for a few hours. It was rancid stuff. So they weren’t necessarily even acting at that point.
Had you worked with David Jason Brown before?
Yeah. He’s a guy we went to high school with who’s always had this natural charisma. But he was primarily an artist. He did storyboards for us and then he moved on to production design. With Septic Man, we needed an actor who was going to go full-bore into this, be committed to it, someone we knew we were comfortable working with. And he built that entire set. About six months before the shoot, the actual guy playing Septic Man was designing and building the septic tank single-handedly. He always joked that he was like one of the old Popes who was designing their own tomb. He had to build this thing, knew it inside and out, and then he had to act in it as well.
Do you know what they are going to call the film in foreign territories, particularly those countries which take a very literal approach to renaming movies?
[Laughs] Yeah, I don’t know. Maybe The Man Who Ate Poo? Somebody suggested for a sequel, Septic Man: Number 2.
Do you actually have any plans for a sequel?
We’ve thought about it. Nothing concrete. We’re working on a sort of weird meta-film, a zombie film set in East Asia at the moment with Tony. But it’s on the table.