I decided to watch this absolute shit show of a movie after a discussion with some of my fellow iHorror writers who had previously covered Muck as part of our Cutthroat Critics series. I was well warned that I would not like this film.
I cannot in any way overstate how much this movie angered me. I watched it while consuming several glasses of wine, thinking that would help. It did not.
Muck is the cockiest and most incomprehensible movie I have ever seen. It’s so bafflingly confident – so fucking smarmy – that I wish it was a physical entity so I could punch it right in the junk.
Muck has all the restraint and focus of an obnoxiously horny 15-year-old boy who just found his first Playboy magazine. Because when it gets down to it, that’s really all Muck is – an excuse to feverishly ogle the gratuitously hypersexualized female form while peppering in some generic violence to mask it as a horror film.
Yes, this is not the first – nor the last – movie to combine nubile, mostly naked women with splatter gore, but, you can usually find some semblance of a coherent plot or structure or – hell – even a clear idea of who the actual “star” of the damn story is. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s break this down a bit.
First, a bit of background. Writer/director/producer Steve Wolsh made his filmmaking debut with Muck. It premiered at the Playboy Mansion in 2015, because of course it did.
Muck stars Lachlan Buchanan (The Young and the Restless) as a character named “Troit”, Bryce Draper (Bound), Stephanie Danielson (Paranormal Whacktivity), YouTube star Lauren Francesca, and 2012 Playboy Playmate of the Year Jaclyn Swedberg. Horror icon Kane Hodder is somehow there too. He deserves better.
The movie starts with a group of frazzled and supposedly terrified (which they convey by just constantly swearing, because “acting”) 20-somethings as they emerge from a swampy marsh. According to the film’s description, they are “narrowly escaping an ancient burial ground”, but of course there’s no actual mention of that. At all. Or why the female characters are wearing next to nothing. The two men are fully dressed – wearing layers, even – while the ladies are in their underwear and constantly complaining about the cold. It’s nonsense.
One of the guys is injured, but there’s no discussion of what happened, or how, or why. Any information you would expect to receive that would actually give this movie some kind of plot is conspicuously missing.
If you were worried that a missing storyline would get in the way of quippy dialogue, you can rest easy. One of the scantily clad women makes a perky yet oddly-timed jab at Horny Injured Douchebag (I mean, that’s probably his character name) with the line, “You don’t have enough blood left in you to fill that big dick of yours”.
So… there’s that.
Wolsh’s script seems to come from the Eli Roth school of dialogue, which covers bases like “make your characters completely unlikable” and “write like you’ve never heard a normal human adult conversation”. It’s insufferable.
The characters spout homophobic and racist comments throughout the movie – thinly veiled as “playful banter”. The misogyny is so rampant that there’s quite literally some form of verbal or visual objectification every 45 seconds.
In the opening credits, for example, we are granted a scene full of shifting camera angles focused on a lost and scared former member of their party (we assume?), clad only in filthy underwear (she is presumed dead, so we never see her again) with zero context.
While there are multiple long, lingering (mostly closeup) shots of her naked breasts, we never clearly see her actual face. Because that’s not important? I guess? She’s not acting with her face, you guys.
Additionally, I’m fairly confident that the script was not nearly long enough to make a full feature film, so the decision was made to punch up the action with sloppy transcripts of inane fantasies.
That’s the only reason I can think of, anyways. Why else would you need to include a scene where “Troit” waits on his date as she tries on four – yes, four – different bra and panty sets in the bar bathroom. She works through the Victoria’s Secret kiosk that’s apparently stashed in her bag, trying to find the best super sexy lingerie combination (for the date she is already on).
As a side note, for anyone wondering what women cart around in our oversized purses, I can guaran-fucking-tee you it’s not four different sets of lingerie.
*Rubs forehead in frustration* Okay… where was I.
Muck has the audacity to name its fictional horror locale “West Craven” (how dare you). They toss around this self-congratulatory name drop with a sudden frequency that there’s no way you can miss it, even though it doesn’t come into play until roughly two-thirds of the way through the movie. Even then, it’s presented with comments of how “West Craven” is “so boring” but “used to be pretty cool”. Howfuckingdareyou.
This “nod” to the legendary Wes Craven feels like it was added as an afterthought to a script that I imagine consists of a series of crumpled, stapled-together cocktail napkins with the words “BOOBS” and “BUTTS” scrawled across them.
Something I mentioned earlier was the abundant confusion with the protagonists. None of them are likable, they’re not heroic, and not a single one stands out as the “hero” here. There’s no Final Girl, just a group of assholes that for some reason gain more members in the third act as Troit and his female companions show up.
We’re left wondering why we should even remotely care about these idiots, and why the hell the Troit and co. introduction scene was so necessary that it took any momentum the movie had and brought it to a screeching halt.
Nothing makes any real logical sense, nothing is ever explained, and every time a character opens their mouth to say some asinine line, you’re filled with a fresh wave of hatred.
Despite the fact that the group of young, sexy idiots are fighting for their lives, there’s no real push for anyone to get help. The pacing is so fraught with rushing and stalling that it’s like watching someone try to drive a stick shift for the first time.
I would say that Muck has a real tongue-in-cheek humor, but that would imply that anything about the movie is even remotely funny. I understand that the goal was to make a saucy, gruesome exploitation-style horror – a sort of late-night slasher flick homage – but it completely lacks the awareness that makes those films so genuine and fun.
The “creature” designs are disappointing, boring, and not presented in a way that gives any indication of who they are or where they might have come from. Sure, other films have used this idea of the “unknown threat” before, but they’re usually fantastical in nature, not just a bunch of flailing bald guys covered in baby powder.
There’s a prequel supposedly in the works because evidently Muck is part of a trilogy. Perhaps the prequel would shed some light on what is happening with that “burial ground” at the beginning of Muck, but in practicality, that’s the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard. A prequel is there to fill in additional information for the purposes of world building, not to retroactively cover up plot holes you couldn’t be bothered to deal with.
They started raising funds for the prequel through Kickstarter before Muck was even publicly released, and backers are not thrilled about the missing rewards and lack of ownership from Wolsh. Nothing makes an audience giddy for more like an incredibly frustrating film with an incomplete premise and a four-year delay between titles.
Now, Muck could have some redemptive qualities – I’ll usually praise cinematography or practical effects – but I genuinely couldn’t even register if there was anything worthwhile about this movie. That’s how obnoxious it is.
I hated it.
Tune in next week for yet another edition of Late to the Party! You can check out more titles from our ongoing series here.