directed by J.T. Petty
starring Fred Vogel, Erik Marcisak
S&man is a pseudo-documentary that explores the reasons behind why audiences watch horror movies, especially more hardcore films, and also features a staged storyline of an underground “snuff” filmmaker. Notable appearances include the director of the August Undergound series, Fred Vogel; low-budget exploitation filmmaker Bill Zebub; and Carol J. Clover, who is credited with creating and exploring the “final girl” phenomenon of horror films.
While thought-provoking and ambitious, S&man doesn’t really excel as a documentary or a found-footage horror. The staged storyline does not really begin to develop until the second half of the film, and until then the film is played out much like any other documentary. The interviews are interesting and insightful, but there is a lack of variety in the number of people actually interviewed. Furthermore, some of the questions asked later in the film seemed rephrased from earlier moments. Around the hour point, I felt like I had heard several opinions multiple times. Again, the film is often captivating, but drags at other moments.
The staged story is an original idea, and well performed from the main character of the plot (Erik Marcisak), but it hardly groundbreaking, a little predictable, and would have benefitted from being spread more evenly across the entire movie. Also, the movie could have benefitted from broader set of examples of the hardcore horror genre that is explored. It would have given the film a little more credibility as a documentary-style film, because at times, not to detract form anyone involved, it almost felt like promotion for the appearing movie makers and their work. The pseudo-documentary style in horror has grown even more in popularity since the release of S&man, and I think there are better films like Lake Mungo and The Sacrament that have a better, more balanced approach to the style.