Written and directed by Steve Wolsh, Muck, according to it’s Wikipedia article (yeah, I know), had an interesting production. Shot on a shoestring budget, Wolsh and company endured “19 grueling all-night shoots” as well as having to perform stunts in a single take due to the budget and schedule. Sounds like independent filmmaking at its finest. What’s even more interesting is that a prequel is already underway, thanks in part to a Kickstarter campaign that raised a little over $266k. The key thing is that this money was raised before the backers had even seen the original film. That’s quite a gamble, especially if the original film turns out to be a steaming pile. Well, with a bevy of stars like YouTube star Lauren Francesca, Playboy Playmate of the Year 2012 Jaclyn Swedberg and horror legend Kane Hodder, you would hope that wouldn’t be the case.
After escaping an ancient burial ground underneath the Cape Cod marshes, Mia (Lauren Francesca) and her friends take shelter in an abandoned house. With Billy (Grant Alan Ouzts) in need of a doctor, Noah (Bryce Draper) decides to go for help, despite whatever was lurking in the marsh still being out there. Unfortunately for the remaining friends, the house isn’t abandoned or safe, as another evil is lurking inside.
According to Wolsh, Muck is a throwback to a time before CGI was used for effects, and as such, all of the effects done in the film are practical. I know that I’m not the only one who enjoys in-camera effects and creature makeup, so this was a pleasant surprise. Add in the above-mentioned stunts performed in a single take, and you can’t help but admire the effort that went into stretching the budget while also maintaining a “pure” look to the effects that are many times wiped over with studios using CGI as a crutch. True, it’s safer and you get it exactly as you wanted it every time, but let’s be honest: Often times, it makes a film look artificial and lazy if it’s done poorly. So kudos for that.
In all honesty though, that’s about as positive as I can get with this film: Muck is terrible. Starting with the script, we have characters that are either woefully underdeveloped or just designed for us to hate them (unintentional or otherwise). Nobody acts or talks like a real person would, instead choosing to display crudeness of the worst degree (if a guy acted like Bryce Draper’s Noah in the film around a woman, someone would cave his face in), do stupid things (Bleeding out? Let’s get drunk!), pull a Scream and do the whole “this is what happens to certain people in horror movies” spiel that is delivered ham-fisted at best, and generally piss you off with their actions (don’t call the cops, call your cousin instead to pick you guys up). You’d think that having Kane Hodder show up to butcher these people would be a relief. It’s not, as he’s just as underdeveloped as the rest of them, and isn’t even in the film for that long, either.
Then there’s the story. I get that this is supposed to be an exploitation film with the boobs and all (slow motion, close-ups, etc), but I don’t want one written by a high schooler. It takes nearly a half-hour from the start of the film for someone to actually make a phone call for help. In the meantime, two female characters decide to take showers (complete with time devoted to them undressing), Noah jogs to a bar for help, cleans himself up, buys a girl a drink at the bar, and then makes the phone call. Of course, to top it all off, the assclown makes no mention of how serious the situation is, and just says “Hey man, I need a ride, ok? Thanks.” Oh, and naming the town Wes Craven (yes, he did) and proceeding to take veiled shots at Wes by citing the town as “boring” and that it “used to be pretty cool”? Way to not get people on your side, Wolsh.
Saying that Muck is meant to be a throwback to old-school horror is an insult. While the choice to use practical effects is one I can applaud, the frustrating story, downright detestable characters and lame attempts at scoring brownie points with your viewers makes this film a joke. It seems Wolsh forgot the reasons behind certain aspects of past classic horror movies (and storytelling), and instead just decided to get hot women to oogle while having Kane Hodder toss around the plasma. Uh, no. That only works when your film is entertaining. Leave this muck with the rest of the crap in the bargain bin where it belongs.
In spite of the film being overly dark, the 4K Ultra HD-filmed 1.85:1 AVC-encoded 1080p transfer looks really good. The overall image is crisp and clean, with great detail and accurate colours. Black levels are appropriately strong, and the image itself has some depth to it, despite it again being primarily dark.
The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless track is immersive and nicely balanced. Dialogue is kept to the centre channel, while ambient effects do a great job in the surrounds. The music is particularly aggressive, but doesn’t overwhelm the action.
You’d think that they would’ve sprung for some making-of stuff to justify what they’ve put on screen, but no. Perhaps it’s for the best. Hell, the Wikipedia article for the film has enough trivia and production notes from (presumably) someone who worked on the film.