Review: S&MAN

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Directed by J.T. Petty, 2006

A documentary from director/fan J.T. Petty about the underground horror world and its seedy denizens, S&MAN is a sobering look under the toenails of the biggest elephant in our room:  There is a subset of horror, ‘the kind you can’t get at Best Buy’, that is nasty, mean spirited, pushy filmmaking.  Better/Worse yet, there are those who need it, who get off on rape, torture and murder.  Petty walks through the lives of the pseduo-snuff (directors, actors, actresses), those who enjoy watching it and those who are caught in the crossfire.  There’s Debbie D, Scream Queen starlet, directors Bill Zebub and Fred Vogel (of notorious outlet August Underground), and Eric Rost, a voyeur calling himself Sandman who sells his ultra realistic peeping Tom snuff at horror conventions.

It is this last man, Eric, who is at the fulcrum of S&MAN’s fleeting brilliance.  Petty is quick to find the loose thread in Eric’s story, that the women he is filming aren’t actresses.  The intelligence of this examination lays not in its obvious deception – Are Eric’s films real or not? – rather in its indifference.  It matters not whether the Sandman tapes are real, whether Eric Rost is a real person or just a character.  He is a parable for a reality we all know exists.  There are people who have made real snuff films.  There are people who have sought out real snuff films.  More frightening than that, no past tense is needed in those sentences.  People still make them.  There exists today a market for videotapes of real rape, of real torture and of real murder.  Or, failing that availability, as close as possible as anyone is willing to simulate.

I can’t think of anything that disturbs me more.

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