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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Sandman

October 11th, 2010

Sandman - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

Sandman, a.k.a., S&man is a documentary from filmmaker J.T.Perry, whose other works include The Burrowers, which I have reviewed previously. That film was a horror / western creature feature. I enjoyed that movie, but the skill set needed to make a documentary compared to a fictional film is very different, so I go into this movie cautiously optimistic.

The Movie

After an attempt to make a documentary on a real life peeping Tom that was in his neighborhood when he was growing up fizzled, (the subject refused to appear on camera) J.T.Perry decides to turn the subject matter of voyeurism to his favorite genre, horror, which obviously has a lot of voyeuristic elements. He talks to several psychologists about what it is that draws people to horror and how the genre has changed over the years. As one of them points out, it used to be that the horror was part of the narrative, but now the horror is more important than the narrative. And that's in mainstream Hollywood films. In underground horror films, a lot of times there is no narrative, just torture, rape, and murder meant to look as real as possible.

It is while investigating this underground horror that J.T. meets a lot of filmmakers, and a couple stars. Fred Vogel talks about his August Underground films and how he has stripped the narrative right out of the movie. Bill Zebub talks about his films (like Jesus Christ: Serial Rapist) and how he is not making cinema, but making money. Debbie D sits down for an interview about being a Scream Queen and how she got into the business. Then there's Eric Rost, the writer / director / star of the S&Man stalker series, which at the time, was up to nearly a dozen installments.

There's a good balance between talking heads and clips from the movies. Speaking of which, this film earns its R-rating. It also balances the filmmakers perspective with the experts. We get a list of horrible things that are done in some of these movies, plus a list of weird fetishes that they cater to. (Women getting shot... in the belly button. Now that's specific. That's creepy in its specificity.) You get different insights from all of the participants. Fred Vogel talks about the importance of knowing your crew, because of the subject matter, you have to have safe words. Bill Zebub is a little more jovial about his job, but under no delusions about what he is making. He doesn't even consider his films horror, but thinks of them as porn. Eric Rost, on the other hand, is obsessed with self-promotion. Given what we learn, it feels like he should be part of the target audience, not the person making these movies.

Then there's the ... Major Spoiler Warning ... There's a surprise twist in the movie. I'm not going to tell you what it is, but given the genre, you might guess it on your own.

The Extras

I only have the Blu-ray to review, so I'm not 100% sure if there are any exclusives. Extras start with two audio commentary tracks, both of which are worth checking out. There's the complete S&Man: Episode 11 short film. Next up are nine deleted / extended scenes and then 8 minutes of August Underground movie clips. Finally, there are five more clips from S&Man films.

The film's presentation in High Definition is not exactly sharp, but that's mostly due to the source material. After all, a lot of the film is clips from beyond ultra-low-budget movies. Films that cost just a couple thousand dollars to make, so you can't expect it to look or sound as good as even the average limited release. That said, even the material shot new for this documentary isn't exactly sharp either. Finally, the Blu-ray costs about 40% more, which is too much for this type of release.

The Verdict

S&Man is a documentary that deals with a subject most filmmakers wouldn't touch, and it does so in an interesting way. If you are a fan of low-budget horror, then this movie is definitely worth checking out. However, the DVD is the better deal over the Blu-ray, as this is not a movie that shines in High Definition.

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