S&Man (aka Sandman)
October 12, 2010 (U.S. DVD)
Carol J. Clover as Herself
Debbie D ... Herself
Freddie Dingo as Himself
Michelle Glick as Jasmine
Erik Marcisak as Eric Rost
S&Man (aka Sandman) is a Documentary, of Sorts, mixing interview footage with drama to bring to light the dark basement of extreme horror.
Filmmaker J.T. Petty begins S&Man (akaSandman) as a documentary exploring the mind of the voyeur. There was a man in his neighborhood growing up, it seems, who was convicted of watching many women in his neighborhood over several years, and that got him thinking about what kind of person becomes obsessed with watching others secretly, bearing witness to the dramatic and tragic as well as the mundane. The ultimate goal, as stated by Petty, is to talk with the man himself. As the film moves on this man proves to be elusive.
The concept of the voyeur, however, will not be deterred and the filmmaker turns the camera on those who make and watch horror movies at the outer fringes of the genre; the made to order films depicting realistic rape and murder, sold through direct distribution channels such as the Internet and horror conventions. Through a series of hidden camera convention walk-throughs, interviews with performers and directors of films of this type and expert commentary by authors on the subject, Petty investigates the lives and motivations of those involved in “fantasy” films showing realistic killings and torture.
One of these edge filmmakers is Eric Rost (Erik Marcisak), creator of the popular “S&Man” series, pronounced “Sandman”. As the scenes unfold the line between illusion and reality blur and the possibility that these popular films don’t have to work very hard to achieve realism starts to rear its ugly head. Is Rost an actual serial killer who memorializes his exploits for the viewing pleasure of others? And are those who watch the S&Man films really so different from more mainstream horror fans who seek out the gory and horrific for their viewing pleasure? Most horror freaks would immediately defend themselves in this regard, drawing certain lines as to what they will watch, but Petty’s position seems to be that the line between the neighborhood peeping Tom from his childhood and the mainstream horror fan may be thin indeed.
Sandman does a good job getting the point across, and causing a bit of confusion regarding the reality of what is being depicted. Admittedly, at first it seemed obvious that the story was scripted and that this wasn’t a “real” documentary. Every once in a while, though, something would happen that raised doubt. Real or not, this one is extremely unsettling.
The reality is these types of films do exist, and it stands to reason that the more realistic the scenes of murder, torture and rape the more alluring the film. Why is that? It is easy to say that we draw the line at ACTUAL murder, torture and rape, but if the scene is very realistic then how would one know for sure what they are watching? Are there those among us who long for the vision on the screen to actually be real, if only subconsciously? The rumors of “snuff films”, those depicting actual death rather than simulated, circulate occasionally and the film series Faces of Death claimed to depict actual human death and became quite popular indeed.
What about the fictitious S&Man creator Eric Rost. His methods may cross many lines of human decency, yet they may not. The suggestion that men such as he exist, as I am sure they do, is quite disconcerting.
Sandman is not particularly high in action or gore, but instead suggests that what’s behind our beloved horror films may be more than we bargained for, in terms of content as well as those who create them. That in itself is enough to cause a few moments of silent reflection as the ending credits roll.