With John's shocking and untimely death in 2008, it looked like the end of the line for brother Mark and the pair's Polonia Bros. Entertainment. Responsible for a string of indie b-movies over the course of several years, the duo had been likened to modern carnival barkers, experts at getting curious horror film fans under their cinematic sideshow tent...only to deliver a less than frightening set of self-made filmic freaks. Over the years, the cult grew and gained respect, mostly because the boys themselves were so self-effacing and critical of their own output. Now working solo, Mark has teamed up with other likeminded moviemakers to continue his sibling's shortened dreams. One such example is Muckman, a monster movie trope which sees a group of unwitting victims coming face to face with a legendary forest fiend. As with most of his work both behind and in front of the camera, Mark (along with co-conspirator Brett Piper) delivers more of his patented dementia. Audiences in the right frame of mind will surely lap it up.
The DVD: Like a collision of two known homemade horror forces, Muckman sees Brett Piper (Drainiac, Bacterium, Shock-O-Rama, and of course, A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell) teaming up with Mark Polonia (Feeders, Splatter Farm, Forest Primeval) to create a campy, kitschy take on the modern media that's both effortlessly fun and significantly less than scary. This is a real romp in every sense of the word. It's lightweight and goofy, well made and wonky, and offers a certain level of satire that helps it rise above the rest of the direct to DVD dung out there. With acting that is a far cry from the amateur antics of many outsider efforts and some excellent creature effects, we've got a real winner here, something that stays with you long after the final scene ends. Does this mean it meets all the requirements of the always ailing scary movie genre? No. Does it mean everything here works and works well? Absolutely not. What it does mean is that, given what is offered and how it is handled, you'll have a good time going through these macabre motions.
For their part, Piper and Polonia work well together. Both have a similar fright film mindset and each comes to play and play hard. Mark even makes a cameo as one of the bumpkins who conspire to trick the TV show into thinking the Muckman is real. While we do have to wait until the very end before we see the real creature, the effect is excellent. Reminiscent of the monsters from the '50s and '60s without being addled by such schlocky qualities, the result is definitely worth the wait...if not the screams. Indeed, what one can say about any or all homemade horror films is that they provide little or no dread. They aren't suspenseful and fail to supply significant shocks. Instead, the makers appear to be pandering to their own inner child, channeling the films they loved as kids while failing to connect with the demands of the cinematic form. We want blood and gore. We get a nice looking beast. We want to be shifted to the edge of our seat. We end up laughing more than cringing, unfortunately.
Overall, Muckman is a success. It's ambitious and twisted and frequently finds the proper balance between awful and an awful good time. On the whole, the performances are excellent. A. J. Khan is particularly convincing as the diva bitch from Hell, while her costars convince us of their various issues. Indeed, the cast keeps us engaged and the use of old school sensibilities like stop motion animation is a real plus. Again, don't think this is some kind of lost masterpiece where everything comes together to redefine the concept of fear. Instead, Muckman is a monster movie made specifically for a venue - the drive-in - that barely exists in 2011. It's a heavy petting prank where couples can claw at each other until the last 10 minutes. That's when all swamp beast hokum breaks loose. As long as you don't take it, or yourself, too seriously, you'll have a holly jolly time. As a sunny slice of nonsensical shivers, it's better than you'd imagine.