Starring Davy Raphaely, Sarah French, Dave Sheridan, Doug Henderson
Written by James Newman, Mark Steensland
Directed by B. Harrison Smith
Writer/director B. Harrison Smith is one of the hardest working independent filmmakers out there, and he is known for films like Camp Dread (2014), Garlic & Gunpowder (2017), and Death House (2017). Last year I had the opportunity to screen Death House, which stars almost every major horror icon you can imagine. It is bloody as hell and I really appreciate Smith’s use of mind-blowing practical effects. His new film, The Special, takes you on a completely unexpected journey into addiction, obsession, and ultimately madness.
Jerry (Davy Raphaely) seems like a regular guy who hates his job, and life in general, and suspects that his wife Lisa (Sarah French) has cheated on him. Jerry’s co-worker and friend Mike (Dave Sheridan) is also his drinking buddy and they hang out at the same bar on a regular basis, attempting to drown out their miserable lives with alcohol. Finally, one night Mike has had enough of Jerry’s sulking about his wife and tells him he has a surprise for him.
Mike takes Jerry to see Madame Zhora (Susan Moses), a psychic who runs a very curious brothel. There are plenty of beautiful women to choose from, but Mike insists that Jerry needs “The Special.” Mike tells Jerry that he had “The Special” once and it blew his mind, but once is enough. Jerry is led to a bedroom and locked in. The lighting sets the mood and atmosphere extremely well throughout the film but is especially extraordinary in the brothel scenes. Jerry is confused because he is locked in a bedroom alone until he sees a simple black box on a table.
The box is locked and has a hole in the front with the words “Stick It In Here” painted above and an arrow pointing to the hole. It isn’t difficult to figure out what the box is for or what the instructions mean. I imagine it would be hard to find a guy who wouldn’t be willing to “Stick It In Here.” I certainly don’t think all men are bad, but a lot of men tend to think with their dicks, and Jerry feels like he has nothing good or pleasurable in his life. Of course, he’s going to stick his dick in the hole in the box. It drives him wild. It’s the best sex he’s ever had in his life. There is something delectable and orgasmic in the black box and Jerry can’t stop thinking about it. Brace yourself, things are about to get even wilder.
I was reminded of the SNL skit from 2006, “Dick in a Box,” that featured Justin Timberlake and Andy Samberg. I thought it was funny and I’ll apologize now for causing anyone reading this to get that song stuck in their head. Despite the similarity, there is nothing funny about The Special. Davy Raphaely is outstanding as Jerry and believably conveys the range of emotions he experiences, as well as his change in personality. The tagline for The Special is “This is not a love story,” and I think it’s brilliant. Director Harrison Smith’s unique artistic voice really stands out with this film, and his skillful execution of the story and the way he utilizes his cast are what make this such a compelling film. I especially love that The Special feels like an episode of Masters of Horror, because of the mystery of the box and the excitement and anxiety that comes with wanting to know what’s really inside.
Jerry decides to steal the box, leading him to commit his first murder, and then he rents a sleazy motel room and locks himself away with the box. When he does finally return home, his wife tells him she’s pregnant. He shows no emotion at all at that revelation, because all he can think about is the wonderful box. Jerry isn’t just obsessed with the box. His whole personality changes. He is addicted to the box. Addiction isn’t just about drugs or alcohol. People become addicted to all kinds of things and Jerry portrays all the signs of an addict. The darkness and despair that can come with addiction start to consume Jerry. In fact, Jerry has sex with the box so much that he begins to develop a strange rash and his whole appearance begins to deteriorate, which is also a sign of addiction.
Jerry eventually breaks open the box to see what is inside. I think director Harrison Smith is a genius with practical effects. Death House featured much bloodier effects, but the effects in The Special are spectacular and cringe-worthy. Ultimately, Jerry is so addicted, that he is willing to allow the thing inside the box to devour his life and his body. Because of the horrible things Jerry does to keep the box to himself, his fate seems fitting. You feel bad for him because he’s an addict, but it’s very hard to forgive the unspeakable things he does to those around him. The Special is not a love story. It is a lesson and it is taught phenomenally well. Pay attention and learn from this film, and be careful where you stick your dick.
The Special is a story of loneliness and addiction with a supernatural sexual twist.