The Special Movie Review

Written by Joel Harley

Released by Brick Top Productions


Directed by B. Harrison Smith
Written by James Newman, Mark Steensland
2020, 94 minutes, Rated 18
Premiered at UK Grimmfest on October 8th 2020

Davy Raphaely as Jerry
Dave Sheridan as Mike
Sarah French as Lisa
Doug Henderson as Ivan


Suspecting that his wife may be cheating on him, Jerry (Davy Raphaely) confides in best pal Mike (Dave Sheridan). His sleazy best mate wastes little time in whipping Jerry off to the local brothel – planning to cheer him up with a go on ‘the Special’. Led upstairs by the lady of the house, Jerry is locked inside a room with only a small wooden box for company. But oh, what company. Sticking his dick in the box, Jerry experiences the greatest orgasm of his life and promptly passes out. His wife’s affair turns out not to be, but the damage is done. Jerry immediately becomes hooked on the Special, and he’ll stop at nothing to recreate that high.

the special 01 the special 02

What if you could fuck the Lament Configuration? So asks B. Harrison Smith’s The Special, a low-budget horror film about a man having an affair with a small wooden box. Its story might be crude, but the mystery is a compelling one. What is inside the mystery box? What’s with the strange gunk that comes out of it, and what happens if you rub it on yourself? Is it a good idea to get the wife involved? And with Jerry’s highs getting ever high-er, what happens when he reaches the limit of the box’s powers? No longer master of his own domain, Jerry is at the mercy of his own addiction. 

the special 03 the special 04

A none-too-subtle allegory on the risks of porn addiction, The Special is part David Cronenberg body horror, part cautionary tale. One would imagine a film about a guy boning a box to be a bit funnier, but the film’s director and writers play the story remarkably straight. It’s the most serious film you’ll ever see about a dude screwing a glorified (or glory hole-d) safety deposit box. And, as his repeated abuse of the Special begins to take its mental and physical toll – not only on Jerry, but his wife and unborn child too – the grisly side-effects are taken seriously too. Should’ve just bought a fleshlight, man.

the special 05 the special 06

Unfortunately, the film’s commitment to playing the story straight extends to the cinematography too. This flat, uninspiring film is shot like a Lifetime movie or daytime soap opera, almost entirely lacking in visual flair. Like Jerry’s plain wooden box, The Special is nothing, well, special to look at. That it’s so visually unassuming does work in the film’s favour though, especially once it makes the transition to all-out body horror and powers through to the horrific ending.

But by then, the film may have already lost large chunks of its audience. Ultimately, it shoots its load early and struggles to find that mood again. It’s a fine horror skit, but is unable to sustain 90 minutes’ worth of story. The Special has some great ideas and an icky conceit, but the novelty quickly wears off. Like Jerry, it keeps going back for more, long after it should have stopped. Thankfully, it's worth it for that climax.

Like this year's Butt Boy, its one joke wears thin at times, but this is one of the more unusual horror films of recent years. Special? It's a dick in a box.


Movie: 3 Star Rating Cover

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Joel Harley
Staff Reviewer
Haribo fiend, Nicolas Cage scholar and frequently functioning alcoholic. These are just some of the words which can be used to describe Joel Harley. The rest, he uses to write film criticism for Horror DNA and a variety of websites and magazines. Sometimes he manages to do so without swearing.
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