Jerry (Davy Raphaely) suspects his wife Lisa (Sarah French) is having an affair. Discussing the matter with best friend and boss Mike (Dave Sheridan), a proposed solution is to cheat on her in return. Just once. And, if it’s only going to be once, Mike knows just the place for a spot of revenge shagging. Soon they’re at the door of Madame Zhora, who runs a psychic’s place which is basically a front for a brothel.
It’s there that Mike requests “The Special” for Jerry, and it’s an experience he will never forget. Trouble is, it’s such an experience that he doesn’t want to leave it at “just once”. Having agreed to have his eyes covered for the trip to Madame Zhora’s, Jerry doesn’t know how to return to the scene of the crime but he’ll stop at nothing to fuel his ever-growing addiction.
From the opening dialogue exchange, there’s more than a hint that Jerry, even in his supposedly cuckolded state, is something of a douchebag. By the end of the first act, it’s abundantly clear that Jerry is a monumental douchebag, treating folks like dirt both in and out of work and developing his childish rage into murderous reality.
Having such an unsympathetic character as the focus of a movie is a bold play but one of the things that does work about The Special is the wait to see Jerry get his deserved comeuppance and how the story takes an almost sadistic pleasure in having Jerry get away with increasingly sick and depraved acts to make sure he satisfies his own selfish desires.
I’m sure that Raphaely is nothing like Jerry in real life – I bloody hope so, in any case – but when he’s on screen, you want to reach in there and slap him. That’s coming from someone who doesn’t condone violence as the means to resolve any situation. The guy’s awful and the mere fact that he continues to bully his way through life unscathed is anger-inducing.
Even when Jerry’s rapidly unravelling life looks like it has him cornered, his barely concealed hatred of others has them looking the other way. An unwelcome, surprise birthday visit from some of his friends (I use the term “friends” advisedly) is brushed off with some basic profanities before they even get through the door, let alone find out what he’s hiding in the place.
The perceived infidelity of Lisa is wisely kept vague. You’d understand exactly why she’d look for comfort in the arms of another but she also seems a damn sight more invested in the marriage than Jerry. There’s a specific glimmer of hope which then turns to heartbreak and the scene in which Jerry completely fails to show even the basic amount of concern underlines what a rotten excuse for a human being he is.
The body count in this one is quite low but there’s still an abundance of icky moments as we discover more about The Special and how the only type of love Jerry comes to know is predicated on necessity, leading to a string of the least erotic, effectively unpleasant sex scenes you’re likely to see. Without giving too much away, they’re gross. Oh my, they’re gross.
Whether the eventual money shot can quite match the foreplay is open to question but the final act tips over into full-on, body horror gloopiness and poetic justice is served. The ratio of guy being a dick to guy getting the full weight of karma dumped on him is perhaps loaded a little too heavily on the guy being a dick side but there’s at least a lasting price to pay for Jerry.
The Special takes its time to lay all of its horrors on the table and its few kills are of the grubby and downbeat type but there’s a grim fascination in watching such a reprehensible bloke going about his self-serving business. There’s always the worry that portraying toxic masculinity somehow celebrates it but this film does not want you to side with Jerry in any way. He’s an arsehole and you’ll want him to be held accountable. You’ll just have to wait a while – maybe much longer than you’re comfortable with – for that to happen.
Anyone approaching this expecting some EC Comics-style fun is going to be taken aback with just how bumpy a ride this gets along the way and the constant mistreatment of all and sundry by Jerry can be hard to stomach but The Special commits to playing a bizarre tale absolutely straight and the fine central performance from Raphaely is certainly one to admire if not enjoy.