You Should Answer When the Trash Man Knocks

Image Courtesy of CWM Entertainment

For the last year or so, I’ve been keeping up with Christopher Wesley Moore over Instagram. Since his previous film, Children of Sin, released in April 2022, which turned idyllic Christian values into a hypocritical farce by arguing that the more devout amongst us would rather see queer people and abortion-seeking women dead than allow them happiness or bodily autonomy, Moore’s been a writer-director who’s work I’ve been looking forward to. Children of Sin also featured a fantastic performance from its main antagonist, Jo-Ann Robinson, who merrily goes from strict Christian homemaker to diabolically unhinged slasher in the most extraordinary ways possible. In my review, I saw the film as a bit mixed, but I genuinely loved the director’s eye and writing style. His new film, When the Trash Man Knocks, has been among my most anticipated, and it’s a slasher home run that reteams the director with Robinson as a mother and son trying to overcome their town’s boogeyman in the wake of a personal tragedy that made the Trash Man a suburban legend.  

The poster for When The Trash Man Knocks shows a man in a mask holding a cleaver and a bag of bodies turned away from the camera facing the front door of a residence with a woman approaching.

Stemming from the town’s infamous Thanksgiving Day Massacre, the urban legend of the Trash Man is born. This psychopath supposedly carves up his victims for spare parts, or at least that’s how the locals tell it. The reason for his stabbing sprees is never fully understood. However, a haunting line about Frankensteing the perfect family definitely appeals to the imagination, helping propagate how these myths are created in the wake of tragedies. Other than being exaggerated folklore, none of the musings or teenage campfire tales come to fruition, as garbage bags of the victims are left in the driveway for loved ones to find, which creates a tauntingly sick and twisted killer vibe rather than applying reason to why the Trash Man does what he does. 

Moore jumps into a genuinely complex story about Caroline (Robinson) and her son Justin (Moore), who have both become consumed by the devastating events of their family’s past encounter with the knife-wielding maniac. When the Trash Man Knocks, whose characters are co-dependently leaning on each other in the wake of tragically losing family members. Caroline (Robinson) has become a knife-stashing shut-in, and Justin (Moore) has grown into a guilt-ridden, hand-sanitizer-chugging alcoholic who goes to work to escape the constant beckoning of his mother. 

As Thanksgiving approaches, so does the anniversary of when Caroline lost her husband and son. Her anxiety coincides with her therapist tasking her to work through her agoraphobia, causing her to revisit the demons of her own mother’s molding and dependency. This all plays into Justin’s reluctance at work to accept a promotion in another city or reciprocate his co-worker’s (David Moncrief) feelings. He senses it’s unjust to his mother, and the audience sees the emotional toll Justin suffers while supporting his mother through her illness. 

A man approaches a trash back in an unpaved parking lot
Image Courtesy of CWM Entertainment

In the words of Jamie Lee Curtis, “It’s all about trauma.” I get the sense that Moore is a tremendous fan of Halloween, and When the Trash Man Knocks acts as subtle restitution for the miscalculation of Halloween Ends. The film has several parallels to the David Gordon Green trilogy finale, such as the motiveless killer returning after a considerable period and stalking a woman whom he encountered years earlier. The film’s B story, which includes a group of young women going away for Thanksgiving break, also lends itself to the Halloween Ends idea, involving semi-contiguous tales from the Haddonfield-esque town to emerge when we learn one of them has moved into the Trash Man’s old house, which of course is his first stop. In comparison, When the Trash Man Knocks is a hell of a lot more satisfying. It breaks slasher tropes and serves up unconscionably brutal kills. While it may not receive the audience Halloween Ends had, it should. It’s sterlingly better by comparison. When the Trash Man Knocks is a little indie shocker that slasher fans shouldn’t miss. 

Though the film goes a little wide on Caroline’s internal struggle, it provides a complete portrait of co-dependency through the well-written characters’ fear, grief, and experiences. While Jamie Lee has always been a great Laurie Strode, Jo-Ann Robinson’s portrayal of Caroline and her entanglement with the Trash Man is a profoundly more believable look at generational trauma than how some of Halloween Ends‘ choices came across. 

As far as the film’s B-movie title goes, it took a bit, but it’s grown on me. Don’t get me wrong, When the Trash Man Knocks is thoroughly a B-movie, but its title seems a little more like a TV episode of the week when it rolls off the tongue, like something you’d expect as a Creepshow episode. I first wondered whether Moore had something Thanksgiving-related planned that fell apart with the announcement of Eli Roth’s forthcoming film, then I thought maybe he’s just a fan of James M. Cain’s noir novel The Postman Always Rings Twice and its subsequent films. Not that the result has anything to do with that, but you can’t say the title doesn’t capture your attention. When the Trash Man Knocks also had me quoting Eric Freeman’s iconic Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 line, “GARBAGE DAY!” as I psyched myself up to watch the film. However you feel about the title, I will say you should absolutely judge the film by its cover art. Like Children of Sin, Sadist Art Designs’ Marc Schoenbach has crafted an excellent poster for the film that brings the vibes of a timeless yesteryear slasher and tells you all you need to know about the film before digging into it.  

A young woman is seen bleeding from her head in When the Trash Man Knocks
Image Courtesy of CWM Entertainment

On the technical design and behind-the-camera end, Moore has learned a lot from his earlier productions, and you can see the results in When the Trash Man Knocks. The camera, which looks like the same series used in his last film, lends itself to the darker and warmer tones the film utilizes, giving the audience a feeling that we’re approaching the holidays. The editing also stays relatively tight, and the sound design and music are fantastic. The score is atmospheric as hell and, hopefully, something Luke Zwelsky pushes to vinyl for collectors in the future.  

When the Trash Man Knocks is an enjoyable and scary ride through a town’s nightmare, full of twists and surprises that separate it from an overabundance of slasher entries in the genre, give it a try when it comes exclusively to Prime Video on November 11.  

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Written by Sean Parker

Living just outside of Boston, Sean has always been facinated by what horror can tell us about contemporary society. He started writing music reviews for a local newspaper in his twenties and found a love for the art of thematic and symbolic analysis. Sean joined Horror Obsessive at it's inception, and is currently the site's Creative Director. He produces and edits the weekly Horror Obsessive podcast for the site as well as his interviews with guests. He has recently started his foray into feature film production as well, his credits include Alice Maio Mackay's Bad Girl Boogey, Michelle Iannantuono's Livescreamers, and Ricky Glore's upcoming Troma picture, Sweet Meats.

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