When the Trash Man Knocks is the kind of title that makes you want to finish the sentence. What happens when the trash man knocks? We know the answer can’t be anything good and, for horror fans, that draws us in like moths to the flame. We want to answer that question.

Then, you take a look at the cover art, brilliantly drawn by Marc Schoenbach of Sadist Art Designs, and you see a tall, powerful figure dragging a trash bag, the screaming contents of which signify the Trash Man’s MO: He’s going door-to-door collecting body parts to put the family he murdered back together. Literally.

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What Is When the Trash Man Knocks About?

With a killer called the “Trash Man,” you might be tempted to think we’re entering campy 80s slasher territory — and you’re partially right. Writer, director, and star Christopher Wesley Moore certainly embraces humor and melodrama, but you’re not going to see Ricky Caldwell cock his head back, brandish his gun, and yell “Garbage Day!”

Instead, Moore wields these elements for levity within a story that’s quite dark and grounded in the trauma of its main characters, Caroline (Jo-Ann Robinson) and her son Justin (Christopher Wesley Moore). 

Caroline and Justin live in a small town, where they’re trying to rebuild their lives after surviving the Trash Man’s bloodbath decades prior. Justin attempts to balance his professional ambitions with his personal life, while Caroline’s agoraphobia has left her homebound. She’s persistently tormented by visions of her dead mother, a drawling, sassy spirit evocative of Psycho’s Norma Bates.

A Killer That Would Make Michael Myers Proud

Justin, too, suffers from violent visions, and the Trash Man starts to feel like less of a human murderer and more of a supernatural specter hellbent on terrorizing its victims to their final end. This merging of supernatural and human evil is one of many ways that Moore honors John Carpenter and Halloween (1978) in his work.

The Trash Man stands as tall and silent as Michael Myers, and his backstory is similarly violent. After all, he killed his own parents and later went on another spree after escaping the institution where he was kept. But while Moore seems drawn to slashers, his influences are wide-ranging.

When the Trash Man Knocks Is a Southern Gothic Slasher—Giallo-Style

When the Trash Man Knocks takes place, is filmed in, and is definitely informed by the director’s experience growing up in Mississippi. Many small Southern towns have the feeling of being stuck in time; similarly, Caroline’s trapped in her own home, in her own mind, and Justin feels suffocated. He’s offered a better job and a chance to move in with his lover, but he’s conflicted because he cares for his mother and can’t leave her alone.

Christopher Wesley Moore magnifies these feelings through his use of color; blue, green, and loads of red lighting (especially in the movie’s more violent scenes), frame and enhance Caroline’s and Justin’s emotional and physical pain.

I’ve found myself calling this movie Deep South Deep Red for how Moore channels visual cues associated with Argento to intensify the high drama of his story. He takes great care in crafting classic shots, like a close-up of one victim’s eye which cuts to a shot of the killer raising the knife before slashing away. The score is spare, brooding, and effectively adds suspense in the right moments.

Jo-Ann Robinson Steals the Show

The pacing suffers a little when we get into the divergent areas of Caroline’s and Justin’s plotlines. But Moore and Robinson deliver strong performances, and Robinson is especially captivating on screen as her mental anguish is apparent at all times and bubbles over in the film’s exciting climax.

Will Justin ever escape his hometown? Will Caroline finally be able to leave the house and quiet her mother’s oppressive voice? Is the Trash Man real or just another ghost of Caroline’s past coming back to haunt her? You’ll have to watch the movie to find out!

Who Is Christopher Wesley Moore?

Christopher Wesley Moore When the Trash Man Knocks 2023

The pastiche of When the Trash Man Knocks represents Christopher Wesley Moore’s broader artistic interests. Moore is a seasoned writer, director, actor, and producer who grew up in Mississippi and studied film at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. His roots in horror go way back to childhood, when he felt equally fascinated and terrified by a viewing of House of Wax (1953) with his dad.

But he’s also passionate about theater, particularly musicals, and has a long history performing on stage. As such, his filmography is filled with variety, from comedies like A Star is Stillborn (2014) to genrefucks like his series The American Dream (2013) and a long list of horror. If you watch Trash Man with this history in mind, Moore’s unique vision springs to life, and the movie becomes a delightful blend of macabre mayhem, operatic drama, and loving homage to his many artistic influences.

To see more from Christopher Wesley Moore, check out his podcast, Homos on Haunted Hill, as well as CWM Entertainment’s Facebook page and YouTube channel.

Enjoy the trailer for When the Trash Man Knocks below!

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Images via CineMaterial and the official When the Trash Man Knocks trailer.

About the Author

Isaiah Swanson is a freelance writer from South Carolina. A movie buff from a young age, he enjoys writing about cinema, especially the horror genre. When he is not writing, he is traveling the country in his campervan with his Australian shepherd, Judy. You can find more of his work at Ned Hardy, The Game of Nerds, and The Bitter Wolf.

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