For a while, I’ve gone back and forth on whether or not to file this movie under my new “Almost Super” category. It’s pretty much a straight up horror movie, but the fact that it’s based on a Marvel comics character and the fact that it’s similar to Swamp Thing which is more easily a superhero movie, I decided to stick with my first instinct. This was one of Marvel’s early jumps into the independent film-making waters, but apparently the testing was so poor on it that it got relegated to a home video release and later came out as a Sci-Fi Channel original movie. It appears at first glance to be Marvel’s version of Swamp Thing, but it’s handled in a very different way. Man-Thing is much more like a villain, or at least a force of nature that’s been unleashed and destroys anything that gets in its way. And so it would seem to make a great horror movie villain, but they decide to stick with almost every horror movie cliche in the book to make this movie completely boring and unoriginal in the end.
The movie starts off with the classic horror of two random horny young people out where they shouldn’t be. The girl takes her top off, and shortly afterwards her boyfriend gets impaled by the Man-Thing and she gets doused in blood. Then they move onto the new sheriff in town, who looks almost too young for the job. There’s also the cowardly deputy, the crazy old Indian, err Native American, yet another crazy guy warning the sheriff about the dangers of the town, the attractive and feisty female lead who falls in love with the new sheriff almost immediately, dirty antagonistic redneck brothers, sleazy oil tycoon who owns the town and is drilling where he shouldn’t be, and finally the mysterious loner who everyone thinks is the killer but really is trying to help. Wow, such a long list and none of the characters really make an impact beyond their designated cliched horror movie role.
One of the important things about a horror movie is how it gets the scares. And yet again, this movie treads into cliches. During most of the first half, the scares are limited to the typical silhouette moving quickly across frame. There’s also the fairly random scene where the sheriff visits the survivor of the first on-screen attack who is now bedraggled, catatonic, and staying in the nut ward. She hasn’t moved since she got to the hospital, so of course she jumps up and grabs the sheriff and starts screaming at him wildly. It didn’t make sense, it didn’t further the plot, it was just there for a cheap attempt at a scare. There’s also the slow build on how much you see of the actual Man-Thing as the movie progresses, initially just seeing the aftermath of the attacks, then moving on to seeing the branch/tentacles come out and go through the newest victim, before finally showing the full close up of the actual creature, which ultimately looked… ok. I didn’t have any problems with the look of the Man-Thing, but it also didn’t exactly wow me either, it just was what it was.
I usually don’t make a point to talk about the editing or cinematography of a movie for the simple fact that if it’s done well, it’s not that notable. The editing in this movie was atrocious. For nearly every scene break there were a bunch of random swamp establishing shots fast cut against each other which seems a lot more suitable for a television show rather than a feature film. And there were several times during the movie where I wasn’t sure exactly where the characters were or what they were doing there, it was just too jumpy. And there was one scene where there were a bunch of old rusty cars laying around, on fire. None of the characters noticed them or said anything about them, they were just sitting around on fire for no apparent reason other than to make them look cooler or something? I just don’t even know. There was also the choice of how to represent the Man-Thing POV shots. The way they chose was to tint everything red except for a spot in the middle for the eyes, use randomly sped up shots, and any time a person is in frame, they will be writhing around like they’re having a seizure. I suppose the writhing aspect was supposed to represent a nod to the comic books where Man-Thing would burn those who knew fear, but as someone who never read the comics and only looked that information up on a Wiki page after the fact, the film doesn’t convey that message at all, it just looks silly.
Aside from the horror movie aspect, there’s also a buried murder mystery in it. Unfortunately it comes off as rather spoon fed, leaving all the important details to be given in exposition, while throwing plenty of common misdirects that are fairly predictable. There’s the mysterious swamp dweller Rene who most people think is behind it all, does his Batman style disappearances, and threatens the sheriff early on, but the attractive female schoolteacher trusts him so you know he’s a good guy. There’s the big oil boss who’s controlling the town through his money while drilling on sacred ground. He’s set up to be the bad guy from the beginning, and there’s no surprises when he’s revealed to be a murderer in the end. There’s also his son slash right hand man with the stupid haircut who always seems to be around when a murder happens, yet conveniently escapes any harm. And you know what, I don’t even remember what happens to him in the end, I think he once again escapes and disappears off the face of the film, but he may have had a just as unmemorable death scene at the end too. Man-Thing ends the movie not completely a villain, though there were plenty of unmotivated deaths at his hands, so not exactly a hero either.
I’m not a big horror fan, but I’ve seen enough horror movies to know a cliche when I see one, and this movie is full of them. And from what little I’ve read about the Man-Thing comic books, this isn’t a real treat for anyone that’s coming in as a fan already. The acting’s pretty poor, the scares are poor, the gore level is mediocre, and the mystery plot is poor. It’s just an all around bad movie with nothing in it to give it any sort of B-movie charm. Not only that, but it’s so bland that it’s even hard to enjoy any so-bad-its-good factor. I wouldn’t recommend this movie to anyone really. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.