Thursday, May 3, 2012

Man-Thing

DirectorBrett Leonard
WriterHans Rodionoff based on a character by Steve Gerber
Release Year2005
Keep your man-thing to yourself please, there are ladies present.
Oil tycoon Frederic Schist (Jack Thompson) has opened an oil platform in some sacred Indian swamp and people have begun disappearing, including the sheriff. The new sheriff, Kyle Williams (Matthew Le Nevez) and school teacher / environmental protester Teri Elizabeth Richards (Rachael Taylor) try to stop it, despite all the victims being standard-issue rednecks. Killing rednecks is a public service, and I resent anyone trying to slow or halt this necessary work….
(Spoilers follow…)

The pre-credits teenagers characters Billy (James Coyne) and Sarah (Imogen Bailey) die as they enjoy some dry humping in the swamp. I find this wrong on several levels as swamps smell, I know few women who like to have sex in smelly environments and who the hell has sex for the first time in a canoe? From young Sarah’s carrying on you’d never know it was dry humping, but darling, a hint, if you have your cutoffs on it’s not sex, there’s no reason for the porn-star hysterics. Since these kids are pre-credits teenagers they must die, and though we don’t see Sarah die (only her acting career) we do see her jiggle her blood-sprayed tits for our amusement, something I thank her for.

As with most films based on comic books, the plot is exceedingly simple: mad monster in swamp kills people too stupid to stay out of the swamp. The monster, called ‘Man-Thing’ (Conan Stevens) – presumably because ‘Swamp-Thing‘ was already taken – represents some ancient Indian monster that exists to protect the Seminole Everglades from being despoiled by the white man, or something. Now it does seem odd to me that the monster would be pleased by the end in which an oil well explodes spewing crude throughout the region and leaving a now-uncapped wound in the ground through which more oil will escape and poison the swamp, but I guess that makes sense for some reason. Maybe the real reason wasn’t the environmental devastation caused by oil drilling, but simply because the oil platform was built over a dead Indian making it … an Indian burial ground! Oh no! Maybe the dead Indian is not so concerned with the sanctity of the land that gave him the power to rise from the grave, maybe he’s just pissed off, otherwise it is unclear why he kills all sorts of people who have no connection to either his death or the oil platform. Am I expecting too much for a comic-book horror movie to make sense?

In addition to your typical by-the-book Sheriff Kyle, the pure woman-of-principles Teri, and the evil industrialist Schist, we have a variety of other stereotypes to enjoy. Deputy Eric Fraser (Alex O’Loughlin) is the archetypal deputy who exists to give some exposition and then get killed by the monster, otherwise he is completely disposable. Rene LaRoque (Steve Bastoni) is the half-Indian who feels he’s responsible for all the problems in the area and so decides to martyr himself. Mike Ploog (Robert Mammone) is the reporter who will happily give his life for the story, and does the first part. Some redneck brothers, the Thibadeauxs (John Batchelor & Ian Bliss) who are ignorant backwoods losers who are just more bodies. Finally, we have the wise magical Indian Pete Horn (Rawiri Paratene) who knows what’s going on, but doesn’t feel the need to tell anyone who could actually do anything about it. These folks are just plucked whole from the background of any number of bad films, none of them are even slightly interesting, original or worth watching which means that the plot, I guess, has to suffice for entertainment … wow, that sucks.

The social-consciousness of this film is nothing more than a dull plot device meant to inject some interest into the proceedings, it doesn’t. The environmentalism in this film is secondary to the murder of the Indian headman, although it appears that the writers wanted the swamp to be defending itself from a hostile outside influence, but that doesn’t explain the pre-credit teens (or most of the other deaths for that matter either). Since the monster is so angry at Schist and is virtually invincible, why doesn’t it simply go and kill him? I guess that would make the movie that much shorter, which wouldn’t really have been that bad a thing. In addition to the environmentalism, we also have a plea of respect for Native Americans, which is fun coming from a film that features Indian drum music in the background of many of the encounters with locals. I would be more inclined to respect the Indians if their Man-Thing didn’t kill so many people for no apparent reason, but it seems to be more immoral (or possibly amoral) than Schist, not a good thing for a spirit of a swamp that exists to protect the swamp.

The effects of the film seem great as long as you don’t spend any time thinking about them. The sequences that take place in the swamp seem authentic until one considers that the ground level underwater is no more than thigh deep anywhere. Real mangrove swamps have varying depths of still waters and with deeper waterways, sometimes running through a shallow area. The CGI monster looks pretty good as well, with the exception of the twitchy tendrils it has around it. Really, I think the monster needs to cut down on the coffee as the tendrils make the monster look like a classroom full of hyperactive kids after they’d been given a bunch of sugar and crack cocaine, rehab might be in order. That twitchy nature might be why the monster is so anti-social as no one can keep up with him leading to social isolation and acting out by pumping oil into industrialists. Sad really. Speaking of the conclusion, we’re treated to a stupid exploding oil well. Dynamite would have blown up the rig nicely, but the huge fireball that followed is more over-the-top than a politician’s denial of immorality; it’s about as true to life as well. While crude oil is flammable, it usually takes an open flame to do so meaning that an explosion of dynamite would probably not be enough. Assuming that the explosion was enough to ignite the oil, the entire area would have been set alight since there were several 55 gallon drums of crude sitting around, enough to cause quite a flash and burn, even in a swamp. Oh the silliness.

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