Tuesday, January 30, 2007


Welcome back Sporefans. In this week's review we will focus on the mystery and terror of the Sci-Fi pictures release of the 2005 movie "Man-Thing". For those of you who don't already know, Man-Thing is a character from Marvel comics, and it is the focus of a cheaply made movie originally to be released directly to DVD but was broadcast by the Sci-Fi network. If you're looking for any other type of "Man-Thing", I suggest you look elsewhere. Pervert.

I'd like to think that I have a unique perspective on this movie, because I have little to no prior knowledge of the comic or its contents. Because of my ignorance, there's no way for me to compare the movie to the original concepts laid out in the comics, and I could do a pure review of the movie alone. I know that some of my readers are familiar with "Man-Thing" in its comic book incarnation, and you may have your own opinion as to how the movie fared either on its own or by comparison. But in my untainted and uneducated view, this was a piece of crap.

Here's a quick overview of the plot for all of you who were spared from watching this Man-Thing-movie. A guy in a boat shows up to the small town of Bywater in some Southern state in the US. Apparently this guy is Kyle Williams, played by Matthew Le Nevez, and he's the new Sheriff in town. Using his super-sleuth abilities, Kyle asks the ferry man "Why is it (the town) called Bywater?". The stereotypically grizzled and dirty ferryman sarcastically replies "Cause it's by the water". This is a pretty good indication of how the rest of this movie is going to turn out, as most of the characters are crafted to re-enforce the stereotypes of the denizens of the deep South. Ironically, the movie was actually filmed in Australia using mostly Australian actors.
As the film progresses, Sheriff Williams is drawn into a fight between some environmental activists who are predictably the protagonists, and some big faceless corporation doing something bad to mother earth who are just as predictably the antagonists. Its not made entirely clear exactly what the bad, bad corporation is doing to the sacred Indian land that they bought from the local tribe, but if there are oil tanks in the back round and flames coming out of smokestacks, you can be pretty sure it has to do with oil.

At this point the movie introduces the leading lady, Teri Elizabeth Richards played by Rachael Taylor, who is an environmental activist/3rd grade school teacher. Also making their first on screen appearance is the main villain Frederic Schist, played by Jack Thompson as well as his number one son Jake Schist, played by Thompson's real life son Patrick Thompson. Keep your eyes open, as "Schist" is plastered over a lot of the surfaces of the buildings and machinery in this movie. Yes, this movie is full of Schist.

Enter "Man-Thing", as a shadowy moving tree/man shaped thing that kills one of the refinery workers. Now, for all of you who don't know, Man-Thing is a giant green tree looking thing with big red eyes. In the imdb plot outline, it lists Man-Thing as "a shambling swamp-monster whose touch burns those who feel fear.".

Well, I don't know anything about burning people with a touch, because the Man-Thing in this movie appears to like to shove a root or tentacle or something up the rear end of whomever it decides to kill and grow a tree in their guts. This is... well frankly, really really gay. Not only does this shambling menace get saddled with the name Man-Thing but it also likes to kill people through their butts. My personal theory is that Man-Thing was originally a character in "Deliverance" but was cut out because having a shambling tree thing sodomizing Ned Beatty didn't make any sense.

I kept waiting for those guys from "Queer eye for the straight guy" to show up and try and give Man-Thing a makeover.

So as the "plot" (and I use that term loosely) progresses, some people get killed in the aforementioned way, there are some Indian prophecies, and they eventually reveal that Man-Thing is some sort of sacred guardian. According to Pete Horn, the old Indian guy in the movie who knows all about this sort of thing (played by Rawiri Paratene), Man-Thing is the guardian spirit of "The Nexus of All Worlds". Who decided to put "The Nexus of All Worlds" in the middle of a swamp? Is Man-Thing angry that the white man is taking oil from his swampy home, or is he just pissed off that he has to spend eternity guarding the crappiest place on Earth?

There are a lot of things in this movie that stand out like some Schist on a sidewalk on a warm Summer day. There's a diner scene where the new Sheriff tries to get some coffee. After interacting with the local yokels, there's a bit where the old Indian guy who knows stuff pours sugar all over the counter and begins to do sand drawings. As one of The Damned pointed out "This tribe lives in a swamp. Why would this guy be doing sand paintings. There isn't a lot of sand in a swamp."

It should also be noted that pouring sugar all over the counter at a diner will probably piss off your waitress and get you kicked out onto the street. Not that I know that from personal experience.

The movie continues as the Sheriff and his cowardly Deputy investigate the mystery of the refinery workers killing by taking a crappy little boat out into the middle of the swamp in the dark of night. After giving a rousing speech about how the "Dark Water" area of the swamp gives him the willies, Deputy dead guy is predictably dispatched, leaving Sheriff Williams to feel a small pang of guilt over basically dragging someone out to their death.

Then, after the "Oops, my bad" moment is over, the Sheriff meets a bit character: Mike Ploog, played by Robert Mammone. Originally, I was going to leave Ploog out of this, but after some great dialogue I had to throw him in here. Check out this great scene:

Ploog: Can you smell that, Sheriff? It's the perfume of my future. Point, click, fame. [hears Man-Thing roaring out in the swamp]
There it is! Gotta go. Good luck out there, man! It's the cover of Life magazine, man!

Sheriff: Life magazine? Life magazine went out of business, you SPORING idiot!

And of course, Ploog gets plugged by the Man-Thing.

Make sure to cover your butt as the Man-Thing approches!

Eventually the ecologically sound school marm leads the Sheriff to the shack of the mythical Pete Horn, dabbler in sugar. His wonderful shack is surrounded by abandoned cars which are on fire for no apparent reason. This caught me as particularly absurd, so I decided to take a page from Man-Thing's handbook and do a little "probing" of my own, only for information and not up people's butts.

According to imdb, the tribe depicted in the movie is supposed to be the Seminole tribe. It turns out that the real Seminole people were the first tribe to set up a casino on their lands back in 1979, and as a result they have a lot of money. Let me say this again just to be clear.

They have a lot of money.

In fact, the Seminole tribe recently purchase the Hard Rock cafe chain of resturaunts. Also, just to confirm, there is no mention of sand painting on the Seminole tribe's website. Did I mention that they have a website?

OK, so the movie industry isn't renowned for its accurate depiction of reality, especially on direct to DVD horror movies made for a mere $7.5 million, which Sci-Fi scoops up and broadcasts as a "Sci-Fi Premiere" about twice a year. The Seminole thing aside, there are dozens of other things planted about this movie that make it pretty painful to watch. The plot is shoddy with no character development and there's very little backstory to help ease the audience into the film. You get the feeling that you're walking into a conversation about half way through and then spend the rest of the movie trying to catch up.

In this scene, the Schist really hits the fan.

The director also decided that Man-Thing "sees" in flashy jump-cut sequences, which give the impression that Man-Thing is perpetually both tripping on acid and taking large amounts of speed. The effect also gets re-used for the dream sequences and visions that the Sheriff recieves on occasion for no apparent reason. I guess Brett Leonard, director of this stinker, thought that he could cover up the purile script with some effects and flashy camera work, but his efforts fall flat and only draw attention to the movie's faults. I see a trend here, as some of Leonard's other works are "Virtuosity", "T-Rex: Back to the Cretaceous" and "Highlander: The Source".

On a side note, if you're not familiar with that last Highlander title, don't fret, its due out in 2007.

The final nail in the coffin is that none of this is made any more bearable by Sci-Fi's editing, which cuts out all nudity, most of the violence and replaces all the profanity with flat voice overs of a specially picked and trained Sci-Fi intern saying "shoot" or "darn" where appropriate. I don't know what's worse, the unnecessary amounts of profanity that were inserted into the script because the writers thought it would be more adult if they cursed, or Sci-Fi's edits making all the more apparent that there's a great deal of content missing.

So in the end, this movie is typical of the made for DVD stock that Sci-Fi likes to show off (because it cost them nothing to make), full of cheap flashy effects, sound and fury, but ultimately its full of Schist.


min said...

really, the only thing it shared with the comic character was the name and that there's swamp involved.

they could have called this "generic bad horror movie".

he's not even a good character to try to make a movie about. i don't know who ok'd this project. they should be beaten with a stick.

Spored_to_Death said...

Looks like the main villians are Marvel and Artisan Entertainment. Check out the other stuff they put out here.