Ape-like men are a staple of mythology and cyrptozoology. Whether it’s stories about the Yeti, Bigfoot, Sasquach, Skunk Ape, or Momo, these creatures appear throughout the world under different names. And even if you don’t believe in them it’s likely you’ll have seen the now infamous Patterson-Gimlin footage of a supposed creature walking through the woods. And with Ape Men being so well known it’s a surprise that they’re not featured in horror films more. The new Ryan Justice directed The Wild Man: Skunk Ape attempts to cash in on this gap in the market.
This found footage movie begins as an investigation into a missing woman in southern Florida by a trio of young filmmakers, Sarah (Lauren Crandall), Brandon (Julian Green), and Tim (Mike Reed). Shortly into their investigation they begin to hear reports of the Skunk Ape, a Bigfoot like creature that the local residents claim lives in the nearby everglades. They also say that it’s responsible for the disappearance of several women over the years, prompting the trio into looking into this connection.
They soon discover that the latest missing woman had a connection to a local wildlife tracker and hunter named Dale (David E. McMahon), who also claims to have encountered the Skunk Ape. Believing that Dale is either connected to the disappearance, or could perhaps lead them to proof of the Skun Ape’s existence, they head out into the everglades with him, searching for the fabled creature.
The Wild Man: Skunk Ape starts decently enough, with the found footage style being structured into more of a documentary style film. The footage cuts from interview to interview, piecing together an introduction for the film that establishes the missing women, the local community, and the connection to the mythic Skunk Ape. However, this doesn’t last for long, as the film then cuts to our filmmakers sitting in a cheap motel room with one of them informing the others “That’s what I’ve edited together so far”. From here, the film becomes what one would normally expect from this genre, and any kind of distinctiveness or flair that it was beginning to establish for itself goes out of the window.
And that’s one of the biggest shames of the film, as the opening five to ten minutes felt different at least. It felt like it was something pieced together after the fact, like a documentary show presenting these events to an audience. But after this point it’s no different from any other film that’s shot from a first person perspective. The documentary style has been done before, and works well; the Australian found footage horror film The Tunnel presented the entire film as a documentary, complete with sit-down talking heads breaking up the action and talking about the events that the cameras caught, and still sticks out in my mind as memorable because of this creativity. The Wild Man: Skunk Ape in contrast has nothing about it stylistically that sets it apart.
The story, at least, does try to do something unexpecte, and it’s something that it shows off in the film’s trailer, so I can talk about it without it being a spoiler. For the first half of the film our crew is either going around town trying to interview folks, or is out in the forest at night searching for monsters. But midway through it switches things up as our central characters sneak their way into a shadowy military facility for reasons I won’t reveal. This changes the tone and the pacing, but doesn’t really do the film many favours, as it goes from pretty boring into boring and weird.
This section of the film seems to break some of the rules as per the shooting style of the film too, as we not only have footage captured by the cameras our lead characters are carrying, but footage from base security cameras, and gun mounted cameras spliced in. Do our characters get this footage before leaving? No. So how is it a part of the film? Couldn’t tell you. You’re suddenly left wondering if the footage we’re watching isn’t what is captured by the people we’re following, but any kind of on site cameras, what is this? Is the filmmaker just telling a story that is pieced together through any in world camera source, but isn’t a film that exists in universe? If so, why did it not use this technique before to establish this? It’s very unclear what the director is going for.
READ MORE: Everybody Dies By The End – Film Review
Outside of these issues, the cast feels pretty weak at times too, and the big dramatic moments never quite hit their mark as characters feel less than fully invested in the moment. Performances never quite feel real, and the actors come across as if they’re playing caricatures of horror movie characters rather than actual people. I know low budget horror films aren’t the most well known for stellar acting, but there were times where the film made the original Resident Evil game voice acting look top tier. This, along with a monster that looked like it was picked up off a fancy dress shop rack end up making the film feel kind of cheap.
If you’re a big horror fan who wants to experience everything in the genre you might want to add this to your list of stuff to watch for when you’ve got absolutely nothing else, but for everyone else, this might be one that leaves you feeling a bit bored more than anything else.
The Wild Man premieres on digital in North America on 30th September, and then plays on the Terror Films and Kings of Horror YouTube Channels.