The one thing any good horror creature feature needs is a monster that has the ability to evoke terror from its audience. If it can’t do that, then you simply don’t have a creature feature worth watching. Now, with Man-Thing, we have a walking pile of swamp gas, leaves, moss, and branches. It doesn’t matter how red this things eyes get or how many people it rips apart. The entire thing is laughable, and that’s probably why the full reveal is held off until the final half hour.
It’s not just a movie either. Man-Thing is based off an obscure Marvel comic. It was originally intended for theatrical release, but it’s like that the two die-hard fans would revolt at Lions Gate studios when they learn that their leafy Swamp Thing rip-off has been turned from a defender of the good into a marauding beast defending his rather disgusting home turf.
Production values are a little higher than you expect from your typical Sci-Fi Channel fare. That likely stems from the proposed method of release and the fact that this is coming out on home video soon enough. There is some surprising direction here from Lawnmower Man director Brett Leonard. The use of color filters is dominant, giving the polluted area outside the swamp a murky brown shade, while the main set piece is doused in a rather drab green. Some rather eerie mood-setting shots do a nice job of telling you where the film is headed, though you’ll probably figure that out pretty quick.
Most of the movie is carried by the usual round of uninteresting, generic townsfolk who always seem susceptible to this kind of problem. Of course, it’s the newly appointed sheriff and his love interest taking over most of the screen time. His pessimistic deputy, the cruel, careless oil baron, and the usual hicks round everything off.
That’s all very dilatory, just there to save money by not showing the monster in any form. It becomes a chore to watch, draining your patience long before the credits mercifully roll across the screen. This might have actually been a decent flick if the real star of the film made any sense whatsoever and if the director was allowed to pace this movie properly. It simply can’t rely on the same basic characters and the forecasted plot twists you simply come to expect from a movie like this.
All of that could be forgiven if the eventual pay-off was worth it, but of course, it’s not. Created by some quickie CGI and man-in-suit techniques, Man-Thing looks like something out of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. His walking trees weren’t meant to be scary, either.
All this means that Lions Gate is still going to have those two fans knocking at their doors and starting useless online petitions to get this film revoked from the record. There was hardly any point in Marvel getting involved, as walking piles of mud pretty much look alike. The script would have worked just fine with any number of slap-dash critters. If anything, this shows just how desperate Hollywood is for a new comic book movie. Picking one that people have actually heard of might help for a start.