In 2005, Marvel decided to create a horror-themed movie with one of their characters. Which character may that be, you ask? Well, none other than Man-Thing! Because why the hell not? Directed by Brett Leonard, famous for his work with IMAX 3D before many other directors at the time, let’s take a look at this forgotten slasher flick starring Man-Thing!
The film opens up with a group of teens partying and drinking in a Native American sacred swamp, because typical slasher movie formula. As two teens stray away from the party and begin having sex in the swamp—uh, that’s definitely hot—they get brutally murdered by Man-Thing. The next day, new sheriff Kyle Williams (played by Matthew Le Nevez) investigates a string of local disappearances that happened after oil tycoon Fred Schist (played by Jack Thompson) moved his factory to the sacred swamp. Many protest Schist’s actions, including schoolteacher Teri Richards (who’ll serve as the love interest for the main character). Williams’ investigations eventually lead to the swamps where he discovers that Man-thing was a Native American Chieftan who was murdered by Schist so that Schist could steal his land.
I’ll say this much: I kind of liked the design of Man-Thing in this movie. He has this haunting, yet organic look about him that makes him believable as a swamp-dwelling monster. The makeup is pretty competent for a film on a small budget of $5 million, however, the CGI for his limbs was jagged and ropey. The plot is confusing, the characters are either unlikeable or forgettable, and the gore looked over-the-top and fake. Man-Thing (2005) takes place somewhere in the South, though it’s never specified which state. However, filming was done in Sydney, Australia. As a result, most if not all of the actors were Australians trying to do a southern accent (and failing). Additionally, the entire film has this ugly, puke-green color palette. I guess it was done to make the swamp more atmospheric and haunting, but it just hurts my eyes with how awful it looks.
Man-Thing (2005) tries to keep you guessing who the bad guys are, but it’s so obvious who they are. Schist is obviously shady, and those who work for him consist of stereotypical swamp hillbillies who probably haven’t bathed in years, and an overt racist. Hell, this guy’s so racist, David Duke would tell him to tone it down! Also, the oil company logo looks really similar to a swastika, which doesn’t help their image. Additionally, the heroes are really bland. Sheriff Williams is a generic detective and his relationship with Teri Richards has little chemistry. It moves from distrustful, to being lovers so fast that Snow White and Prince Charming would tell them to slow down!
Then there is Rene LaRoque. He is the most infuriating character in this movie! He knows why the Man-Thing is here and has the exact knowledge to shut down the oil operation and send Schist to jail. However, instead of telling Sheriff Williamson, he gives cryptic clues to lead him to the answer. Sure the sheriff was hostile himself, but LaRoque didn’t really try to talk, he just gave a clue, then teleported away. Sheriff Williams is finally brought up to speed through Teri Richards, who could’ve just taken him to meet LaRoque earlier, saving the runtime by 40 minutes. When he finally catches on, it’s too late to stop the inevitable.
Finally, we have Pete Horn, our primary Native American representative. For some reason, they decided to have the origin of the Man-Thing tied to the film’s Native Americans in a painfully cliché manner. Pete is the mystical and wise sage that does nothing except give exposition, or just do some made up Native American spiritualism in front of a shrine containing stuff from about five different faiths. He’s also the most pessimistic ‘wise Native American’ archetype to exist, not really trying hard to do…anything really. If this wasn’t enough, his death is absolutely meaningless, dying to try to sacrifice himself to stop Man-Thing. Naturally, he’s killed with no effect on the plot.
Honestly, the film really screws over the Native American characters. Despite the plot being focused around their plight, we only see two Indigenous characters. Neither of them are major protagonists, and they are mostly spoken for by Teri. And both of them die, leaving our two white heroes to keep living. Would it have really killed the filmmaker to make one of the protagonists Native American? Even worse, Teri is stated to have had a close relationship with both Native characters since she was a child. There, we have a potential Native American lead, no rewrite needed! Instead, the film’s support of Native Americans is as hollow as Disney’s support of the LGBTQ+ community.
The bigger question I have for this film is why did Marvel decide to make a slasher film using Man-Thing? I understand that in the comics he’s a monster of sorts, but he was also kind of a hero. If Marvel wanted to make a slasher film, they could’ve used a number of other characters from their roster, such as Kletus Kassady (who is an actual serial killer in the comics) or Morbius The Living Vampire.
Overall, while Marvel had an interesting idea making a slasher film with one of their characters, this film failed to execute those ideas. The plot and characters are bad and everything else is nowhere near good enough to make up for it. Aside from a good laugh, there isn’t much going for the film. No wonder why this film is so forgotten and will likely stay forgotten: it sucks shit. Don’t watch it.
Co-Written by: Owen Gonzalez