Any of you that ever read the magazine Toyfair back in the days of print will no doubt be familiar with the humorous comic strip that lurked within it’s pages known as Twisted Toyfair Theater. A running joke that would appear from time to time would involved the Marvel characters within not knowing the difference between Man-Thing with Swamp Thing which would then cause an irritated Alan Moore to pop up and grumpy lecture the reader to the differences between to two characters (it was a weird comic). Bizzare as it was, there was more than a pinch of truth to the matter; I mean, can anyone out their truthfully put their hands up and honestly say they’ve read more than 5 issues of the sludgy superhero’s own title? If you can I can admit right now that I’m both impressed and a little surprised but during that mad gold-rush in the noughties where Avi Arrad tried get as many Marvel properties in front of camera as humanly possible, EVERYONE of Marvel’s B-list rosta had a shot at a movie. Of course it was inevitable that quality control was going to falter at some point meaning some crap was going to float to the surface like bright green pond scum but even the most below-average of this frenetic output usually has at least a couple of defenders. Famously underappreciated attempts such as Daredevil and Ang Lee’s Hulk always seem to get the odd article demanding a much needed reassessing, and yet when it comes to championing Liongate’s 2005 cheapo, direct-to-video adaptation of Man-Thing, there is nothing but unsurprising waves of silence.
Something is lurking around in the swamps of Louisiana, slaughtering anyone dumb enough to find themselves deep in the Native American sacred lands known as Black Water and it’s most recent victim was a horny teenager and his traumatized girlfriend – although call me old fashioned, but if you choose to fuck in the middle of a sacred swamp in the bayou during the dead of night, you’re kind of asking for whatever plant-based atrocities transpire.
Anyway, as one of the missing persons include the sheriff, a replacement turns up in the form of Kyle Williams, a young man with a constant, enigmatic frown permanently tattooed on his brow that could either mean he’s deep in thought, holding in a fart or trying to remember if he’d left the house that morning without turning the gas off.
He eventually is introduced to Teri who somehow is an English teacher despite having an accent that has her pronouncing the word “spine” as “sparn” and in her spare time is a fierce environmentalist.
Eventually these two overcome the sizable hurdle of having absolutely no chemistry whatsoever and get down to the business of working out why so many people are turning up stuffed with more vines than a scarecrow’s proctology exam and initially the prime suspect is a shifty oil tycoon who in turn points the finger at the local Native American community.
It turns out that both groups would be pretty awful at playing Cluedo as the real culprit is a huge, green swamp monster that’s on a rampage thanks to the harm being done to the enviroment but who plainly hasn’t got the patience to chain itself to a digger or start a vigorous letter writing campaign.
As more bodies turn up upsettingly violated by nature by sporting more vegetation in their ribcage than in a gardener’s skip, Kyle and Teri race to halt the mulchy massacre despite actually having no idea as to what’s going on or even how to stop a 12 foot monster who’s most polite way of greeting is to shove a branch up your butthole.
Made for $30 million – and looking like it cost half that – Man-Thing was an American/Australian co-production that was supposed to get a theatrical release and yet crashed and burned onto the Syfy channel after making a fraction of it’s budget. Basically, it’s what you get when a low budget, schlocky monster movie gets delusions of grandeur just because it gets to show off a Marvel title card during it’s opening credits despite not having a single original idea of it’s own. It doesn’t even really follow the story of the comic that much and while names and terms are thrown around like Ted Sallis (Man-Thing’s real name – he looks like a Ted, don’t you think?) and the mystical Nexus Of All Realities, they really are only random name drops and have barely anything to do with the main plot. In fact, not much else has to do with the main plot as it’s really only a string of (admittedly decently staged) stalk and slaughter scenes held together with confused looking white people trying to explain this shit away.
Needless to say the cast flip a coin to see if they play their roles as either amicable rednecks or as full on Deliverance style shit kickers except for the lead, who, in a ballsy move, opts bravely for “dull yankee” instead. Also spotted in the cast is a young looking, pre-Jessica Jones Rachel Taylor, whose accent wildly ricochets between her natural Aussie twang and the southern drawl she struggles to maintain. She manages to be the most appealing thing in the film (that isn’t coated in moss and is the size of a brick shithouse) despite choking on the the fact that she sounds like a high pitched Foghorn Leghorn. Still, she manages better than the vast majority of the rest of the cast who, as I stated earlier, either look and sound like Boss Hogg with meth-mouth or who trot out the usual Native American holy man schtick these movies always seem to have.
Directed by Brett Leonard, the man responsible The Lawnmower Man and Virtuosity (two 90’s, low budget sci-fi thrillers that boasted great casts and shockingly bad CGI), the cool gore and creature stuff is fairly ok with all the copious bodies all twisted and mutilated with branches erupting from their faces and the Man-Thing himself a passable combination of man in a suit with some CGI vine accessories that whip around the place and gives the green fingered goliath some much needed animation in it’s appearance.
However, the rest of the movie is fairly dumb, sub-standard shit which really only should be viewed by undemanding horror fans or hardcore Marvel affiliates (and even then….) as the movie attempts to be noble despite having a deeply retarded eco message that’s loaded with gore and the odd flash of gratuitous nudity (nothing screams “save the planet” more than blood sprayed breasts, I guess). This is one of those bone-headed movies where the earth-loving heroes curiously decide to blow up lots of flammable shit to halt the mossy juggernaut despite the fact that a flaming oil rig might not be the best thing in the long run when it comes to the safety of local wildlife.
Still, I suppose if a towering muck monster was coming at me with a glare in it’s eye that said it wanted to shove vines into MY exit holes, I guess I’d say fuck the alligators and turtles too…
Quite possibly the least known Marvel movie to ever exist, this particular Moss-Bros gains points for attempting to adapt a virtually unknown source but ultimately proves to be nothing more than an exhausting trudge in the sludge…