I’ve seen plenty of films about Bigfoot, horror films like Primal Rage, cryptozoology films like The Back 80, even family films like A Wish for Giants. But I don’t think I’ve seen any about Florida’s resident Sasquatch until The Wild Man: Skunk Ape. always on the lookout for something new, I gave it a look.
The Wild Man: Skunk Ape starts out like one of Seth Breedlove’s (On the Trail of Bigfoot: The Journey, The Mothman Legacy) documentaries as Sarah (Lauren Crandall, Share or Die), Brandon (Julian Green, Lovecraft Country) and their cameraman Tim (Mike Reed) interview locals about the disappearances of several local girls. And the local legends of The Skunk Ape.
Their comments point them in the direction of Skunk Ape tracker and conspiracy freak Dale (David E. McMahon, 10/31 Part 2, Seeing Evil). He may be crazy, he may even be the prime suspect in the disappearances. But if it means they get the footage they need, they’ll follow him into the woods
The first half of The Wild Man: Skunk Ape does indeed play out like a mockumentary, and not a particularly interesting one. The interviews with the townsfolk tend to be composed of a couple of dull questions and answers. And despite an encounter with hostile locals, there’s no sense of danger or menace. Even when they venture into the dark woods with a guide they think may be a mass killer there’s no tension. The most frightening thing we see is a shirtless Dale, cigarette hanging from his mouth, staring into the woods. Some people were NOT meant to be seen topless.
After forty-five minutes of bland dialogue, we finally do see the skunk ape. As well as several soldiers dressed as skunk apes led by Captain Stryker (Michael Paré, The Penthouse, Painkiller). At which point the film vanishes down a rabbit hole of conspiracy theory weirdness. It all has something to do with the government crossbreeding skunk apes, who are all male, and human females. Surprisingly this isn’t the first film that’s run with that idea, Bigfoot: The Conspiracy did it first and did it on an even smaller budget than The Wild Man: Skunk Ape. It also did it a lot better.
Writers Sean Michael Gloria and Ian Longen and director Ryan Justice (Followers) seem to be going for some kind of comedy by this point. I don’t think we’re supposed to take the crossbreeding idea seriously. Or Captain Stryker insisting his men stick to using the obviously ineffective tranquillizer darts while the creature tears them apart.
The effects, or lack thereof in The Wild Man: Skunk Ape doesn’t help either. The skunk ape costume isn’t bad though we don’t see a lot of it. In terms of gore, there’s an obviously fake head tossed out at one point and that’s about it. Most of the creature’s rampage is hidden by the dark, emergency light only setting and/or conveniently timed video glitches. Those glitches happen so regularly I have trouble believing it’s not meant to be a running joke.
About the only things The Wild Man: Skunk Ape has going for it is the creature itself and leading actress Lauren Crandall. Her girl next door looks and her performance make Sarah likeable and sympathetic despite a lack of help from the script. Given his non-performance, the fact Paré is only on screen for a few minutes could be considered a plus as well I suppose.
The Wild Man: Skunk Ape recently made its debut as part of this year’s Popcorn Frights Film Festival. You can check the film’s Facebook page for announcements of other screenings or distribution.