A little while back I got an email and in that email there was a picture. That picture was the DVD cover of a flick with the alluring title of The Wild Man of the Navidad. The picture, which you have no doubt seen
floating over there to the right, featured a bear of a tusked man looming large and menacing. I didn’t even need to read the synopsis enclosed to know that I wanted a copy of that and I wanted it now. But life doesn’t work that way, so while I waited for the mail I searched the internet for more information on this mysterious movie. It had screened at a few film festivals and there were several reviews up, the vast majority of them being very positive. I grew excited. Fast Forward Selector!
The Wild Man of the Navidad is ‘based’ on the diaries of Dale S. Rogers, a man who lived in a rural town in the south of Texas, a man who lived next to the Wild Man of the Navidad. Dale is a quiet man who lives an unobtrusive life with his wheelchair bound wife and her strange, shirtless Mexican caretaker who just so happens to offer up rabbit meat to the Wild Man to keep him at bay. After losing his welding job to a local smart ass, he opens up his land to paying hunters who soon find out that intruding on the Wild Man is a good way to get dead.
About seven people of varied ages, from 12 year olds to senior citizens, find themselves on the wrong end of the touch of death.
There are a lot of real dead animals in the film. You don’t see any of them get killed a la Cannibal Holocaust or anything, but they’re real none the less. There are a couple of bloodless deaths and then some deaths that come fully loaded with blood and stabbings. What looks to be real organs (possibly animal) are tossed about at one point. A body is torn up by antlers. An invalid is inappropriately touched and seemingly finger-raped, if that is something you can do. (It is)
A creepy guy sniffs an unattractive woman’s underwear and touches his enchilada.
Local legends are real 90% of the time and will kill you 98% of the time.
The experience of Navidad starts off strongly by effectively channeling a 70s vibe. There is a documentary feel to the footage and the lettering and the font is retro. Very quickly the movie is revealed to be low budget and much of the acting, if not all of it, is bad – but so bad that it almost wraps around to being charming. The first clue that the film is probably not going to live up to whatever expectations I had came during the credits. It is generally a bad sign when you see the same names being repeated over and over and over again. Duane Graves and Justin Meeks are credited as writers, actors, directors, producers, editors, costume designers, production designers, set designers, visual effects editors, camera operators, grips, and they were the sound department. People with the same last names, aka family, also filled out roles in locations and production management. Hm. Anyway, Kim Henkel serves as co-producer and, not that anyone would remember this factoid, but he was a producer on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Henkel met Graves and Meeks when he was teaching a writing class and he is also the best part of the film as he serves up an introduction to the DVD that is pretty funny.
The Wild Man starts slowly and never really gains steam. The tone of the film is mostly depressed and it never shakes off the sluggishness of the rural setting. A few scenes of the Wild Man in the distance are effective, though once the creature-man is out in full force he seems to be an odd collection of pelts and we don’t see his face until the very end. Despite killing several people, the Wild Man never really seems to pose a threat – he mostly just walks up and kills people when they’re either already asleep or about to go to bed. It sort of seems that he has antlers for hands, but one must assume he just uses them as his weapon of choice, which is kind of cool, but ultimately the Wild Man is mostly lame because he doesn’t inspire fear or command the screen – rather he lumbers about.
There is most definitely a great idea in The Wild Man and filmmakers Graves and Meeks have a future in the industry – their dialog isn’t atrocious and the story is there, just failed in execution. Given time to learn and material to improve on, there is nothing holding these guys back from making an effective horror film. As an ultra-low budget movie that was basically created exclusively by two guys, The Wild Man of the Navidad is more effective as a proof-of-concept “Hey we can make a movie!” deal rather than an entertaining film. If you’re a fan of low budget flicks or like seeing rural Texas, this movie may be for you. Otherwise, you’re best passing on it. It is one of those films that I almost feel bad grading, considering how much work went into it and how much was stacked against it in terms of money and production value and the like. If the filmmakers do read this however, what I would hope they take from it is this: keep going. You have talent and can make something of yourselves and when you make that next film great, I’ll be more than happy to check it out.