Man Thing

Starring: Matthew Le Nevez, Rachael Taylor and Jack Thompson
Optimum Home Entertainment
RRP: £12.99
Certificate: 15
Available 22 May 2006

Sheriff Kyle Williams moves to the small town of Bywater looking for a quieter life, unfortunately for Kyle Bywater is anything but a quite place to live. Ensconced in the leafy swamps, this is a town of death and murder, where it is not unusual for people to disappear. The town is being torn apart by an internal fight between the locals who want to preserve the swamp and the local bigwig, Frederic Schist, who wants to exploit its natural resources. The locals are not the only guardians of the swamp, within its darkest recesses lurks the Man Thing...

Man Thing is the much unloved child of Marvel, originally destined to have a theatrical release; this was scaled down to a few theatres and an almost straight to DVD release. It has previously been shown on the Sci-Fi Channel as an original movie. So what was so bad about the film that made Marvel want to bury it?

The movie was directed by Brett Leonard, who had previously directed the rather unsatisfying Lawn Mower Man and Virtuosity - whilst both were interesting, neither of them set any great new bench marks in film making. The script was written by Steve Gerber, who has worked on animation scripts, the original comic and on the original Howard the Duck comics and Hans Rodionoff, whose list of work whilst short appears to be mainly in the realm of B-movies. So, not a great start.

The strange thing is that this much unloved son of Marvel isn't all bad; it has a lot more to commend it than the vacuous Fantastic Four. Ok, so the script isn't good, it's not partially original and for all fans of the comic it dumps much of the original premise of the story. It's full of clichés and stolen ideas. The first killing we see is of a teenage couple, who in the midsts of coitus are interrupted by a tree killing the boyfriend, at which point we will all draw a quick veil over all the jokes about the poor boy getting a inconvenient woody.

The real star of the show is the swamp, which is portrayed as both beautiful and frightening. Steve Arnold, who was the cinematographer on the movie, really pulls out all the stops to make the swamp an integral character in the movie and this is nicely complimented by Roger Mason's score to bring some genuinely creepy moments.

The cast all put in good performances and obviously do what they can with such a derivative script, even the monster at the end doesn't disappoint. If failure there is, it's with the direction. Like his previous films you walk away from Man Thing thinking that it could have been so much better in someone else's hands.

The best way to approach the film is to think of it as a superior B-movie which, with a six pack, will make for an enjoyable night in. It won't change your life but it just might scare the bejesus out of you. The odd thing is that this is an attempt to make a horror movie out of a comic book, which leaves the film as an interesting and brave attempt. But, given the glut of superhero films, I'm not sure that now was the time to make Man Thing.

The disc comes with little in the way of extras, just a trailer for the film and three other trailers. The print is clean and the audio options are either stereo or 5.1. The 5.1 really is good for opening up the soundscape, though if you don't have this option the stereo does a fine job too.

Overall a good watch on a boozed up Saturday night.

Charles Packer

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