“Man Vs.” — What, Exactly?

Posted: June 11, 2017 in movies
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Sometimes you just know what a movie’s about before you’ve even seen it.

Take, for instance, the low-budget 2015 Canadian production Man Vs that I checked out on Netflix the other night (I gather that it’s also available on DVD). With a title like that, is there any doubt in your mind that we’re going to have some kind of “reality” TV theme going on here? And that it’s most likely a “found footage” film?

You already know the answers to both those questions, so perhaps the first (and, as it turns out, only) surprise on offer from director Adam Massey and his screenwriter, Thomas Michael (working from a story by Massey himself) is that the “reality” host that their protagonist, Doug (played by Chris Diamantopoulos), is based on has a lot more in common with Bear Grylls than he does with Adam Richman. Nobody’s eating a 20-pound burrito or a six-foot-long hoagie sandwich in this flick; instead we’re witnessing one man’s desperate struggle for survival in the Rockwood Conservation Area, a rugged and unforgiving (and, it must be said, quite scenic) expanse of northern Ontario wilderness that most of us would probably be able to make a go of it in for maybe one day, tops. For the sake of his popular TV show, though, Doug’s gonna try to get through five.

Almost immediately, there are problems — not just for Doug, but for the film itself. Diamantopoulos isn’t one of them, fortunately — he’s reasonably charismatic, comes off as being generally likable, and commits himself to his role in the way that one must for these, essentially, one-man productions (don’t get me wrong, he ain’t Redford in All Is Lost, but he more than gets the job done) — but there’s a lot of suspect editing that mars what would otherwise be a nicely-paced first two acts and reduces the believability factor that Massey and his star work so hard on selling, there are several “how is he getting this shot done?” logical gaps that are difficult to overlook, and a handful of the “life-threatening” moments are staged in such a manner that calling them “highly suspect” is probably being kind. Ya know what, though? I can overlook all that given the modest (speaking of being kind) budget Massey and Co. had to work with.

Here’s what I can’t overlook : this friggin’ movie telegraphs its big “shocker” moment so early on that it absolutely ruins the third act — and said act is so lousy in and of itself that really doesn’t need any extra help when it comes to sucking.

In case you haven’t figured it out,  the whole shtick here is that Doug’s not out in the woods by himself. He’s being stalked, Predator-style, by —- something. Now, the minute you glom onto this fact, you already know there’s only a few ways things can go — and Massey opts for the easiest, lamest possibility you can imagine, spells it out for you clear as day, then seems to forget he did so and tries to surprise you with a “revelation” that’s already, in modern parlance, been thoroughly “spoiled” in his own goddamn script. There’s no way that’s gonna work, because it just plain can’t. An Alzheimer’s patient would still see the ending to this thing coming a mile off. Throw in a whole lot of dodgy CGI, and what you’ve got is a film that would be a case study in self-sabotage even if the first 2/3 of its runtime was absolutely flawless — which it isn’t by any stretch, but damn, compared to the final 20 minutes or so, it’s Oscar-caliber stuff.

I hate to be too hard on Man Vs. I really do. You can tell that a lot of work went into getting this thing in the can and that it was probably an exhausting shoot. There’s a really solid performance anchoring the whole thing. Stitching together the “found footage” and “survival horror” genres is a natural. And there’s a lot of breathtaking scenery in front of the lens for nature-lovers to enjoy. But you can’t show your hand at the poker table, pull your cards back close to your chest, and then expect to collect the pot.

I’m not one to stretch a metaphor, but seriously — Massey’s either going to have to raise the stakes considerably for his next feature, or else just fold.

  1. Ryan C. (trashfilmguru) says:

    Reblogged this on Through the Shattered Lens.

  2. Tiff says:

    I just saw this film and was glad I did. As a picky thriller and horror enthusiast, this film kept me glued to the television all the way through. Doug is one of the most likeable character’s ever. And when I saw the antagonist, it did catch me off guard and I immediately thought it was comical for a split second. But as it went on, it still was a really interesting watch…and I even thought, hey, the scenario in this movie really could happen, because mere civilians like us, really don’t know what’s out there. Glad I gave this a watch..

    • Ryan C. (trashfilmguru) says:

      Glad you enjoyed it!

    • adam massey says:

      Thanks TIFF. Glad you liked the film. I know Ryan C had issues with my low budget film. But thanks for reviewing the film anyway Ryan C, guess you cant make everyone happy. Thanks for posting your thoughts.

      • Ryan C. (trashfilmguru) says:

        No movie is perfect, and I appreciate the extra effort that low-budget filmmakers put into getting their work made with limited resources.

  3. adam massey says:

    Thanks Tiff, appreciate the nice comments. And Ryan… a fair review. Thanks for taking the time.

    • Ryan C. (trashfilmguru) says:

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting, always great to hear from the folks who actually make the films!

      • adam massey says:

        my pleasure… but on a side note… I am not planning on folding my cards any time soon 🙂

      • Ryan C. (trashfilmguru) says:

        Glad to hear it, I’ll look forward to checking ut your next project!

  4. Jer says:

    Just watched this one on Netflix, and yes, it was hokey, yes some points were predictable, and yes, the big baddie was probably designed by a 14-year-old with a spending budget set by Wal-Mart corporate management, but all in all it was a fun flick, and definitely not something I regret watching.

  5. w ragan says:

    I think I missed some parts walking in and out of the room but I really thought it was going to be bigfoot stalking him not the predator lol.

  6. the movie was realy good was the creature the new predator

  7. Glenn says:

    This is not a found footage film. It’s pretty obvious it doesn’t try to be. I really liked the movie myself.

    • Ryan C. (trashfilmguru) says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed it, I think my review was pretty fair to hit — the director himself agreed! — but a lot of people seem to have liked it quite a bit, and that’s great to see.

  8. Lisa says:

    This movie was good for the most part.
    Here is the one major problem I have…in the scene after he gets out of the lake and is climbing up the hill to the right of his head in the background you can see two cars driving on an obvious road which just killed the movie for me.Definitely an editing issue there that should have been caught way before the movie was released.

  9. Lynn Tarallo says:

    Around 59:53 as he comes out of the water and walks a few feet behind his right shoulder a road and cars passing are visible. Ruined it for me.

  10. Bill says:

    Honestly, if they never showed the creature, this would have worked great. The acting, the cinematography, the score , the suspense etc was really well done, then they showed the alien and the cut rate CGI and then it went to “ok stupid predator rip off”

    If they cut the scenes showing the creature, cut the scene of hm being sonic blasted and just have the EBS playing on the tv , having that as a twist ending. This would have been solid.

  11. Cheryl says:

    That Man VS review is absolutely hilarious. Done nicely with nods and props where they’re warranted juxtaposed with the missteps of the badly written script. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

  12. John Hunter says:

    As an aspiring scriptwriter,I actually liked this film, but not for the reasons you might imagine. Hello! Mid-budget films are dead. It’s either big budget or zero budget. This film uses an expository style just like in those actual man survives the wilderness low budget, hand held stuff. I thought it was clever.

    • Ryan C. (trashfilmguru) says:

      That’s cool, it’s certainly not a film devoid of merits, I just didn’t find it to be the best example of — well, the kind of thing it is, I guess.

      • John Hunter says:

        @Ryan. The budget constants were what fascinated me…That and the clever expository style. The general rule is “Don’t say it, show it,” but in this example, it worked (for me). It’s more difficult to write a no or low budget film than a big budget one. A prodco recently invited me to submit a compelling feature with a $500K budget. To put that number into prospective, I was a walk-on star in a short laser putter infomercial which had a million dollar production budget. Please note, I was not paid and they didn’t give me any lunch…An interesting learning experience, again for me.

        I’ve written a mid-budget creature feature entitled SNOW WORMS, “When a long frozen terror awakens in the Alaskan wilderness, a strong and resourceful young woman leads a desperate struggle for survival.” Has potential sequels out the whazoo, but in today budget crunch and difficult to find financing climate, my script is unlikely to even get a read, much less be produced.

      • Ryan C. (trashfilmguru) says:

        Hey, you never know, that Alaska stuff is big these days, I certainly wish you the best of luck!

      • Ryan C. (trashfilmguru) says:

        You’re welcome, of course!

  13. CGeers says:

    Just watched this to try to get some sleep…. usually a b movie puts me out but this didn’t work. I think the reveal was a bit too soon but it still worked out. Great suspense and totally preys on man’s fear of the unknown. Good job on a tight budget! Loved it.

  14. Richard Upright says:

    Watched it last night in the dark with my GF & it scared the hell out of us. We LOVE monsters & cryptids & this one did NOT disappoint! The ending “twist” was great, even though I kind of predicted it.

    • Ryan C. (trashfilmguru) says:

      This one definitely seems to have a lot of fans, I get more consistent comments about it than any other movie I’ve reviewed!

  15. asdf says:

    I just saw it on Amazon, and I really loved it. It is probably the best suspense/horror films I’ve seen in the last five years. The monster special effects were a bit goofy and low budget, but I honestly completely forgot about that because of the great directing and acting. The movie was really well paced and the atmosphere was great. It was a lot better than most big budget horror films out there, and I really wish it was easier to find films of this quality on Amazon, because you have to sift through a lot of trash to get to the excellent films like this.

  16. AC says:

    This review is a perfect example of why movie reviewers are just like weathermen… listen to what they say and then plan for the opposite. it brings another saying to mind as well – “Those who can’t, write about it!”

    • AC says:

      I have to say – I wrote that reaction immediately after reading the review, having never been to this site before. Honestly, I don’t even remember how I go here 🙂 I thought the person who wrote the review was a jerk, but after reading a lot of the comments, you seem like a pretty decent guy. My bad for the gut reaction.

      • Ryan C. (fourcolorapocalypse) says:

        It’s fine, I’ve heard worse.

      • Ryan C. (fourcolorapocalypse) says:

        And you seemed like a jerk at first to me with your comment, so hey, we’re even! That’s the internet for you.

  17. I absolutely loved this movie! The very last scene was like: “Ohhhhh, sh——-“

  18. Gabriela Schroeder says:

    I have really enjoyed the movie. I have watched it 4 times. I wish there was a part 2.

    • Ryan C. (fourcolorapocalypse) says:

      This movie has a lot of fans and gets more comments than any other review I’ve written. I hope the filmmakers take note —

    • Adam Massey says:

      Thank you Gabriela, it’s very nice to hear you enjoyed my film. It’s so nice to hear from people like you. I wish that there was a MAN vs 2 in the works, I would love to make a sequel. Thanks for posting your comment.

      adam massey

      • Paul says:

        I’ve seen this at least 5 times and enjoyed each time. I’m a sucker for these types of movies, Big Legend and Primal Rage just to name two

  19. Paul says:

    I really enjoyed this movie, Moe Howard and all

  20. Really enjoyed this film. I thought the acting was pretty on point, especially from the leading man. His reactions felt genuine compared to the ridiculous over the top acting you often see in these types of films.

    I like the twist at the end of the film, especially with the emergency broadcast, and is a wholly believable scenario given the events leading up to it.

    I agree the monster reveal was a bit early on, but you knew what was going to happen when you saw the landing path and the destruction. And yes the CGI was pretty painful, PS1 era cut-scenes, looking past this though I really enjoyed the watch and hope to one day see a sequel whether direct or from another POV during or after the invasion.

    My favourite element was the creature leaving the main character alive long enough to learn how to survive in the hostile environment, and possibly researching strengths and weaknesses before making an attack.

    • Ryan C. (fourcolorapocalypse) says:

      I’m amazed at the fandom that has developed around this movie. This review is several years old now, but every now and then, it still gets a comment from people who really enjoyed it!

  21. Mary says:

    I likes the movie thought the thing that came at them was pretty sweet. Wondering where the second one is though.

  22. Babs says:

    Is there a part 2.

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