Man Vs. (2015)

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“A mysterious stalker plagues a reality TV survivalist filming his five days alone for a new season of his show in the northern Ontario wilderness; and the figure may not be human.” — IMDb

Director Brian Massey’s third feature film, Man Vs., is a sort of survivalist thriller meets found footage horror. Filmed in Rockwood Conservation Area in Ontario, it provides some beautiful and expansive nature shots in addition to a decent amount of tension in the first couple acts, but unfortunately it falls way short in the final reveal.

The film follows Doug Woods (Chris Diamantopoulos), a nature survivalist TV show host, as he films a new episode for his series. The stakes are high as the crew, which includes his brother, is hoping to get the show picked up by a major network. But it doesn’t take long before his attempts to survive 5 days alone in the Canadian Shield become threatened by an unknown source that may not be of this world…

** SPOILERS! **

I wanted to like this one, I really did. I’m generally a fan of the whole “trying to survive in the woods” scenario, because I think the tension that can be created by an unknown and unseen stalker can be terrifying. But this one just didn’t deliver.

The forced banter between Doug and the rest of the crew was pretty painful, as was the meeting with the stereotypical grizzled Ontario native who has no confidence in Woods’ capabilities. Luckily that was short-lived, but I wasn’t blown away by Diamontopoulos’s solo performance either. He definitely carried his weight, especially considering he was, for the most part, the sole actor in the film… but he just didn’t do a whole lot for me.

I liked the sense of deepened mystery created when Woods discovers the dramatic disturbance in the tree line and the dead fish in the lake, but it seemed oddly placed when they tried to pull the storyline back to him suspecting another human, even a crazed fan, of stalking him in the woods. You’ve already set us up for the realization that this predator is otherworldly… you can’t now pretend like that didn’t happen.

The small glimpses of the alien creature mimicking his behavior were probably the most chilling for me. It’s unclear whether this was behavior the species already knew or if the creature was watching and learning, but I choose to believe the latter. This terrifying knowledge starts with the chess board being manipulated, grows with Woods finding himself in a massive version of his rabbit trap (yikes), and finishes with him seeing his own crew having been skinned just like he had previously been demonstrating. It was disturbing, for sure, to see the alien being stalking and hunting him in the exact way he had been trying to teach his viewers.

I was already only partly engaged in this movie but when they brought out the painfully bad CGI alien, I was done. Try to imagine a cross between Predator and the District 9 aliens and you’ll get an idea of what we’re dealing with. Then he cries by a lake and films the cheesiest goodbye messages for his wife and daughter (“I could survive the North Pole but I was no match for that smile”) but becomes filled with strength as he is now suddenly determined to find his family. Then he stumbles upon the previously mentioned Ontario native’s trailer and sees the most textbook emergency broadcast detailing how the alien attack has devastated all of the world’s major cities and throwing out buzzwords like “unknown origin” and “not of this world”. Then Doug Woods kills one of them with a boat propeller and utters “check mate” with this sort of gruff bravado and I was 100% checked out. Then he buzzes away on his tiny boat with his two cans of beans as countless alien crafts streak across the sky and… he saves his family? He dies immediately? I don’t know and I honestly don’t care.

A fairly tired storyline with some minor suspense and decent acting but not entirely worth it in the long run, in my opinion.

Rating: 3/10 | Director: Adam Massey | Writer: Adam Massey, Thomas Michael | Music: John Rowley | Cinematography: Miroslaw Baszak | Starring: Chris Diamantopoulos, Michael Cram, Kelly Fanson, Alex Karzis, Drew Nelson, Chloe Bradt

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