Tempe Video // 2002 // 64 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // January 21st, 2005
Danny just hasn't been himself lately.
This low-budget take on the werewolf genre -- or, rather, the "crazed animal-like guy running around and growling with Heinz splattered all over his face" genre -- finds a stressed-out, depressed guy named Danny (played by producer/writer/director Brett Kelly) grappling with a primal urge to drool.
Not only is Danny working in an unrewarding job, embroiled in a dead-end relationship, and afflicted with really bad taste in clothes, but he recently learned his father has died. On the brink of depression, Danny brings himself to his father's grave for his goodbyes. Well, life is about to get worse. In the cemetery, he is ruthlessly attacked by -- a Golden Retriever with a video camera strapped to its back! Well, I don't know what it was, but it growls and it's a first-person POV, and...guess what, we never find out what it is anyway.
Regardless, this bizarre attack leads to some strange side effects for our hero. Danny starts to have vivid nightmares where passersby are mauled, and he wakes up in the throes of anxiety. Oh, and there was that one time he dozed off in the bathtub and came to drenched in blood.
As the body count rises, the police scramble for leads on the assailant, and all involved will eventually meet in a...yawn.
Brett Kelly, the director of The Bonesetter, offers this "horror/mystery" for your perusal. I say "horror/mystery" with a snide, smarmy tone, because The Feral Man is neither horrifying nor mysterious.
As an ultra-low budget affair it succeeds in not coming across as brazenly amateurish, but keep in mind this is still just a few notches above home movie quality. To his credit, Brett Kelly is a decent director, and has the capability of stringing together some good-looking sequences. This is a far better-looking outing than The Bonesetter, which actually followed this project.
But for every few steps forward Kelly takes with his directorial deftness and motivation (the guy churns out movies like Pez), he hopscotches back with a goofy story and poor dialogue and a supernatural knack for convincing wooden actors to jump aboard his projects.
The gore-free narrative of the The Feral Man is about as uninvolving as you can get. Just sit back and watch this guy piss and moan about his life, intermingled with Evil Dead wannabe POV shots. There is never any suspense to the whole thing -- we know this guy is the killer -- so the "mystery" the film tries to generate by not revealing him in action is moot. In fact, the only question mark is the identity of original attacking feral creature; sadly, this puzzle goes unresolved.
The writing is asinine. My favorite line comes from Danny's girlfriend, after he admits to her he's been attacked at the cemetery:
"Don't come crying to me if you have a concussion and wake up dead."
That piece of dialogue is nonsensical on a multitude of different levels. Stilted stuff like this is uttered throughout by thespians acting as if canoe paddles have been bolted to their spines.
The video quality is crap, but that comes as no surprise, considering the source stock; washed-out full frame fodder. The sound is equally blah, as it feebly drips through my front channels (thanks only to Dolby Pro Logic II).
But giving credit where credit is due, there are a host of "special" features on this disc. Cast and crew interviews, a director's interview, some outtakes, the commentary track by Brett Kelly -- the most interesting anecdote being his experience filming a nude scene -- a short film, and a pile of trailers. Sure there isn't a lot of super compelling stuff here for normal folks, but taken in the context of its own microcosm (serving the feature film), the bonus materials are commendable, if only for their volume.
The Feral Man is pointless. It's not painfully awful, and it's not an artillery shell away from entertaining. It just is.
Guilty. There are better ways to spend ten bucks. Like buying ten items from your local dollar store. I bought this decal for my car that said "Don't Mess With the U.S." and it has a picture of warplane on it. Stuff like that, only $1.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Tempe Video
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 64 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Audio Commentary
* Cast and Crew Interviews
* Director's Interview
* Short: Good Dog, Dead Dog