If he had a nickel for every time he squared off against a man-eating tiger in the woods, Judge David Johnson would be rich beyond his wildest dreams.
Our review of Maneater, published August 5th, 2011, is also available.
How do you hunt the predator when you are the prey?
Remember The Ghost in the Darkness, the Michael Douglas/Val Kilmer vehicle about hunters tracking a pair of killer, man-eating lions in the wilds of Africa? This movie is nothing like that.
Facts of the Case
In the woods of the Appalachians Mountains, bodies begin turning up, mangled and gnawed upon, freaking out the residents and prompting the local sheriff (Gary Busey) to enact strict regulations on tourism and travel. Of course this doesn't sit well with the mayor, who's anticipating a large turnout for the annual town festival, but what can you do? There's a giant Bengal tiger running around chewing people's arms and colons up!
Eventually the National Guard comes in but they're of little help. They were trained to fight terrorists and neo-Nazis not jungle cats! So they get smoked, leaving the salvation of the town in the hands of the sheriff, a crusty hunter from England and an introverted poor kid who sleep-walks.
Here's yet another in the long, thoroughly pummeled line of Killer Creature features. And Maneater brings very, very little new to the table. In fact, I'd say it's fair to trust your first impression when you see the cover, as long as that first impression is: "Gee whiz, this looks like yet another mediocre animal-run-amok movie. Maybe I should spend my money on an ice cream sandwich instead."
The major problem I have with Maneater is its significant dearth of righteous tiger-attack action. Nearly all of the violence is implied, and the blood and gore is of the after-the-matter type. We see some severed limbs and pools of fresh blood and even a torso busted wide open and that might do it for the CSI crowd, but the gore-hounds that might be attracted to the promise of a big-ass tiger sinking his teeth into some hapless rednecks will be almost certainly disappointed. The big bummer is that we don't even get any tiger on human direct action until the very end, and that's boilerplate Lassie stuff with a stuntman fending off a laid-back stunt tiger.
However, I will give a tip of the hat to the writers for actually developing characters I somewhat cared about. If there's anything salvageable from this boring set of 90 minutes it's this aspect. The kid isn't annoying, the tiger hunter is actually pretty interesting, and Busey's sheriff is likeable enough so you'll actually be rooting against the tiger. We're not talking Million Dollar Baby type of character acting here, just an above-average treatment of folks that really amount to little more than tiger fodder.
A special note needs to be made about a handful of missed opportunities. First, what's up with the tiger not rampaging through the tourists? That would have been a possible gamebreaker, but my guess is that a tiny budget and handcuffs on the violent content quotient kept this awesomeness from happening? And then there's the climactic sequence leading to the Final Tiger Death and what a total rip-off. The whole thing just screams "Well, I'm out of ideas."
Maneater comes to us in an attractive 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, supplemented by a now-standard 5.1 Dolby Digital surround mix. Aside from some previews that run before the feature, there are no extras.
Kind of boring and light on the tiger death mayhem, Maneater would be completely disposable if not for the amiable characters. As it stands now it's just partially disposable, whatever that means.
Calvin and Hobbes comic strips were more violent.
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