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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Wild Man of the Navidad: Ambitious, Yet Amatuer

It's hard not to be impressed by what Duane Graves and Justin Meeks set out to do with The Wild Man of the Navidad. Unfortunately, it's impossible to be impressed with the results. And the fact that this complete waste of time screened right alongside Let the Right One In at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival is enough to make one embarrassed for these two guys.

The first time I tried to watch it, I fell asleep before the Sam Elliot-knockoff opening narration was even over. I now realize I was better off the first time.

Graves and Meeks wrote the screenplay, and co-directed. They also co-star in the film, and executive produced. They edited the film, and Graves served as cinematographer. They did all the production design and costumes, such as they are, and Meeks worked on the makeup effects. They also had their fingers in visual effects, and yes, even sound design.

While this may sound amazing, and makes for a great story, unfortunately it also makes for a movie that looks like it was made by two guys who had no crew whatsoever. Basically, this is film school level stuff, and not even good film school level stuff. It's even shot on something less than acceptable film stock, making it look like a trumped up fan flick, or maybe a second-rate SyFy Original.

The claim to fame here is that the film was also co-produced by Kim Henkel, associate producer of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. But do NOT believe the hype here folks, the only thing this movie has in common with TCM is that it also takes place in Texas. It possesses not a shred of the brilliance and inspiration of Tobe Hooper's classic, and the cast of complete amatuers couldn't put forth a performance that's one fourth as great as anything seen in that film.

Speaking of which, I need to specifically point out that this is some of the worst acting I've ever seen in a motion picture, horror or otherwise. I'm sorry, but making a super low-budget horror flick doesn't mean you have to cast the entire movie with nothing but completely unconvincing, unprofessional yokels, plus yourselves. In that case, you get what you pay for. Any impact this flick may have had was totally ruined by the completely comatose cast of rejects.

The whole thing is built on some obscure Sasquatch-like legend about a vicious man-like creature living in the backwoods near a small town in southeastern Texas. He roams the land of one particular hillbilly, until said hayseed loses his job and decides to start renting out the creature's territory to hunters. Mayhem ensues, and lots of sheep guts are haphazardly hurled about in shockingly ineffective fashion.

And do not get me started on the "creature". Even my mom and wife, who were being unnecessarily kind to this flick in their need for mindless entertainment, had to balk at the shameful awfulness that is the Wild Man himself. Let me tell you, Ed Wood would be proud. Pretty much, they took an actor, covered him in a bunch of fur coats, gave him some deer antlers to hold, and added some grunting sound effects. The word "insulting" comes to mind. Also, the word "laughable".

This is a sad example of the downside of the independent horror scene, in which a clever gimmick or hook can get a movie distribution and backing, when said movie doesn't deserve to ever unspool anywhere in the civilized world. Here is a fine example. Clearly, the whole "two guys literally made this movie on their own" thing is what got it all the attention. I wonder if those who chose to back it actually sat through the thing, though.

After over a year of mystifying festival showings, it came out on DVD last month. Don't waste your time. In short, avoid The Wild Man of the Navidad. To quote the great Jerry "The King" Lawler, I've seen better film on teeth.


BJ Colangelo said...

"Ed Wood would be proud"
That's all you needed to say.

Johnny said...

Firstly, god bless you for quoting Jerry Lawler in a review of Wild Man of the Navidad.

Secondly, this movie looks like crap and although I haven't seen it yet, I can't understand why it seems to be getting so much praise. It's even hailed in the new issue of Fangoria. What gives!?

Aaron said...

I have to stand up for this one, sorry. I found Wildman to be an artful recreation of the 70's "B"-movie. For me, the unprofessional actors added to its charm. "Boggy Creek" was nothing more than a guy in an ape suit, yet it's a cult classic. Was that insulting? To some I guess. The directors couldn't rightly put kick ass effects and CGI in a movie like this. It would totally defeat the purpose. I think this movie is best described as "willfully trashy." I don't think these guys had any backing at ALL, which is another reason why I was impressed with it. They did an awful lot with the measly 7 grand or whatever the budget was (or wasn't). I'd love to see what they do with a real budget. I admit, it's in my collection mainly because I love the films it attempts to mirror. But I do think it's worth seeing, especially for fans of drivein cinema or, heck, for aspiring filmmakers who want to make something with nothing.

Anonymous said...

Man someone didn't get his nap today. All I can say is, if you thought that was the worst acting in cinema history, then you aren't the horror connoisseur I thought you were. Check out Retardead or Monsturd. Those just might change your mind. Long live Charles B. Pierce!

the jaded viewer said...

I thought the movie was ok until I got mysterious comments in a review I wrote and I discovered these comments were from a one Mr. Duane Graves.

You can check out my review and all the hilarious aftermath of me poking this guy with a stick to admit he left comments praising his own film.

I'm dead serious. I did research and many of the same users write the same quotes on a multiple sites and horror blogs.

Pretty frakin funny. So watch out where this "praise" is coming from.

B-Sol said...

Aaron, I think exploitation movies of the '70s get a bad rap when they're compared with movies like this. Because even they, for the most part, were far more professional and well-crafted than this garbage. At least the ones that are lauded today as "grindhouse classics". They weren't THIS amateurish and abysmal.

Anonymous, the difference between this movie and something like Retardead is that THIS movie purported to be dramatic, whereas those others were goofball comedies.

And Jaded, I don't even know what to say about that. Unreal. So on top of every other hat he wore while making the movie, this guy ALSO had to write comments on blogs praising his own movie?? What a farce.

Duane said...

Okay I rarely do this but I feel like I have no choice but to chime in here. I am Duane Graves, the REAL Duane Graves. I've been reading Vault of Horror for some time now, and I enjoy it very much. Great blog! I just wanted to say first that I really do appreciate your taking the time to watch our film and to write something up for it. I'm honored it made it onto your column. I am sorry you didn't enjoy it, but hey, obviously we have to expect a variety of opinions in our feedback. Being huge fans of those grindhouse classics you speak of, our main goal was to make a movie in the same vein. Navidad was our first feature. We never expected it to outdo any of those, or even come close, because that would be impossible. However, comparisons to those classics by reviewers is, unfortunately, inevitable. Your review was one of my favorites though because I appreciate your honesty. I agree, I felt that our lack of budget forced us to wear too many hats, and I agree that if our resources had allowed for a few more professionally trained actors, things could've been different. But, it is what it is and, either way you slice it, I genuinely appreciate your thoughts and hope that you will check out our new movie we're working on now. You just might enjoy it more. Secondly, I wanted to address the confusion on my identity. After following the jaded viewer's link on here (which also had a nice review, thanks for that one too), I want to take this opportunity here to say that was NOT me who made the comments on those pages. I have no problem with coming right out and talking as myself as this post proves. In the 10 years that we have been making movies, we have created myriad short films of all flavors. In that time we have managed to find a group of awesome people that work really hard to help us spread the word about our projects. Although it seemed like a good idea at the time, several accounts on various websites around the web have identical login info, and many of those were shared with us as well as some of those aforementioned individuals. Long story short is, the person or persons commenting on your blog jaded were likely one of them getting a little frisky. For that, I apologize. Despite your extensive research, my email address is different and unique to me, and I would appreciate it if you would remove any inference re my address from your website. But again, thanks to both of you for your reviews and I look forward to your future blog posts.

B-Sol said...

Duane, I thank you for being a good sport and taking the review in a professional manner. Very refreshing in this internet age of eroded etiquette. I'd be more than happy to check out your next feature.

Anonymous said...

^^^which is nothing if not saintly after a thoroughly UNprofessional review lacking etiquette. ugh. eryone gotta blog and an overfull heart dese days. :\

and what's with this jaded reviewer? you already wrote a review? so great, why are you here? a lot of emotional reactions going on...weird for those dudes i imagine. is being a hexmeiseter part of a blogger's charge now? anyway, im troubled by all of this...think i'll walk away with: objectivity is key to authority in journalism, or critical theory, not emotional discharge...moving on.

this flick was definitely a tongue in cheek romp through the genre of 'hicksploitation.' though the acting was less than convincing, it wasn't a total failure either. i can see how some might check out without compelling enough characters, however, it was a smart maneuver to go about making a first feature - - who would expect great performances given the inspiration!?
genius really. and it has a train wreck, captivating quality...you're sure they're gonna swallow their tongue and stay tuned to see them get through. and they do..in a creepy manner i might say. much like dealing with REAL hicks! lol

at first i was put off when the scares didn't come fast and furious enough, but then i remembered those 70s films didn't scare my sister, soooo....hahaha. touche! they DID match that vibe.

the poor quality to the 'film stock' (was actually digital it seems) was reminiscent of those drive in classics, but a little too clean. there were a couple of pacing issues, but mostly well done and atmospheric. the fact they were shooting digital must be why they filmed the man-beast during daylight...too bad. that would have paid off more at night. all in all, i'd say...

B+, their next effort might just be a gem. def gonna keep an eye out. and, take my word for it, b-sol, the crap in film schools is MUCH worse....you have to sit through terrible, terrible things. this was enjoyable if you have the context necessary.

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