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Approached this expecting a shite, cheaply made found footage fiasco that I'd be able to quite lazily lay into.
But guess what?
It's not half bad.
Apologies for the brief review but I'd hate to give too much away.
Anyway, I'm not getting paid by the word so without further ado ladies and gentlemen I give you....
Man Vs. (2015).
Dir: Adam Massey.
Cast: Chris Diamantopoulos, a wolf and some (dead) fish.
Buff and bearded outdoors type Doug (Diamantopoulos, Clark Ingram in everyones fave TeeVee show Hannibal as well as the current voice of Mickey Mouse - no really), the star of the hit cable series Man Vs. (see what they did there?) is - when we first meet him - preparing to shoot the first episode of the aforementioned shows third season.
The format is simple, our hairy hero is dropped off in some god-forsaken place (Cradley Heath for example) where, using only his finely honed outdoor skills - and his frighteningly firm buttocks - he must survive unaided for five days.
With his head full of rumours that this year is the year that the show will break the big time, Doug heads into the Temagami woodlands of Northern Ontario (playing itself) for a few days of eating berries, sleeping under the stars and shitting in holes whilst chatting animatedly into a tiny camera.
So exactly like life in Cradley then.
Minus the hole for shitting in obviously, they just do it in the street.
|"He did what in his cup?"|
Leaving the production team at base camp Doug is soon settled in a peaceful wooded area, starting a fire using only an empty pop can (which is genuinely impressive), catching a couple of rabbits and building a bed that would put Ikea to shame before waxing lyrically to the audience at home in a manner usually reserved for dashing dreamboats.
Even I found myself going a wee bit red thinking that he was actually talking just to me.
Yes, Diamantopoulos is that engaging as a lead.
Unfortunately things start to go a wee bit awry that evening when Doug is awoken by a loud bang (and no it's not your mum) followed by a terrible wind (again not your mum) and a fairly impressive (for the meagre budget) light display.
Luckily Doug is made of stern stuff so thinking that it's either low flying aircraft - or wolves - he nonchalantly goes back to sleep with a promise to camera to investigate the next morning.
As morning dawns Doug heads to the river to catch a fish or two for breakkie only to discover them all floating dead on the waters surface and a massive hole in the tree line.
Which is a wee bit unexpected.
Assuming that it's either a plane crash or his team mates taking the piss Doug goes with the latter and attempts to ring them on his swanky GPS cum mobile phone only to be met by static.
Unflappable as ever our bearded bushwhacker thinks nothing of it and heads back to camp to skin his rabbit.
As in the one he caught earlier, it's not a euphemism for nature based masturbation.
~But it might as well be seeing as upon his return the rabbit has gone, his bed has been rifled thru and most spooky of all someone has moved the pieces on his mini chess set.
Could Doug have a stalker in the forest?
And if so could it be related to the strange light in the sky?
Or is it in fact just wolves?
Go on, guess.
Playing out like a back to basics Predator - only with Bear Grylls replacing Arnie - Man Vs. is a lean, mean Tribute to The Twilight Zone hat ultimately works because of it's lo-fi feel rather than despite it.
A case in point is the fact that for the majority of the movie we only have one cast member to carry the whole thing, luckily Diamantopoulos is naturally easy-going and genuinely charming enough to pull it off, turning from happy-go-lucky to terrified at the flick of a camera switch.
And nothing showcases this better than the brilliant mix of standard filming with 'found' footage from Doug's cameras which not only adds an air of menace to the scenes of him being watched but is also a unique way to have Doug communicate with the audience.
|Inside Harry Hill's mind.|
So what if the twist is a wee bit obvious from the start (and spoiled somewhat by some slightly shady CG during the reveal)?
Be honest you can't be too disappointed or would you really prefer it to be a chess playing raccoon stalking him in the woods?
Plus if you decide to buy into it and go along for the ride it has a pay-off that would do Rod Serling proud.
Proving once and for all that less can really be more, Man Vs. is well worth a visit.
Just don't forget to pack a hunting knife.