The Wild Man of the Navidad
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This movie is allegedly based on the real-life journals of Dale S. Rogers, a man who, in the 1970s, lived along the banks of the Navidad River in Sublime, Texas - the same area where the original legend of the Wild Man of the Navidad surfaced back in the late 1800s. The film follows Dale, his wheelchair-bound wife Jean, and her oft-shirtless, lazy-eyed caretaker Mario. Though their ranch sits on vast acres prime for paying hunters, Dale has resisted opening up the land because of the strange, Bigfoot like creatures supposedly inhabiting it. But after the prodding of some of the rifle-loving townsfolk and the loss of his welding job, Dale gives in and opens the gate to his compound. Then the hunters become the hunted. [D-Man2010]

34 years ago, Kim Henkel produced arguably the single most influential horror movie of the modern age: THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. Now he has teamed up with the young and talented Justin Meeks and Duane Graves for another frightening rural Texas tale.

We've seen plenty of low-budget period films cross our desk in the years of doing the festival, and very few get it spot-on correct. THE WILD MAN nails it, down to every last detail. The look, feel, style and even the pacing of the film gives the impression that you are actually watching a forgotten classic from the Dixie drive-in circuit.

Allegedly based on the diaries of Dale S. Rogers, the Wildman of the Navidad centers on a quiet, bookish man in a small Texas town. He keeps to himself, doesn't socialize much with his neighbors, and with the help of a Mexican handyman cares for his severely invalid wife. When he unexpectedly loses his job as a welder, he has no choice but to open up his virgin ranch land to deer hunters for the first time in decades. This seemingly innocent decision has dire, bloody consequences, however, as his property is also home to creatures who don't take kindly to the disruption of their way of life.

With THE WILD MAN OF THE NAVIDAD, you have to attune yourself to a certain level of, let's call it, "naive" acting. I personally forgave that pretty quickly, chalking it up to the charm of this film. Clearly the filmmakers are using a LOT of non-actors and colorful Texas good-ol-boys, probably regulars of the actual watering hole in the actual town in which they shot. The makers of southern exploitation classics PSYCHO FROM TEXAS and POLK COUNTY POT PLANE followed the same philosophy. It worked for them, and it works for WILD MAN. A lot of it's cinematic texture actually comes from these guys despite their stiff delivery. Lines of dialogue, like a father showing his son how to make a "cactus pussy," feel genuine and almost improvised.

It's the other end of the spectrum for co-director, co-writer and lead actor Justin Meeks. The range of emotions with which his character has to deal is vast and you read every nuance through subtle variations in his very reserved and introverted personality. Is he a monster himself, or simply an honest man backed in to a corner who will do anything to preserve his family? Watch WILD MAN OF THE NAVIDAD and judge for yourself. This one stuck with me for a while after watching, and you will enjoy it. [D-Man2010]


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