Now here's an intentionally grungy and effectively low-budget horror flick that actually feels like it's been hidden in a vault for the last thirty years. Allegedly based on some actual documented events that took place deep inside Texas during the 1970s, The Wild Man of the Navidad is certainly nothing new under the horror sun, but it's an admirably rustic, respectably presented, and (eventually) rather spirited little terror tale.
Our semi-hero is a misfit named Dale Rogers, who putters around in Sublime, Texas, as a welder of some sort. Poor Dale has a very sick wife, a rather twisted best friend/roommate, and a ravenous man-beast roaming his acreage. But when Dale loses his job, he's forced to open up his land for deer hunting, despite the fact that he KNOWS there's a ravenous man-beast roaming his acreage. Toss in a few subplots about moonshine, spooky legends, and creepy perversions, and you've got a flick that would probably make for a good double feature with Sasquatch or The Legend of Boggy Creek. (If you remember either of those movies, then you'll probably dig this one.)
Co-creators Duane Graves and Justin Meeks, along with original Texas Chainsaw Massacre producer Kim Henkel, do an impressive job of re-creating the look of '70s exploitation flicks, with their slightly sketchy visual style, their odd divergences into redneck country, and their unwavering commitment to the "slow burn" horror style -- with just a few nasty bits early on, just to keep you curious. And while Wild Man most definitely has a little bit of fat on its bones, for the most part it moves forward at a brisk clip and offers just enough dark drama to keep the horror hounds satisfied until the nasty stuff shows up.
Although many of the supporting actors are clearly amateurs (and that's me being nice), there are definitely a few strong performances to be found. In particular, multi-hatted Meeks does a surprisingly excellent job of creating a main character who is both weirdly sympathetic and rather plainly despicable -- and that's not an easy thing for an actor to pull off. As Rogers' housemate, Alex Garcia is also pretty strong. He's an interesting character because he knows more about "the monster" than anyone else, but he also has a nasty habit of molesting Dale's invalid wife whenever he gets the chance ... which is all sorts of nasty. (Nasty and perhaps a bit unnecessary, all things considered, as the ugly behavior never really leads anywhere in the movie.)
Clearly made with some thorough knowledge and passion for '70s exploitation terrors, The Wild Man of the Navidad isn't one of those "OMG you gotta see it" indie horror flicks, but if you're a longtime devotee of the genre, there's certainly more than enough here to keep you entertained. I wouldn't complain if the flick were trimmed by about eight or ten minutes, but it's definitely got more credits than debits -- plus it's actually a little scary, occasionally funny, and rather enthusiastically splattery before it's all done with.