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Whoa-oh here she comes…”Maneater”

October 6, 2008

Aw c’mon, Sci Fi Channel! You’re not even trying anymore! I’m basing this off of Maneater, yet another take on the “wild-beast-attacks-locals-in-a-quaint-small-town-that-resembles-Canada” genre which you all seem so fond of. This time around, however, the sheer laziness and stupidity of the film hit some kind of high-water mark. You couldn’t even think of an original monster. A Bengal tiger. Really? Not even a mutant Bengal tiger? A hyper-intelligent Bengal tiger with opposable thumbs? Nope. Your garden-variety Busch Gardens tiger. I can’t wait until next month’s feature when an ornery donkey escapes from a children’s zoo and goes on a rampage. See, I can be a Sci Fi Channel Movie writer too.

Okay, so Maneater. Well, you pretty much got the gist of it already. One misty night a kid sleepwalks out of his trailer and into the middle of a highway where a truck swerves to avoid him and wrecks. Big problem with that is that the truck was carrying a big, Bengal tiger. It’s actually kind of cute. It gives the kid a once-over, then pads off. No problemo, right? Were it that the movie ended here. Nope. The next day a jogger goes missing. The kindly Sheriff (a very drunk, or very sedated Gary Busey) and one of his deputies comb the woods only to find some bloody remains. At the same time, a hunter in a deer blind is snatched (the blind is a good twenty feet off the ground, so apparently tigers can fly). Well, the Sheriff wasn’t born yesterday. He knows something is amiss, so he talks to the county coroner. The coroner blithely informs him that the injuries are consistent with a Bengal tiger (I guess coroner school has a class “weird-ass bite marks and the animals that cause them.”)

From here, the movie hits all the typical Jaws waypoints. Sheriff Barbituates desperately tries to close the beaches…er, woods (?). The evil mayor, however, wants to keep them open for the lucrative Fourth of July Apple Festival. Of course the news gets ahold of the story and descends upon the sleepy hamlet. Entertainment Weekly even posts a website offering a reward to anyone who kills the tiger. Ok, hang on a sec…Entertainment Weekly? A magazine dedicated to, um, ENTERTAINMENT is covering the tiger? I’m thinking the stable of Sci-Fi Movie writers just got fed up with EW criticizing their, uh, “work” and wrote this in as a dig against them. Wow. That stung.

Okay, so at the same time we get a turgid subplot with the kid who caused the wreck. He lives in a trailer in the woods with his Jesus-freak mother who gives him biblically-based explanations for all his questions. Like, why he doesn’t go to school: “because I need to protect you from the evils and temptations of the world.” Why they don’t watch the news, “The television’s filled with lies. We get all the information we need from the Good Book.” Well, it’s a safe bet who she’s voting for in the next Presidential election. Anyway, the kids skulks around the woods looking for the tiger.

So, back in the land of the not-quite-so-Jesus-freaky, a bunch of reporters have now been eaten by the tiger. Sheriff Glazed-Over-Eyes does the next logical thing—he calls in the National Guard. I guess the best way to deal with a rare, endangered, exotic animal in your town’s woods is by having the military hunt it. Thank God an African elephant didn’t get loose; the Sheriff probably would have called in an airstrike. Coming to town on the heels of the military is Quint Colonel Graham (Ian D. Clark), a fearless shark tiger hunter who appears to have stepped out of a Rudyard Kipling short story. Graham is British, wears a field jacket, pith helmet and sports a Poirot mustache. He also has a dark secret. Years earlier his crewmates were eaten by sharks when the USS Indianapolis was torpedoed son was eaten by a tiger. While he goes on his errand of revenge, there are all sorts of scenes in which the tiger silently kills a bunch of military guys with the speed and stealth of an Israeli commando.

So it all builds to a fiery climax (literally) when the tiger attacks the kid’s Bible-thumper mom at the general store where she works (yeah, this is the kind of town that still has a general store…the kind of town from 100 years ago). Colonel Graham gets the kid to safety and tries to kill the tiger, but turns out to be a really, really bad shot. The tiger mauls the kid’s mom to death and injures Graham before Sheriff I-Should-Probably-Muster-Some-Kind-of-Emotion-For-the-Scary-Parts (seriously, by this stage of the movie Busey is starting to look like Nick Nolte’s mugshot) blows it up by shooting a nearby propane tank. Colonel Graham goes back to India to, uh, put down the rabble, I suppose. And the Sheriff and his wife (who we’ve been told over and over again are unable to have children, despite praying really hard) adopt the kid. Yay! Now he gets to go to school like a regular kid and watch TV…which undoubtedly will be helpful in cleansing the image of his mother’s violent death from his mind.

Okay, so Maneater. What have learned from this little slice of cinematic purgatory?

1) “Shock and Awe” is also a good way to deal with rogue endangered species.
2) If you pray hard enough, God will answer your prayers in the form of a Bengal tiger, which kills a solid dozen people.
3) Tigers are the ninjas of the animal kingdom.
4) When making a killer tiger movie, do not use the friendliest tiger in the world. The climactic and horrific mauling scene just looks like the thing’s playfully nuzzling the actress
5) Gary Busey is really rough shape.

6 comments

  1. Don’t forget Attack of the Sabretooth, Sci-Fi channel’s answer to Jurassic Park!


  2. I’ve been trying to get a copy!


  3. I love that we live in a world in which scriptwriters don’t ask themselves, “Hey, if you were expecting someone to deliver a Bengal tiger, wouldn’t you notify some authorities or something when it didn’t show up?”.

    Tigers can be really scary. In the Sunderbans. Also in the San Francisco Zoo. Not so much in Canada.


  4. In the movies, er, defense, they did suggest that the tiger was a black market pet. Maybe Mike Tyson moved into the neighborhood.


  5. It’s really poignant that your entry occurs on the 5 year anniversary of this event:
    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/10/06/national/main576816.shtml


  6. That totally wasn’t planned. I remember when that happened. The world was a more innocent place then.



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