This is a true story. So claims the opening of “The Wild Man of the Navidad”, the tale of a strange beast terrorizing inhabitants near the town of Sublime, Texas. Rumors have existed for years that a single beast, or even a pack of them, roamed the area. No conclusive proof existed. That was, until the journals of Dale S. Rogers were discovered.
Rogers lives with his invalid wife and his housekeeper, Mario, on a 600-acre ranch outside of Sublime. Deer season has just begun, and the other hunters are upset that the family refuses to open up its land to the hunt. The Rogers and Mario know that the Wild Man, a bestial creature, roams that part of the ranch. To open it up to hunters would mean death; either for them or for the unknown creature.
Rogers loses his job in town, and soon has no choice but to open up part of the land for day hunts. As a result, his peaceful arrangement with the beast is void, and as the wild man hunts, the townsfolk start dying off. In the end, it’s Bigfoot vs. Billy Bob in a fight to the death.
“Wild Man” offers a number of mixed techniques to tip off the viewers. Dale and Mario speak in Spanish (so several key points in the movie rely on subtitles). There is fortunately very little expositional dialogue, creating the vibe that the townspeople know as little about the creature as the viewers do.
The Wild Man appears exactly as that; a husky figure in furs and bone. There’s no need for a chainsaw or power tools with this savage. His appearance is well-designed, and fits the film well. Tony Wolford portrays the feral man with a nice mix of brute force and intelligence.
Visually, the film portrays the gritty, dusty, fried food atmosphere of rural Texas well. Several characters are set up from the beginning as sexist, selfish and greedy. The dialogue is shot with tight shots and stark contrasts in lighting to build tension. The music and transition shots serve up the open range and hillbilly attitudes.
Dale is a tragic character, an underdog from the introduction. His wife’s condition and the secrets he’s forced to keep put him in a vulnerable situation. Viewers will have to decide if he truly fears for the safety of the hunters, or if he’s slowly exacting his revenge on the greedy old-boys network.
The only curious element to the DVD is the cover, which is a cartoon representation of the Wild Man. Keeping viewers more in the dark might have helped to add suspense to the film.
“The Wild Man of the Navidad” has ties to another famous Texas-based flick, “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”. Co- producer Kim Henkel was an associate producer on the original Massacre, and produced the remake and prequel as well.