Call of the Cryptid Movie Review: ‘The Wild Man: Skunk Ape’ (2021)

Jack Shealy, left, is a fifth generation Gladesman from a well known family that lives in the Everglades. The family owns Skunk Ape Headquarters and campground in Ochopee.Skunkape
Jack Shealy, left, is a fifth generation Gladesman from a well known family that lives in the Everglades. The family owns Skunk Ape Headquarters and campground in Ochopee.Skunkape /

Directed by Ryan Justice and released by Justified Films, The Wild Man: Skunk Ape is a cryptid-themed found footage horror flick chiefly starring Lauren Crandall, Julian Green, Mike Reed, and Michael Paré (who has less screen time than one might think, but gives this movie a bit more star power). I know what some of you might be thinking right away: “Another found footage movie?! I hate those!” Obviously, it can be tricky to get around that, if you’re already of that mindset. In fact, I’ll admit that The Wild Man: Skunk Ape does have some The Blair Witch Project vibes right out of the gate.

However, I think this movie can potentially be enjoyed, especially because it deals with a cryptid with a lovable, yet stinky name: The skunk ape. Without getting too much into detail, the skunk ape is sometimes called the “Florida bigfoot,” and it supposedly stinks significantly, much like the creature of its namesake, the much-dreaded yet relatively harmless skunk. In this story, someone named Samantha Johnson is missing, and a documentary film crew has shown up to investigate the case, which they (and others) believe is connected to similar recent cases. For that extra dash of realism, they head to Ochopee, Florida, which is a real place one can find on a map.

‘The Wild Man: Skunk Ape’ is a mystery

In the Blair Witch-style interview sequences, parts of the story are pieced together with loose strands of information. For example, there is some speculation that it’s a serial killer and not a skunk ape at all, which adds a bit of complexity to the story and hints at some foul play by humans (rather than only foul odors from the skunk ape). So is it the skunk ape (AKA “the wild man”)? I don’t want to give too much away here, but I will say that there’s a bit more complexity to this film’s plot.

The strengths of ‘The Wild Man: Skunk Ape’

As often happens in horror movies, one of my favorite characters here is not the main one, but a side character; in this case, it’s a skunk ape tracker/trapper named Dale (David E. McMahon). Not only does he add humor to the story, but complexity, as some townspeople seem to speculate he might actually be a serial killer responsible for those disappearances. Sure, Dale initially comes across as sort of a redneck stereotype, but he does guide the story along, just as he ends up guiding the documentary into the woods. Ostensibly, the documentary film’s main stars are Sarah (Crandall), Brandon (Green), and Tim (Reed), but for some, it will be Dale and the skunk ape himself.

The Wild Man
The Wild Man – Courtesy Terror Films /

Though this film does have some action related directly to the creature, some of the drama is from humans, which is what many people would want in any monster movie. So, for example, there is some nice tension caused by Mr. Johnson (father to the missing Samantha, played by Tom Elgin). Granted, no one’s winning an Oscar for the performances here, but the point is simply that it’s not just an action-oriented flick.

At the same time, for some people, that might actually be considered a weakness, depending on one’s inclinations. Still, for me, the main strength was Dale the skunk ape conservationist and his “crazy beliefs,” who teaches us that the creature’s attracted to a certain type of blood (something often said about bears, too).

Weaknesses of ‘The Wild Man: Skunk Ape’?

I would be lying if I said this movie was absolutely perfect from every conceivable vantage point. Suffice it to say, there aren’t many complaints here that couldn’t be made about the found footage genre overall. Maybe there are a few scenes that go on a little too long, or maybe a person won’t find the performances absolutely top-notch, and all of that standard stuff. Also, I readily predict some dismissively saying the movie doesn’t give us anything new. However, if you are into cryptid lore and want a creature feature with elements of mystery and maybe a twist or two, you could absolutely do worse than seeing this.

According to the publicists for this film:

“[The Wild Man: Skunk Ape] will first premiere on digital platforms September 30 ahead of plays on the Terror Films and Kings of Horror YouTube Channels.”

TERRITORY:                              NORTH AMERICA

RELEASE DATE 1:                    9/30/22 – DIGITAL

RELEASE DATE 2:                    10/7/22 – TERROR FILMS CHANNEL

RELEASE DATE 2:                    10/14/22 – KOH CHANNEL

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What are your thoughts on The Wild Man: Skunk Ape, the skunk ape myth, and cryptids overall? Feel free to tell us in the comments!