Laced with tension-fueled anxiety and a moody aura, The Wild Man of the Navidad realizes an old Texas legend with a vintage '70s horror visage. Based on the journals of Texan Dale S. Rogers, the film follows Dale, his wheelchair-bound wife Jean, and her oft-shirtless, lazy-eyed caretaker Mario, who fondles Jean whenever he can. They live on a ranch in the sparsely populated, moonshine-soaked Texas town of Sublime, where Dale's family has lived for more than five generations. Each night, he sets food out on his porch, but this isn't for any pet cat-it's for a mysterious creature that, according to local lore, has inhabited the Navidad River bottom for more than 100 years. Inside, Dale, Jean, and Mario wait in silent paranoia while the house shakes with growls and snarls right outside their door. Though the ranch sits on vast acres prime for hunting, Dale has resisted opening up the land. But after the prodding of some of the rifle-loving townsfolk and the loss of his job, he gives in and opens the gate to the compound-then the hunter becomes the hunted. Made on a shoestring budget with a limited crew and local non-actors joining the professional ones, Duane Graves and Justin Meeks (who also stars as Dale) have crafted a haunting journey, filled with Texas-sized eeriness and bizarre characters. Less concerned with making a bloodand-guts slasher flick (though it was coproduced by Kim Henkel of the 1974 classic Texas Chain Saw Massacre), Graves and Meeks employ a form of terror that comes from the unknown. At times schlocky and strange, The Wild Man of the Navidad proves that less is more.
Director's Statement Collapse
One of my earliest memories of the drive-in experience was watching 70s drive-in horror-master Charles B. Pierce's The Legend of Boggy Creek and The Town That Dreaded Sundown
. The documentary/narrative hybrid he created was a perfect blend of drama and reality, way ahead of its time, and fit so perfectly with this mysterious creature called Bigfoot I kept hearing about on television shows like In Search Of
. Those films scared the crap out of me, mainly because they looked as if they were filmed in my own backyard. So I watched them a few hundred times.
Back then, horror plots were smooth, clean, linear lines before they became all about unnecessary plot twists, gratuitous violence, and cheap startles. Before they were poisoned with dizzying editing, campy humor, and whispering kids singing "Ring Around the Rosies." Nope, the golden days of the genre yielded gritty regional films that turned the audience's own imaginations against them and shared the common goal of creating an unsettling atmosphere and trapping unsuspecting viewers in it for 80-plus minutes. A much more harrowing experience, and that's exactly what we strove for.
Mr. Meeks and myself were determined to stick as closely to Mr. Roger's writings and illustrations as possible, so we decided to design a creature unlike any we had seen in earlier films of the class. Although we aimed to deviate from the stereotypically simple "ape suit," we wanted the picture to have all the analog earmarks of the original Bigfoot movies we know and love—minus the excess cheesiness. Was it possible to make a truly scary Bigfoot movie in 2007? We sure as hell were going to find out. Our hope is that genre fans will enjoy what we feel is an honest homage to vintage horror. We'd love nothing more than to see a resurgence of these story-driven tales that have not cast their spells in quite some time. Mr. Pierce, we haven't forgotten you.
Cast & Credits Collapse
Principal Cast Justin Meeks, Tony Wolford, Charlie Hurtin, Alex Garcia, Stacy Meeks, Edmond Geyer
Screenwriters Duane Graves, Justin Meeks
Producers Duane Graves, Justin Meeks, Kim Henkel
Co-Producer Kim Henkel
Director of Photography Duane Graves
Executive Producer Roxanne Robertson
Production Manager Jack Meeks
Editors Duane Graves, Justin Meeks
About the Director(s)Collapse
Duane Graves (b. San Antonio, Texas) earned a film degree from Texas A&M and directed the critically acclaimed documentary Up Syndrome, an intimate portrait of Down Syndrome. The film won several awards at festivals across the country, including Slamdance. Graves cofounded Greeks Productions with Justin Meeks in 2001. Justin Meeks (b. Corpus Christi, Texas) earned degrees in psychology and film from Texas A&M. He has had acting roles on Prison Break, Friday Night Lights, and Kings of the Evening. He recently wrote, codirected, and starred in the short film Rio Peligroso: A Day in the Life of a Legendary Coyote, which won director Kevin Smith's Movies Askew contest.