Directed by Michael Emanuel
If there’s one thing I’ll take away from my experience watching Maneater, it's knowing that Conrad Janis is still alive. Remember Mindy’s dad on “Mork & Mindy”? That was like 30 years ago. Not only is Conrad Janis still alive, I saw him in a rare appearance where the character he portrayed was not an orchestra leader.
As for the rest of Maneater, well, there’s not much to be taken away from the experience of watching it. It has the look and feel of a Syfy original movie frontloaded with some gratuitous nudity to take your mind off the drudgery. I got the sense there was a halfway decent b-monster movie buried somewhere below the mounds of tedium that comprise far too much of its running time.
Dean Cain is an ex-FBI profiler turned small-town sheriff. He’s also an overprotective widower way too interested in the status of his daughter’s virginity – more on that in a moment. Being an ex-FBI profiler I guess explains how he can take one look at a crime scene he hasn’t investigated and immediately visualize in his head every detail of the crime. Or it could be because he committed the crime and doesn’t remember doing so.
The killings are the work of a wendigo of Native American legend. Maybe it’s just because I’m so used to seeing the wendigo depicted in movies, television and comic books as some sort of pale werewolf-like creature or hairy-hoofed manbeast with antlers, but the very first moment I got a good look at this wendigo, I immediately thought the Cryptkeeper had finally decided to embrace his dark side. The werecorpse look of this wendigo straddles a fine line between sinister and silly.
So is Sheriff Dean Cain the wendigo but doesn’t realize it? I would hope so because if he’s not, then his character’s controlling obsession with his teenage daughter, in particular her sex life, makes him even creepier than the supernatural creature on the prowl.
Cain’s character is clearly not right in the head regardless of whether or not it turns out he’s also a Native American shape-shifting cannibal corpse in disguise. He sometimes forgets his wife is dead, and his interest in his daughter’s chastity comes across less like a protective father not wanting his daughter getting sexually active too soon and more like there’s a part of his mind thinking he deserves first crack at it. Maybe I misread some of the scenes, but that sure was the vibe I got.
Other than the (anticlimactic) mystery of who is the wendigo and Cain’s unhealthy obsession with his daughter’s hoo-ha, Maneater remains a poorly paced creature feature that’s barely average at best. For every moment that perked my interest, whether it be the “Tales from the Crypt” wendigo claiming a victim or ridiculousness like when the teenagers go hunting for a friend dragged off into the woods by the monster and end up face-to-snout with a grizzly bear, there are too many stretches in-between where taking a nap seemed to be a viable option. But I wouldn’t advise doing so, lest you want to risk experiencing as many dream sequences as the movie trots out. I lost count of the number of times Dean Cain awakened startled.
Conrad Janis lives!
2 out of 5
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