You've got to admire the modern day Sci-Fi Channel movie. They've got a formula for giant-animal-on-the-loose filmmaking that has churned out an unbelievable number of ultra-cheap fright flicks. Take some flimsily animated CGI creature, add several unappealing and/or unremarkable characters to serve as fodder, find a locale (preferably a small town) with lots of surrounding woods that can be unconvincingly blue-lit for night scenes, and dig up some has-been actor to serve as the authority figure lead. It's even better if you can blatantly rip off scenes from good movies. Voila! You've got yourself a 90 minute time-waster.
Maneater is yet another in a long, long line of these films, and yes, it has aired on the Sci-Fi Channel before being released on DVD. Gee, can you guess by the title what creature of the week headlines this one? About the only thing original in this go-round is that apparently the tiger is real, not CGI.
In Maneater, gravelly-voiced Gary Busey plays the town sheriff, who, at the start of the film, is introduced in a scene where - Are you ready for this? - he resolves a dispute between two old ladies having rival quilt sales on the town's sidewalks. Yes, this is one tough cop with a dangerous beat. If it weren't so laughably sad, I'd give the screenwriters credit for at least trying something original.
Well, anyway, a Bengal tiger is released when a truck crashes and the animal goes on the obligatory killing spree. In between slayings of nondescript characters that occur off-screen to save money, we get a sleepwalking kid with a Carrie-style mother, some Jaws-ish worrying about the safety of civilians versus an important corn and apple community event that will bring in a lot of money, and a coroner who talks about human body parts being devoured while he eats a plate of red meat (how many times have you seen that little joke since Bram Stoker's Dracula?). Through it all, Busey's facial expressions make him look like he's severely constipated.
And there you have Maneater. It's not entirely awful as popcorn matinee, but the decision to go "real" with the tiger means there's even less creature time than normal. Usually, Sci Fi Channel pictures with CG terrors are at least fun to laugh at. Here, it's the usual formula without even that dubious saving grace.
Maneater is presented in an anamorphic widescreen transfer. The image is serviceable, but details are a bit lacking, especially in scenes set in the woods.
There is only one audio option: an English 5.1 track that sounds surprisingly good, but at times seems just slightly out of sync with the image. I couldn't decide for sure, but I
think there may have been a mastering problem as occasionally sound effects were slightly off as well as the dialogue. The problem seemed to come and go throughout the film. Once I noticed it, it was distracting in the sense that I kept looking for it for the rest of the film.
This release is decidedly bare bones. Trailers for similar-styled low budget shockers Furnace, In the Spider's Web, and Blood Monkey play automatically when the DVD is started; however they are not linked in the menu system.
There are no other special features, as the menu only has these options: Play and Scene Selection.
Maneater is a by-the-books Sci-Fi Channel nature-on-a-rampage thriller that isn't really even fun on an Ed Wood level. It has one of the quickest end credits sequences I've seen in a recent film, as if the cast and crew don't want their names to be read. I wouldn't blame them. Gary Busey warrants some laughs as he hams up his screen time, but it's not enough. Skip it.