Doug (Chris Diamantopoulos) is the star of his own reality show where he is left in the wilderness for days at a time and forced to survive. Getting ready to shoot the first episode of season three, Doug heads into the woods of Northern Ontario with the hopes that this will be the year the show really takes off. Things go as smoothly as possible as Doug sets up his camp and begins shooting some footage, but by the end of the first night, things are starting to get strange. Something, or someone, is stalking around Doug’s camp and as their interference starts to frighten him, Doug realizes that it might be more than the woods he’ll have to survive.
It seems like this is the year to be afraid of the woods as there have been a number of films released where some unlucky people wind up getting stalked by unseen predators in cottage country. Man Vs. brings a very unique twist on the idea, but leaves very little in the way of mystery.
There’s a great premise to explain the found footage aspect of the movie as Doug stars in his own reality show. At least we have a reason for the occasionally shaky cam work, but the film doesn’t use this viewpoint very often, so there’s no reason to be turned off. Doug is usually shooting himself with stationary cameras from multiple angles, so there’s still the feeling of watching a regular film. This is also a great way to get Doug into the woods alone without a guide or the supplies he should really need.
The twist of who is following Doug around is spoiled very early on, and it’s a revelation that you’ll either love or hate. If you can deal with it, the payoff is fantastic and the film ends on the perfect note. Even if you’re unwilling to accept the reality that Doug is trapped in, the film still does a wonderful job of building tension as Doug finds more ways in which his camp has been tampered with. The jump scares are limited as the film builds fear through simple little touches, and they don’t always come in the night.
Diamantopoulos has to carry much of the film, and he’s charming enough to pull it off. He tries to put on a positive face while filming, but once he stops recording for the show, his terror is obvious. It’s easy to believe that Doug would be the star of a show like this, even if you have to ignore the fact that he rarely eats, never seems to drink, and still manages to keep full of energy.