Ryan Justice’s ‘The Wild Man: Skunk Ape’ (2021) Movie Review

If I ask you to think of a movie about Bigfoot, I bet you could come up with a few just off the top of your head. Over the years, there are straight up Bigfoot films plus a plethora of mysterious, unidentifiable, strong, angry creature features like Hunting Grounds (2015 – our review), Abominable (2006), Ape Canyon (2019 – our review), Willow Creek (2013), Exists (2014), Seth Breedlove’s Small Town Monsters series, the upcoming Cryptids and even a combo platter with Bruce Wemple’s Bigfoot vs. Wendigo. We’ve seen Bigfoot as the hunter, being hunted, the subject of scientific experiments, or even the leader of a herd of pissed off creatures.

Today, we’re looking at the mysterious skunk ape, Florida’s own Bigfoot. Check out the only known photo of this cryptozoological creature below.

The Skunk Ape: Bigfoot's Stinky Cousin

He does look a bit like an orangutan or something, doesn’t he? Word is he stinks to high Heaven, which is where he got his name. When I heard about Ryan Justice’s 2021 film, The Wild Man: Skunk Ape, I was interested to see where he would take the story of this unproven creature.


The skunk ape, also known as the Florida Bigfoot, has been rumored to be responsible for several murders in South Florida. A documentary crew sets out to uncover the truth.

The Wild Man: Skunk Ape was directed by Ryan Justice (Followers 2017), co-written by Sean Michael Gloria (Crypt TV’s Monster Madness TV series) and Ian Longen (Followers 2017), stars Gloria along with David E. McMahon (American Guinea Pig: The Song of Solomon 2017 – our review, 13 Slays Till X-Mas 2020 – our review), Michael Paré (Bad Moon 1986 – our retro review), Lauren Crandall (Share Or Die 2021), Julian Green (Lovecraft Country TV series), Tom Parnell (Painkiller 2021 – our review), and Mike Reed.

The Wild Man Skunk Ape 1
Lauren Crandall as Sarah in ‘The Wild Man: Skunk Ape’

The Wild Man: Skunk Ape is a found footage mockumentary that follows three young documentarians—Sarah (Crandall), Brandon (Green), and Tim (Reed)—as they try to solve the mystery of a missing Florida girl. They question the locals, including the Sheriff (Parnell), which leads them to a stereotypical Floridian conspiracy theorist named Dale (McMahon) who believes the crime was caused by a creature known as the Skunk Ape. According to some, he may also be the killer. The trio nervously follow him into the swamp, and for the first 45 minutes, they hunt the Skunk Ape. When they finally do find it, the entire story is turned on its head as military men in ghillie suits appear and start shooting. The second half of the movie is more of a government conspiracy and chase scene, and it feels like a totally different film.

Lauren Crandall, Mike Reed, Julian Green, David E. McMahon, 'The Wild Man: Skunk Ape'
Lauren Crandall, Mike Reed, Julian Green, and David E. McMahon on the set of ‘The Wild Man: Skunk Ape’

What Works

I love the look of the documentary and the simplicity of it all at the beginning of the film. It shows how naive the filmmakers are, and as The Wild Man: Skunk Ape continues, everything gets continuously darker and more dangerous. I’m impressed with the fact that this is not your average, jumpy found footage film. Yes, it’s all a bit too perfectly centered, but I never really felt motion sickness like I sometimes do with other films in this genre.

Cryptozoologist/conspiracy theorist Dale is one crazy mofo and my favorite character from the film. David E. McMahon gave it his all for this character. He’s loud and brash, but also sweet, especially when he talks about the missing girl. I also love Lauren Crandall’s portrayal of Sarah. She brings a passion to the role that makes the viewer understand why Brandon and Tim follow her into this adventure.

When he’s shown, the Skunk Ape is pretty cool looking. He’s also pretty pissed off, but I would be, too, if I was in his situation. The lighting in the first half of the film is fantastic, even after everything switches to the red emergency lights of the military building.

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Michael Pare as Captain Stryker in ‘The Wild Man: Skunk Ape’

What Doesn’t Work

As sometimes happens with lower budget films, the dialogue in The Wild Man: Skunk Ape can be a bit hard to hear. if I hadn’t watched on my laptop with earbuds in, I probably would have missed half of what was said.

There isn’t much gore here, either. As soon as you think you’re going to see something cool, the screen statics out and goes black. I wouldn’t have minded this once, but it kept happening, which is disappointing. There is a severed head that comes rolling into the room at one point, so props for that.

I do think the film could have been edited down a bit as the last half hour was one big chase scene through the military facility. This got boring pretty quickly, especially since the Captain (Paré) didn’t learn anything from what his soldiers told him and just kept sending them out to be redshirts to the beast. Rinse and repeat.

The Wild Man, Skunk Ape, David E. McMahon, Lauren Crandall
David E. McMahon, Lauren Crandall, and Julian Green in ‘The Wild Man: Skunk Ape’

Final Thoughts

The Wild Man: Skunk Ape is an imaginative look at Florida’s Bigfoot that brings more light to its mystery while also tying in local missing persons cases and military secrets. However, the end result is a bit cluttered and padded for time. As tis is only Ryan Justice’s second feature film, I have high hopes for what he brings to us genre fans in the future.

For more information about The Wild Man: Skunk Ape, visit the film’s Facebook page.

About Tracy Allen

As the co-owner and Editor-in-Chief of PopHorror.com, Tracy has learned a lot about independent horror films and the people who love them. Now an approved critic for Rotten Tomatoes, she hopes the masses will follow her reviews back to PopHorror and learn more about the creativity and uniqueness of indie horror movies.

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