The Horror of Sasquatch:
Cinematic Bigfoots Part I
I'll watch almost anything with Lance Henriksen in it. Even when he phones it in he's pretty good, & occasionally he rises far above the horrible scripts he agrees to help turn into movies.
The illiterately titled Sasquatch: The Untold (2003) really sounded like a stinker of no merit, but I wanted to see Lance anyhow. Given my low expectation, I turned out thinking it was pretty good.
The film takes forever to get round to showing the sasquatch, but he's an okay monster when they do get round to him. The costume for the sasquatch is minimalist; there are some shots when it just looks like a guy painted black with some hair glued on to give his arms & legs a bit of fringe, he's not otherwise all that hairy. In other scenes this mostly-human appearance is itself a disturbing aspect; the point really was that this was a primitive homonid (human) & not just an ape.
There was some amateur film footage found in the crashed airplane that gives the rescue team some clues to what happened to the missing people -- this footage seems to be an intentional homage to Blair Witch & adds some texture & variety to the slow first half of the film before all hell breaks loose with the avenging sasquatch.
The film is also a throw-back to Universal monster movies when monsters were sympathetic. I always like sympathetic monsters. I'm also growing increasingly fond of films that rely on actors instead of CGI effects. Far too many horror-fantasies have amateur acting around the edges of some computer effects, & that's so tiresome; but there are no seriously bad actors in this, & they make every effort to give the film substance, & succeed as much as can be expected of such a minor script.
The director/screenwriter is visible in all the dialogue, scene after scene comes off like the writer trying to figure out something else to do in the woods that might stretch it all out to an hour & a half. Even so, the actors try their best with thin material & succeed more often than not.
I can recommend this to anyone who shares my enthusiasm for crappy horror, as it has just barely enough good in it to justify itself as crappy horror.
I was charmed beforehand by the sweetness of the young filmmakers behind the camera on this one, so I took copious notes while watching Abominable (2006), a minimalist horror film set mainly in one man's upstairs room.
But I've now decided the damned film just isn't worth a full blown article. So tossing all the notes aside, here are the general impressions that lingered a couple days later.
The yunkers who made Abominable do care about horror, but caring didn't give them enough talent to pull it off particularly well. It keeps the action coming fast, in an effort to be exciting even if the individual parts aren't actually meritorious.
It's a retro Creature Feature & it lets you see lots & lots of the monster, once the film begins letting you see him at all. Unfortunately he's such an obvious shag carpet suit with a minimally articulated head mask (scary until you realize you can see the actor through the mouth), I'd just as soon not seen so much of him.
That fact that Abominable is "intentionally" trying to be like a kitschy no-good movie from the 1970s or 1980s is supposed to make it forgiveable that the phony sasquatch is for shit.
The first act is dominated by actors most of us horror fans gladly pay to see. Lance Henrikson is the "I just like to kill things" hunter who the sasquatch liked to kill. After working opposite quite a good sasquatch in Sasquatch: The Untold, it must've been hard to mug at this one with a look of terror rather than laughter.
Playing off Lance is Jeffrey Combs doing an especially loony character-bit as a gas station attendent turned sasquatch guide, a chain-smoking sufferer of emphezima with coke-bottle-bottom glasses making him bug-eyed.
He's not actually acting all that well but he seems to be having a good time & even though it was already obvious the film was a turd, I was enjoying it while Jeffrey & Lance were carrying on.
Nothing these appealing actors are given to perform was entirely worth the effort, & I'm sure they were glad to be killed off right away & sent home. The rest of us had to sit through the rest, watching actors of comparatively little interest doing work of limited merit, striving to drum up some abject terror for the shag carpet suit.
A guy in a wheelchair has to save one of the girls. In cheesy exploitation stories, all women but a single heroine are just lunchmeat.
Our crippled hero fights the sasquatch in a story that takes several of its pointers from Hitchock's Rear Window (1954) but never quite makes it minimally believable how way out in the middle of nowhere on the mountainside, two suburban houses would be "isolated" practically in each others' back yards.
From its unbelievable location that allows the whole thing to be shot in the bedroom & on the stair landing, bad actors are terrified from outside & inside the house, & finally in the car, by shag-carpet-man, whom no injury can kill.
When the main two characters survive, we're given a little fillip at the end that would thrill the hell out of a nine year old. Which must be how old the screenwriter was when he thought up this story.
And as an unimportant aside "Abominable" is a Yeti moniker. No one calls sasquatches by the name of its Himilayan cousin, just like nobody calls Yetis bigfoots. That's just a minor quibble for a film which is one long reason to complain, but it does show they just weren't thinking.
Lance Henrikson must've felt like he was on a role getting to star in not one, not two, but three cheapo sasquatch movies, number three in the unrelated set being Sasquatch Mountain (2006).
It was initially advertised as The Devil in the Mountain but underwent a name-change shortly before it debuted on the sci-fi channel.
This one's disappointing because the story is mostly about bank robbers vs hostages & cops. Lance is one of the hostages, & he's the only thing worthy of the least attention.
The sasquatch is nearly beside the point. It turns up now & then as though from a totally different movie to kill someone or another. In a horror sub-genre well-known for stupidity, this one makes an effort to out-stupid the rest.
If the sasquatch had been left out altogether it might've been a so-so low-budget Lance Henrikson vehicle. Or if the sasquatch had been better integrated with the story, it was certainly a better design for one than ranted his way through Abominable.
Another sasquatch-as-monster movie is Joy N. Houck's The Creature from Black Lake; aka, Demon of the Lake (1976) which finds its nasty sasquatch in the Louisiana bayou.
A lot of time is spent on characterization & rural town life, with the monster a tad under-utilized, which is more effective than if over-utilized. Geezerly character actors Jack Elam & Dub Taylor are nice to see, especially Elam, though the actual stars are young nobodies who can't impress. Watch for director Joy N. Houck Jr., self-cast as Professor Burch.
It's a tight, well-made B monster flick that doesn't disappoint, with some surprisingly moody naturalistic scope cinematography making the bayou seem truly a place where such a creature might live. There's a grittiness about the cinematography that may be accidental byproduct of a low budget, but it really feels intentional to get a cinema verite feeling.
It'll entertain adults & scare younger viewers, though some parents may take exception to the kids being exposed to the drive-in-movie moderate level of sexploitation typical for the 1970s. It does not score high in the originality department because other than being set in Louisiana instead of Arkansas or the Pacific Northwest, it's the same old often filmed tale.
Apart from an array of "real" cryptozoological documentaries taking themselves too damned seriously, there are a few phony documentaries that are in reality works of fiction about sasquatches.
Ed Ragozzino's Sasquatch, the Legend of Bigfoot (1977) follows a "scientific" expedition into the darkest Pacific Northwest (the Three Sisters region of Oregon) to prove the reality of the beast, with intent of attaching a radio collar to a specimen.
It mixes would-be suspense drama complete with an effective horror soundtrack with a documentary style. Incorporating all the research materials for a junior highschool essay directly into the narration & the storytelling-time for the "old codger," the "white guy cast as Native American," & the cowboy-suited researchers gathered 'round the campfire telling each other folk tales of sasquatches.
Even the 1960s Roger Patterson footage of a "real" bigfoot is spliced in. The movie takes over an hour for our intrepid explorers to find a bigfoot footprint. We'll never see much of the tubby guy in the sasquatch suit, & we'll never see much happening at all.
A lot of nature is spliced in of the "look over there!" cut to stock footage. A cougar attack & a bear attack on our research party is pretty hoky since animals & humans couldn't be in the same shots, & the climactic sasquatch attack manages to be primarily an "action" sequence of flying camp gear.
Extensive use of a narrator limits how often dialog has to be matched up to moving lips. If the acting weren't so bad it'd look like an actual documentary rather than docudrama & would almost certainly fool a child into thinking it was for real & that sasquatches are pot-bellied wookies.
As the film ends, the cowboy-scientists ride off to the sound of a sasquatch pop tune, having failed, by the way, to put out their campfire before leaving.
The two-film cycle of fake documentaries directed by Charles Pierce The Legend of Boggy Creek (1972) & Boggy Creek II: And The Legend Continues aka The Barbaric Beast of Boggy Creek (1984) are set in Arkansas, & are vastly to be preferred over Ed Ragozzino's docudrama.
The same Arkansas legend is the subject of Return to Boggy Creek (1977) but director Tom Moore made not a docudrama but a full-fledged fictional film about a misunderstood swamp hominid.
The original two Boggy Creek films are good of kind with a Blair Witch verisimilitude. The very first Boggy Creek was the main inspiration for later no-budget sasquatch films.
Although more worthy than most sasquatch cheapies of simply being watched for its own sake, there's nevertheless the alternative option of watching both features together on one DVD with Mystery Science Theater 3000 commentary by Tom Servo & pals.
One of the most appealing of the "this is true" approach is Marc Messenger's poker-faced mocumentary Sasquatch Hunters (1997).
It effectively lampoons the community of cryptozoological cranks & geezers who've devoted their lives to tracking sasquatch & making models of big feet & who are constantly funding "nonfiction" bigfoot documentaries or self-publishing their own absurd books glorifying themselves & their goofy obsession & ferreting out "real" scientists willing to provide nifty soundbites about how it could all be so.
A few gullible critics mistook this spoof for the real deal, as some things are already so ridiculous that there is no clear line of demarcation between what is of serious intent & what is parody.
The identically titled but vastly less effective film is the outright horror shocker Sasquatch Hunters (2005).
The title is a pun, since the dorks hunting for sasquatches end up being hunted by sasquatches. There's absolutely nothing new here, & even the DVD box is a close copy of the box for Sasquatch: The Untold.
In essence, some bad actors &/or morons set off into the wilderness to prove sasquatches exist. They end up being picked off one by one by some guy wearing a mangy gorilla suit with CGI animated facial expressions. For a climax, there turns out to be more than one, the same climax as for Abominable, since no-talents tend to think alike.
We're partly on the side of the killer sasquatches since they avoided human contact until after the humans dug up the bones of their buried dead.
But beyond the implication of an intelligence with funeral rites, these critters are nothing but big old-fashioned Hollywood gorilla suit terrors that roar & kill & get shown on screen as briefly as possible lest their phoniness be too soon too evident.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl