Bigfoot/Sasquach/Yeti – the hulking mythic monsters that roam the deep pine forests of the Pacific Northwest and the harsh subzero mountains of the Himalayas have hardly faired well on the silver screen. With the exception of Hammer film’s 1957 chiller THE ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN most films that dare to deal with the mythos of Bigfoot have been relegated to something more like extended episodes of IN SEARCH OF or crackpot comedies like HARRY AND THE HENDERSONS and DRAWING FLIES. In reality dozens of writers and directors have tried, but none have seriously made a solid horror film surrounding this worldly legend – until now.
Equal parts REAR WINDOW and THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK, first time feature filmmaker Ryan Schifrin has managed to pound out a highly captivating tale of one man’s struggle to save a group of girls from a ferocious monster.
Preston Rogers (Matt McCoy) has recently returned to his cabin in the wilderness. After a tragic mountain climbing accident robbed him of his wife and his ability to walk, home is the last thing on Preston’s disheveled mind. Determined that the cabin will stir unsettled memories, Preston rallies against staying. His assistant/nurse Otis (Christian Tinsley), however, won’t be standing for any of Preston’s bitching and is determined to get this weekend over and done with. But bad memories are the least of Preston’s worry; after a group of co-eds move in next door and promptly start disappearing down the gullet of a hideous monster. With Preston trapped in his own home and Otis down for the count, it will take all of the strength he can muster to stop the deadly beast and save the surviving girls from a total slaughter.
Shot on a relatively low budget Schifrin manages to eek out some solid star power by casting a barrage of genre vets in bit parts – including Dee Wallace Stone (CUJO) and Rex Linn (GHOST OF MARS) as a backwoods-ranching couple whose friends, store clerk Jeffrey Combs (RE-ANIMATOR) and hunter Lance Henriksen (PUMPKINHEAD) all provide fodder for the ferocious fiend. Also not faring well is Horror Princess Tiffany Shepis (NIGHTMARE MAN) who has a few brief bits of dialogue and a requisite nude scene before a shockingly brutal death scene. A near brilliant spot of casting rounds out the rest of the cameos. In what would be one of his final film roles Paul Gleason (THE BREAKFAST CLUB) is given over to the characterization of Sheriff Halderman. Possessed of the same “no bullshit” banter that made so many of his performances memorable, Gleason snaps off abusive dialogue and makes his 8-odd minutes of screen time seem like an eternity of wit and charisma. – He will surly be missed by all of us who ever served a Saturday detention.
In terms of direction, Schifrin manages to keep the scant running time flying by and the film hardly lets up from the first frames. Moreover I was impressed by some genuinely excellent moments of suspense and some surprisingly effective jump scares – although I felt the score had a few too many false build-ups – Which brings me to the beast. Most – if not all of us – from a certain generation, have a concept of Bigfoot derived directly from Stan Winston’s mind and not from speculative facts about the “actual” being. So to say that I was disappointed with the true physical representation of Bigfoot is somewhat inaccurate. I thought that the film faired far better when the creature was off-frame, or the details of its face were obscured by flailing limbs and felled female cast members. But in the films climatic sequence – as the audience gets a good solid look into the face of the terrifying giant – makes for an unsettling realization. The oversized eyes and furrowed brow designed into the monster suit makes Bigfoot look more like a nastier version of GREMLINS’ Gizmo than some gruesome amalgamation of man and ape.
That the actuality of Bigfoot’s full appearance in the final act does not ultimately sink this production says a lot about the preceding hour, the performances of leads Matt McCoy and Haley Joel, and – not to mention – the overall vision of Schifrin. Incidentally, if nothing else, the final moments of the film provide the perfect monster-movie send off for the project. With that said, fans of the genre should be hooting, hollering and high-five’n their buddies and bouncing on their sofas when the final credits roll – and that’s the best you can ask for from a classic-styled creature feature.