After The Blair Witch Project, I can’t imagine why anyone would ever venture into the Maryland woods ever again. In the same respect, I can’t really understand how a filmmaker could consider shooting a POV feature on a hand-held video camera about a guy sitting around in the woods searching for some kind of monster. I mean it’s one thing to homage a film and another to just toss off a poor man’s version of a film that was already a poor man’s horror film.
To be fair, Jimmy Tupper, the slacker loser at the center of the film doesn’t head off into the woods on his own accord to find the fabled Goatman–at least not at first. He’s driven there in a drunken stupor by his equally idiotic friends and left there as a joke. You know, just the kind of sweet things your best buds might do to you when you’re a bit too inebriated. I guess shaving Jimmy’s head while he slept was out of the question since he took it upon himself to shave his own head the night before. After a night in the woods, Jimmy misses work and his friends drive back out to find him. When they locate Jimmy, he’s a dirty bloody mess claiming to have been attacked by “The Goatman”. Of course no one believes him, so Jimmy sets out on his quest locate the legendary Goatman of Bowie on his own!
Writer/Director/Star Andrew Bowser has one major hurdle to overcome in making a compelling film out of found footage. We have to either identify with the lead character or empathize with his plight. Unfortunately, we do neither, because from the outset, Bowser has Jimmy as a one-dimensional Falstaffian joke. He’s a stoned, drunken moron and his friends are too. We can’t possibly care what happens to him. He’s just walking through life wasting our air.
The first 15-minutes of the movie consist of beer pong, partying, head-shaving and then a next day visit to the Starbucks where Jimmy is employed so that these titans of intellect can conduct their own Jackass-styled stunt with a shopping cart. That results in Jimmy breaking his arm. This is what appears to serve as character development as we can now understand the mentality of a group of friends who would leave their wasted brother out in the middle of nowhere and think it’s all hilarious. Well joke’s on them, cause maybe, just maybe Jimmy’s not crazy and maybe, just maybe there is something out there in the woods after all.
It’s pretty hard to get past the general concept on most found footage horror films. By default if the filmmakers are going for absolute reality here (which to his slight benefit, it appears that Bowser is trying to achieve) then 99% of the stuff on film is going to be uninteresting. If you ran a video camera 24/7 and taped your ramblings or the drunken escapades of your idiot friends, the only people that would likely find that amusing is you and the wonder twerps you hang out with. This is the defining problem with Jimmy Tupper vs. The Goatman of Bowie. Everyone is annoying and so I just don’t care what happens to them.
Still, everything on display is not a total bust here. And, as the ending shoots around–this flick is only 70-minutes long–the film pulls a “Leslie Vernon” and suddenly the video camera turns off and we discover that Andrew Bowser actually knows how to light and frame a shot. The twist that comes when the film kicks in is partially satisfying at the same time that it’s maddening frustrating that the 60-minutes that preceded it were no good at all. Some of you might argue that precious hour of my life spent watching the movie was all set up for the ending and in some respects it is, but it’s still no excuse for making a poor film and a boring film.
I’d venture to guess by the production quality that this was a feature film shot for well under the catering expenses on even a super-low budget film. For that I commend the filmmakers for fighting to get their vision across. I wanted to like Jimmy Tupper vs. The Goatman of Bowie but in the end it just left me wanting a better made film with a better told story. Maybe we’ll see Bowser and the boys up the ante in the promised sequel!