DVD Review: Bigfoot: The Lost Coast Tapes

still-of-frank-ashmore-and-drew-rausch-in-bigfoot--the-lost-coast-tapes
(XLrator Media)

A helpful pre-credit scrawl indentifies the Lost Coast area of Northern California as a hotbed of reported Sasquatch activity. You would think a quasi-documentary about the culture of Bigfoot hunters and doubters would be a watchable B movie. But why is it that Bigfoot movies are so bad? Bigfoot: The Lost Coast Tapes is the second feature-length straight-to-video found footage release in less than a year to tackle what should be ripe material. It has a leg up on Bigfoot County (read my BC review here) in visual quality. While Bigfoot County was filmed on what looks like commercial grade digital video, Bigfoot: The Lost Coast Tapes, also shot on digital video, has better production values in a field where that is a low bar. Unfortunately, the recent Bigfoot found footage quasi-docs have one more thing in common: obnoxious lead characters.

Sean and Darryl (Drew Rausch and Rich McDonald) are young Los Angeles residents with a plan to document evidence of the existence of Bigfoot. The movie opens as Darryl is walking out of a bank with a fresh $75,000 loan to make his Bigfoot dreams come true.

This opening already poses questions most Bigfoot movies don’t ask. They may not be questions the filmmakers had in mind. Sean and Darryl are clearly the privileged class, who qualify for a substantial loan for a frivolous end: a proposed reality TV show, as if we needed another one.  Is there a class divide in Bigfoot culture? The movie does try to have fun with the horror movie tropes of the Stupid White Kids. Sean tries to recruit African-American colleagues to work on his video shoot, but they refuse: “Look at us: we’re light skinned, we aren’t white, we don’t go camping, we don’t roast marshmallows, and we sure aren’t going to chase Bigfoot through the forest!”

The frat boy reality TV wannabes seek out a mountain man who claims to own a Bigfoot corpse. Another similarity is the use of an older character actor to play the young investigators’ forest guide. Frank Ashmore, whose credits go back to the Airplane movies and 1970s TV, plays this role in Carl Drybeck. Ashmore has more of a presence than the young charges he leads through the woods, but his character is even less developed than that of his counterpart in Bigfoot County. If the script had given him decent Bigfoot stories to tell by the campfire, Ashmore might have told them with aplomb. But he is not the kind of gifted actor who can get a convincing dramatic reading out of the phone book, and the script, by Brian Kelsey, Bryan O’Cain in their only screenwriting credit, is barely more interesting than that.

In a modern world that clamors for meaning, there is apparently enough clamor to produce Bigfoot movies on a regular basis. If only the quality control for Sasquatchian cinema was as hardy as the myth.

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DVD Review: Bigfoot County

Oct-NFMLA-BigfootCounty-001Article first published as DVD Review: Bigfoot County on Blogcritics.

Since the Paterson-Gimlin footage of an apparently B-cupped Bigfoot in 1967, the cryptozoological creature has starred in a shelf-full of B-movies, some of them entertaining, very few of them worth a second look. My very first article for Blogcritics covered a quartet of Sasquatchian features, which offered a smattering of the kind of hairy charms that redeem bad movies, most prominent being “You’re just a sensuous tiger,” the incongruously funky number in the middle of The Capture Of Bigfoot. The song’s keening guitar riff and pulsating beat conveyed the speed and power of everybody’s favorite humanoid monster as well as the swaying heat of a late 1970s cabin party. The beast also inspired a briefly-lived Saturday morning television show in Bigfoot and Wildboy, a lesser product in the C.V. of Sid and Marty Kroft which nevertheless had an appealing minimalist aesthetic.

This brings us to Lionsgate Entertainment’s Bigfoot County, which opens with the iconic Paterson-Gimlin footage and devolves steadily from there. Lionsgate is a name associated with big-budget entertainment like The Hunger Games and the Twilight franchise, and while those may not be the pinnacle of cinematic art, they’re at the very least adequate. The same cannot be said of Bigfoot County .

The directorial debut of actor Stephon Stewart, whose resume as an actor includes bit parts on soap operas and a few independent shorts, follows in the contemporary tradition of the found footage horror film. As the story goes, a documentary filmmaker (Stewart) takes his crew to California’s Siskiyou County, home to the largest number of Bigfoot sightings in the world. Vapid dialogue and annoying characters whose death you quickly long for aside, this is a promising concept. As an aficionado of Bigfootiana, I was happy to catch a glimpse of the minor tourist trade that has grown around these supposed sightings.

There is one decent performance among the talking heads interviewed for this pseudo documentary: character actor Sam Ayers as the bible-thumping Travis deserves better B-movies than this.  Most of the movie is amateurish even beyond the conventions of found footage horror.  The cast and crew’s wanderings through the California woods contain nods to the Blair Witch Project and Deliverance but fail to make us interested in the hunt, much less in the hunters. When the creature finally appears with its glowing red-eyes, it recalls a superior boring Bigfoot movie, Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Uncle Boonmee Who can Recall his Past Lives. I wasn’t caught up in that Bigfoot movies slow reverie either, but I’d rather see it again than spend another second in Bigfoot County.

American Masters: Rick Dees

Over the transom from lapinfille comes Rick Dees’s companion piece to “Bigfoot” and “Disco duck.” Any single one of these records may seem like no more than cheap novelty with a driving beat, but the cumulative effect of these dismissed if not forgotten lipstick traces of the nineteen-seventies is more troubling than bell bottoms. Dees is clearly fascinated with modern man’s increasing distance from nature, meaning not only natural environment but his own animal instincts. These treatises on bodily transformation are mined in the rich vein of his contemporaries Davids Johansen, Cronenberg, and Bowie. Today, Dees lords over America’s Top 40, and while Lady Gaga may traffic in personal identity a la Bowie, and Mariah Carey has shed her secret life as Chewbacca, we can only hope that as Taylor Swift grows into adulthood she throws her remarkable poise and skills into her own cryptozoological project. I think I’ll tweet this at her.

you’re just a sensuous bigfoot

portrait of a teenage runaway

With ol’ sasquatch back in the news, it behooves me to give the info-hungry community a brief run-down of my recent cryptozoological-themed viewing.

BIGFOOT TERROR collects four count-em four motion picture features on Sasquatchian themes on a single two-sided DVD. At least half of it is worth the time of the connossieur of bad film.

The title THE CAPTURE OF BIGFOOT (dir. Bill Rebane, 1979) is a bit of a misnomer, since the arctic-furred protagonist seen here is more often known as a Yeti or Abominable Snowman. Sex-craze skiiers and fuzzy-browed bounty hunters are caught in a blanket of snowy acting and writhing with a beast – or two! – on the loose. CAPTURE’s is the best-dressed beast on the marquee, but really, what makes this picture worth saving for me can be summed up right here:

In SHRIEK OF THE MUTILATED (dir. Michael Findlay, 1974), a pair of fey professors lures a team of coeds to the woods for a weekend of expanded consciousness and exposed cartilage. This motion picture unleashed Hot Butter’s smash disco hit “Popcorn” on the world, except that the company that released this DVD couldn’t get the rights for it so they subsituted some other generic electronic disco of the time for the unforgettable party before the storm. Redeeming qualities? Probably not, but it made for compelling bad cinema for reasons which I don’t recall at the moment.

Lacking both redeeming and compelling qualities is THE SEARCH FOR THE BEAST (dir. R. G. Arledge, 1997) a straight-to-VHS mediocrity unworthy to wash the big feet of even the mediocrities that accompany it. Of some note are a Bigfoot sex scene and what is perhaps the least sexy shower scene ever photographed. Bad Bigfoot!

Last but not least is THE LEGEND OF BIGFOOT (dir. Harry Winer, 1976) … which I admit I didn’t finish after being warned of a tremendously manipulative and off-topic love story concerning two squirrels. 300 minutes is a lot of Bigfoot, and I had some Bresson next in queue. Still: two mangy thumbs up for the A-side of this quadruple bill; you can send it back with the other side unwatched.

Tangentially related – and alas, the extent of its tangentiality was unknown to me until the program’s teleevangelegraphed ending: THE LEGEND OF DESERT BIGFOOT (Dir. Robert Vernon, 1995) an episode of LAST CHANCE DETECTIVES, a series which follows the adventures of pre-teen Christian seekers of truth. High production and family values aside, this was not about Bigfoot at all, but about doing the right thing.

holy smokes