The search for a good Bigfoot movie
There are two types of people out there: people who believe in Bigfoot, and people who are wrong.
The big hairy dude is absolutely, assuredly out there. Is Bigfoot a single entity? Is he a part of a larger species? Is he related at all to the Yeti or do they resent the comparison? I’m no expert, so I can’t say for certain.
I am, however, an expert in the field of shitty movies, with a PhD in “Shitty Movies That Are Fantastic,” actually. I figured for this special issue I’d dive into the wide world of movies featuring Bigfoot murdering people, but there’s one little problem—a whole lot of them suck REALLY bad and not in the ways you want.
Something about Bigfoot just magnetically attracts D-list productions. Maybe it’s because gorilla costumes are fairly cheap. The perfect Bigfoot movie, which exists only in my head, contains ridiculous gore, acting performances on par with slasher industry standard Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter, all at a relentless pace. Unfortunately, nobody has quite achieved that utopian vision just yet, especially since nobody seems willing to let Crispin Glover dance in their slasher films anymore.
That doesn’t mean that we should dismiss Bigfoot films outright. I’ve watched a TON of them for this article and these are the ones I deem most worth watching, although I will admit it’s slim pickings out there. I will be ranking these based on how close they are to my ideal Bigfoot film.
Ridiculous Gore: Yes!
Performances: Lame, but not as lame as you want them to be
Pace: Frustratingly slow, for the most part
I try to avoid describing movies as “it’s X meets Y!” because I feel like it tends to be reductive of all the movies in the equation. Movies are interesting and nuanced enough that we should be able to give them their own rich descriptions! That said, it’s way easier to tell you up front that Abominable is Rear Window but with a Sasquatch.
Now, with that out of the way, here’s the details. Our hero, Preston Rogers, is wheelchair-bound in a mountain cabin after a climbing accident. He’s up there with his shitty caretaker for company and passes the time by surveying the woods with his binoculars. When a member of a group of college girls goes missing, Preston begins to believe a monstrous presence is behind the disappearance. This 94-minute movie starts out disappointingly slow and might leave you wondering where the movie’s admittedly meager budget went. Once Bigfoot shows up, though, things pop off. The Bigfoot suit in this movie rules, especially if you don’t mind a little deviation to the “huge ape man” formula. This one’s got a cartoonishly huge mouth and a squatter build, but it absolutely works in motion. It helps that there’s a handful of A+ kills in the movie, ending on a particularly satisfying bit of gore. Despite the movie’s snail-like pace at the start and the made-for-TV acting, it’s definitely a fun watch, even if Preston looks distractingly like Derek Zoolander.
Big Legend (2018)
Ridiculous Gore: Mostly absent
Pace: Slow (this is gonna be a theme, folks)
If Abominable was a slasher film where individuals get picked off one by one, Big Legend is a survival film. The setup is simple and has loads of potential: A year after his wife mysteriously disappears on a camping trip, an ex-soldier returns to the forests around Mount St. Helens to discover what took her. He quickly bumps into a quirky local hunter who’s, coincidentally, into Bigfoot stuff. Together, they try to hunt down and survive being hunted by Bigfoot. Sounds cool, right?
Eeeeh. Kinda. Like so many genre films relegated to the waste bin of history, a huge chunk of this movie is comprised of characters walking from one place to the next. Sometimes they’re tensely walking through the forest with their guns raised, sometimes they’re running from Bigfoot, but they’re always just kinda moving around in the forest, accomplishing nothing. At one point, a guy gets his leg broken real bad, but that’s the only point of gore in a film desperately needing some flavor. To top it all off, the big final confrontation with Bigfoot—who really just looks like a guy in a particularly filthy ghillie suit—is poorly shot and confusing. After the climax, the movie has the gall to end on a bizarre sequel hook that makes no sense, especially since the future movie it’s teasing would never happen on the budget this film took. At one point, though, our hero pulls the Dark Souls dodge roll on Bigfoot and that made me cackle a bit. I’m an idiot manchild.
Primal Rage* (2018)
Ridiculous Gore: Hell. Yes.
Performances: Lame, but the extras do good work pretending to die horribly
Okay, technically the creature tormenting the couple at the center of this movie isn’t Bigfoot, but the Oh-Mah, a creature from Native American folklore that the Bigfoot legend is supposedly based on. So this isn’t just Bigfoot; this is a super smart, angry-as-hell Bigfoot who fashions armor out of bark, hatchets out of stone and wants to turbo-murder the absolute shit out of you. If you’ve been wanting for gore up to this point, it’s not gonna get any better than Primal Rage. Jaws get torn off, faces get smashed in, torsos are impaled and the human body is generally treated poorly.
The plot: A husband and wife are reunited after the husband gets out of prison, only for them to almost immediately get waylaid by the Sasquatch and stranded in the middle of the woods. A Native American sheriff eventually catches wind that there might be evil goings-on in the woods and tries to help. At one point, there’s a monstrous crone who practices healing magic, and I’m not sure what that part is about. Possibly offensive, I’m not entirely certain. It’s definitely weirder around the edges than your average Bigfoot film, but Primal Rage is far and away your best bet for a slasher-style Bigfoot movie.
*Not related to the claymation dinosaur fighting game or the Italian-American horror film about an anger virus cultivated in baboon brains that I only found out about today.
Willow Creek (2013)
Ridiculous Gore: Nope
Performances: Very good
Pace: Slow but deliberate
Willow Creek, directed by comedian Bobcat Goldthwait, is a weird one. It might be my favorite Bigfoot movie, but it’s also far and away the furthest from the platonic ideal I listed above. This is a found footage horror movie, very deliberately aping The Blair Witch Project in its no-budget chills and pacing. We, the viewers of tapes lost in the woods, watch a man named Jim drag his girlfriend Kelly on an excursion to the titular California town where the infamous “first footage” of Bigfoot was taken. Jim really thinks he’s going to be the one to blow the lid off of this whole Bigfoot thing and continues to press further into the woods, not heeding the advice of locals who may know more than they let on. The banter between the increasingly frustrated couple is smartly written and believably off-the-cuff, in a way that really sells the “lost footage” aesthetic. When the scares start coming, though, they come in hard, with a harrowing 20-minute scene trapped in a tent as something in the woods comes closer and closer. If you’re a fan of found footage horror at all, you should definitely watch it. Just don’t expect any gory death scenes.
Special Effects Dork Side Column: Harry and the Hendersons (1987)
This movie isn’t exactly packed with the gore, action and chills I demand out of my movies, but it’s an important achievement for the broader Bigfoot film subgenre. The titular Harry, a combination of costume and makeup work, is absolutely fantastic. Rick Baker, the makeup and effects genius who gave us the all-time classic transformation scene in An American Werewolf in London (and also, uh, Jim Carrey as the Grinch) won one of his seven Oscars for his work on the film, making it the only Bigfoot movie to ever win an Academy Award, thus ushering it into the halls of cryptid fame for all time. That said, it’s too bad that nobody gets decapitated by Bigfoot or anything in it. John Lithgow’s real good in it, though.