OCTOBER 21, 2012
For all the shit I gave Paranormal Activity 4, it's sadly not even the worst "found footage" movie to hit theaters this weekend, as Bigfoot: The Lost Coast Tapes somehow overcame its antiquated plot, unappealing actors, and just an overall feeling of cynical contempt from its filmmakers to secure a tiny theatrical release. Not sure about the other theaters (it's not on Boxofficemojo - the THIRD such horror film this month to go unreported, after Smiley and #HoldYourBreath), but mine, the Laemmle Music Hall 3, was playing it twice a day, and my showing (the 2nd) had about 12 other people. Guessing it was not a huge success.
Nor should it be. I know I've seen a few in the genre that are worse, but they were direct to video films - this is certainly the worst I've seen theatrically. Kudos to anyone who can get their independent film a theatrical release of any sort, but I'm really baffled why anyone thought this, even piggybacking onto Paranormal's success, would be a worthy endeavor. The movie carries on as if the last 10 years of found footage films never happened; I could almost picture myself watching this exact movie in say, 2000-2001, post Blair Witch (which didn't produce nearly as many wannabes as Paranormal did). Hell I'd even entertain the idea that it was something that was made a while ago and just finding release now, but since certain elements were clearly inspired by TrollHunter, it had to have been shot in the past two years.
Luckily, they didn't copy that film's penchant for filming out a car window for half the runtime. But the guide character here is very similar to that film's Hans, right down to his (rather charming) matter of fact way of talking about the mythical beasts he is helping the film crew find. But the key difference is, that film's trolls were amazing and featured prominently, whereas this film hides its beasts to an obnoxious degree. It worked for Blair Witch because they (we) didn't know what it WAS (a creature? A crone?) - they allowed the audience to imagine whatever they want, if anything. But they're after a Sasquatch, and while the specifics change we all know what one of those look like.
So why hide it? We see a leg in closeup or a soft-focus figure in the background, so they obviously had a suit to use - why do we only see it for a few seconds in the movie? Well, without spoiling much, the Sasquatch isn't the only thing out there, but director Corey Grant botches this as well - what should have been a twist at the end of the 2nd act that propels us to an unexpected, interesting third act is instead saved for the final five minutes, when it's too late to save the movie even if the other thing was shown properly. There's a great idea in there too concerning what the Sasquatch is really doing throughout the movie, but it's poorly delivered, and it should be something we actually see in action (possibly even succeed), instead of being presented as a theory that we buy only to give the movie the benefit of the doubt. They had to have ONE good idea, right?
Otherwise, seriously - have they not noticed all of the other films in this vein in the past few years? Why is this so uninspired? Everything reeks of cliche, even roping in overplayed ideas from horror in general - when a black character started going on and on about how "a brother can't be going out in the woods" and stressing that it's a thing only white people do, I gave up all hope in the movie - and that was five minutes in! The host of the show is an insufferable douche on and off-camera, so I was constantly questioning not only why anyone would watch his show, but how he was able to secure a crew that would follow him into dangerous territory. And his asshole demeanor is infectious; both he and his cameraman routinely sexually harass their female producer, even goading their nerdy sound guy (who looks like an Andy Samberg character) to join them in complimenting her ass and such.
The dialogue is also cringe-worthy; I can only hope that some of this shit was improvised, because the idea that a human being would sit down and write "Whatever you do, keep filming!" like five times in a screenplay just depresses me. Just about every line from the Samberg guy was meant to be funny, but wasn't (and that's not just me - not a single person in the theater ever reacted to anything he said), and at no point was I ever convinced these guys knew what a camera WAS let alone that they could be the crew of a TV show. However, I must give props to the actor playing the guide, as he was able to deliver the line "You've crossed into an area of Sasquatch theory that I find hard to believe" with a straight face.
And the guy's demands to keep filming weren't ignored - these folks are mighty impressive with their ability to not only catch "surprise" moments on video (like when the guide suddenly abandons them at the break of dawn), but carefully frame anything that happens when they set the camera down. At one point the producer woman is running around, freaked out, yet she somehow manages to put the camera down high and straight enough for it to capture her wandering into a shack on the right side of the frame AND see a Sasquatch darting between some trees on the left. If she was behaving like a normal human being and simply tossed the camera on the ground (assuming she hadn't already), there'd be no way in hell we'd get to see that little jump scare! What luck!
See, that's my issue with almost every post-Blair Witch movie, one that Paranormal found a pretty great solution to (if still not as successful as Blair) - the filmmakers refuse to let a "moment" go unseen by the camera. One of my favorite little bits in Blair is when Josh is telling Heather about some noises he heard the night before, and I also love that Heather is already crying when she picks the camera up and heads to where she found the teeth - you get the sense that there's a life to that world beyond what was captured on camera. And in PA's case, the best moments were filmed by Mr. Tripod, so they got around having to have Micah constantly grab his camera (though he did do that once or twice). But most of the copycats, ESPECIALLY this one, are clearly made by filmmakers who don't actually think about the reality of their "reality" movie, basically writing and shooting a regular script but handing the camera to someone in the scene. Myrick and Sanchez (and Peli, to a lesser extent) "got" it - it's a shame so many others do not.
And Grant pours salt in the wound by obscuring important actions in the film's final moments - if the film has won over the audience by this point, then it's perfectly OK to cheat a little and have the characters suddenly turn into combat photographers, capturing perfect images despite the danger. But not here; I suspect you'll need freeze frame to get a halfway decent look at what "stars" in the film's final image, and even if so you'd still be deprived of a COMPLETE look at it or anything else that has menaced our heroes so far. It's indicative of a lot of movies as of late (including the PA sequels), where they make a film as a pilot for an ongoing series. Somewhere along the line, the decision to make a sequel shifted from the audience's responsibility to the filmmakers, and it's not a good trend. Make complete movies, and then WE will tell you if we want another one.
Needless to say, in this case, I most certainly do not want to watch more of these Tapes.
What say you?