JANUARY 12, 2013
Last fall I had the unfortunate distinction of being one of the very few people to see the truly terrible Bigfoot: The Lost Coast Tapes in theaters, and had done my best to forget all about it. However, it's now on DVD and hilariously right next to Bigfoot County on the shelf at my Blockbuster, which temporarily confused me as they're pretty much the same goddamn movie: a documentary team from LA heads up north in order to make a movie about Bigfoot, secure a guide who abandons them, and discovers a secret.
Now, there are spoilers ahead for both films, as well as the only thing that Lost Coast did better than this one, so if you want the "surprise" of either film to remain a mystery, stop reading. Though trust me - I hardly consider myself a great writer, but I still think reading my take is a better use of your time than watching either of them.
Anyway, there's another odd coincidence: in both films, Bigfoot is there, but not the villain. Lost Coast actually had an interesting idea, that the big lug was just scaring folks away in order to protect them from the real threat: alien/supernatural creatures of some sort (the movie didn't bother to explain). Here, I'm not sure if Bigfoot gave a shit either way, but it's a bunch of redneck assholes that really cause the problems for our heroes. So with five minutes to go, instead of getting a good look at him doing his thing, we watch one of our (male) heroes get raped by one of the hillbillies, before... uh, I have no idea. I assume they kill him; we hear some explosive/ gunshot-esque noises and then we never see him again. Then they drag the other hero out to the middle of nowhere and dump him on the ground (can't tell if he's supposed to be alive, or dead but played by an actor that couldn't stop breathing and twitching his eyelids), and after they drive off Bigfoot wanders through the frame. And if you ignored the spoiler warning and are now angry, let me point out that this shot is actually in the trailer.
Now, being a found footage movie, I know we're not going to see a lot of Bigfoot action, and that even if he WAS the real villain his screentime would be limited to a couple quick shots. But come on! Deliverance rejects is the best you can come up with, writer/director/producer/star Stephon Stewart? And worse, Deliverance rejects that you don't even kill off via Bigfoot? Even if he just approached them and we heard a bunch of screams and maybe a bit of blood tossed into frame, it would be SOMETHING. It's like Stewart (and whoever made Lost Coast Tapes, and some others) fail to grasp the idea that these movies are already on thin ice with an audience from the get-go. We have to endure the "learning how to use the camera" stuff, the forced banter, the random shots of getting ready to leave or buying supplies, etc, etc. If anything of note happens before the 30 minute mark, it's a miracle - which is why delivering a great ending is so crucial. We sit down to watch the movie knowing and accepting that yeah, the first half is going to be pretty boring. In exchange, they have to give us something in the 2nd half, or else they've just pissed everyone off and wasted our time.
And it's actually more frustrating here, because Stewart has clearly seen Blair Witch Project more than once or twice. Whole scenes and dialogue exchanges are copied almost verbatim (they even start daydreaming about the food they miss), and the beats are nearly identical. Interviews with locals, check. Extended interview with known weirdo/witness, check. Getting lost, check. One of the trio disappearing at the end of act two, check. Hell they even have the "last man standing wanders around creepy place calling for the other" bit, except with a payoff in no way as unnerving and creepy as Mike standing in the corner. And his idiotic "twist" is seemingly born out of Mike's belief that "There's people out here messing with us".
Luckily, either because he was copying it so closely or because he actually understood what it got right where so many others go wrong, Stewart does succeed admirably in one area: it legitimately feels like "found footage". Sure, there are a couple of "Why are you filming?" moments, but he misses key events, we enter conversations/ arguments that are already in progress, and (most importantly) he doesn't always frame up the money shots you'd want. This was a HUGE issue in Lost Coast, as the characters were constantly (read: illogically) placing the camera down (at times apparently on a tripod) to film themselves do things like look at a map or root around in a shed. Here, I found myself cocking my head and squinting on several occasions, which is exactly what I SHOULD be doing if I was watching someone's panicked video account of a terrible ordeal.
But even I wouldn't swear as much as these guys do. I know I drop F-bombs with alarming frequency, but I don't think I say it 3x in a single sentence, as the two males do in scene after scene. "I don't fucking care, we should fucking get the fuck out of here!" type stuff makes up most of the dialogue in the 2nd half, and it honestly gets grating. Also grating (and not specific to this movie), when the characters in these movies set out specifically for a particular monster/legend and then get panicked or confused when they encounter it. "WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT?" they will yell over and over, and no one ever says "WOW, MAYBE IT'S THE BIGFOOT THAT WE ACTUALLY CAME OUT HERE TO SEE!" I'd much rather see a completely dogmatic person in one of these; a Mulder of sorts who gets to see what he came for and is just pleased, maybe screaming some "I TOLD YOU SO!" type sentiment.
It's a shame that the ending was so bad; it was holding my attention for the most part, and the characters were far less annoying than most of their found footage peers. And I didn't even mind the shameless plagiarism of Blair Witch all that much; it was like a band or artist you don't like very much doing a respectable cover of a song from one that you love (say, Celine Dion covering "It's All Coming Back To Me Now" - yes, hers was 2nd to Pandora's Box) - familiar and "OK" enough to warrant acceptance. But that ending... I'm honestly baffled as to what possessed Stewart to shoot himself in the foot like that.
What say you?