FTP: Hoax (2019)

JULY 1, 2022


Few movies have gotten me in their corner as quickly as Hoax, as it opens with a campfire scene and someone telling a story that begins "I don't want to scare anyone... but I'm going to give it to you straight about Bigfoot." This paraphrase of Paul's Jason story in F13 Part 2 (and reused in Final Chapter to tell the story of the first three films) is my kind of movie reference - not too on the nose, and will easily just go over the head of someone who didn't catch the homage without giving them that "I'm missing something" feeling that sours many such shoutouts. It's the first of many relatively obscure references that occur in the film, only a few of them grating, many just harmless or easy to miss - the commentary revealed one I hadn't spotted for myself!

And for the most part, the movie itself is pretty bearable, even fun at times. It LOOKS crappy, with that overlit video style that resembles porn more than a standard horror movie, but the characters are well rounded/fairly likable (even the obligatory jerk human has his charms here and there) and it doesn't waste too much time letting the sasquatch do its thing. Alan Howarth's score is pretty good (and obviously a step or seven above what you get in most stuff on this budget level) and the Colorado scenery is nice - they really did shoot out in an isolated part of the state and it shows. The only thing it fails to do, really, is separate itself from the countless other bigfoot/sasquatch movies that have been made over the years - there's only so many times in one's life you can watch a skeptical character try to explain away obvious evidence of a big hairy monster with "maybe a bear?" before your brain kind of checks out.

Worse, the way they DO try to put their own mark on things is to introduce... well (spoiler ahead!), the Sawyer family, basically. An hour or so into the film our two primary heroes are kidnapped by a family of backwoods cannibals, who proceed to tie them to chairs and start slicing "meat" (skin) off the male with an electric cutting knife. Turns out the "bigfoot" is just one of the hulking sons wearing a costume, which would be fine if a. it wasn't just trading one overused trope for another and b. we didn't clearly see that his costume was different than the quick shot of the sasquatch we saw earlier. Having the real guy crash their party (and inadvertently save our heroine) woulda been fun, but this whole TCM wannabe sequence seems shoehorned into the movie, as if they shot it without these folks and came up 20 minutes short of a feature runtime, prompting a late addition. The real sasquatch and these phonies never interact, and our skeptical heroine (spoiler again) dies without ever seeing the real one for herself. It's a remarkably unsatisfying and frankly, kind of annoying conclusion to what was otherwise a decent timekiller.

If you are a fan of the film from a festival screening or something, or just a collector of Bigfoot films, the Epic/Dread blu-ray release at least gives you a little more bang for your buck. There are two commentary tracks, which wasn't uncommon in the glory days of the DVD format but is next to extinct now for a new film (hell even getting ONE track is something of a surprise these days). I listened to the one with the crew, which informs me that the team are old friends from film school and enjoy working together, so there's a pleasant camaraderie to the experience that more or less makes up for the occasional silences (unusual for a group track). Then there's a full hour of various behind the scenes things; interviews with the actors, behind the scenes tales, etc. A little fluffy to be sure, and some of the soundbytes are repeated (there's a play all but no indication they're meant to be watched as a "documentary", to be fair), but hey - with the two tracks that comes out to four hours' worth of extra material, which is about three hours and 45 minutes more than you'll get on anything from Universal or Paramount these days.

And look: it's hard to make a good sasquatch movie. I just reread a handful of my own reviews for a bunch of them (as I no longer recall even watching many of them - apparently one had Alice Cooper?) and I found most to be pretty bad or (at best) "so bad it's good" kind of fare, with only Willow Creek standing out as a legit good one. Also, a lot of them were found footage, so I laud this team on at least going with a traditional approach even though there's a reality show component built into the plot. If not for the abysmal idea to spend most of the third act focused on backwoods weirdos (since the F13 love was apparent early on, I can't help but think this mother-led clan was based on Ethel and Junior from New Beginning) it'd probably be in the "win" column by default. Alas.

What say you?


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