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Thursday, March 24, 2022

Throwback Thursday - Gone Squatchin'

note: This was another article that I wrote for Grindhouse Purgatory. I've always been a huge fan of Bigfoot movies and decided to talk about some of my favorites.  

Exploring the Shelves: Gone Squatchin’

by John Shatzer

It is time to dig into the collection again for some hidden gems. Since I’m a child of the ‘70s (yeah I know that I mentioned that last time…) it was a pretty obvious choice that I’d get around to doing some Bigfoot movies sooner or later. Why not make it sooner? It’s time for Exploring the Shelves to go Squatchin’.

One of the first Bigfoot type movies that I ever saw was The Mysterious Monsters from 1975. This one is also known as Bigfoot: The Mysterious Monster.  It is one of those great “documentaries” from Schick Sun and is narrated by the Peter Graves (remember him from my last Exploring the Shelves… Beginning of the End). It is played completely straight, so much so that I always wondered if the people making the movie believed in Bigfoot. We get reenactments of supposed sightings along with various vaguely scientific examinations of the evidence.

This movie has a special place in my heart.  I remember watching it on TV when I was growing up and it is the first time that I remember being really scared. There is a scene where a Bigfoot breaks thru a window and grabs at a woman. I swear to God it was a year before I would turn my back to anything other than a solid wall. I’ll readily admit that I might be a bit biased in my opinion of this movie, but I love it. It has such an awesome cheesy vibe to it that I can’t help but watch it at least once a year. This was one of the first VHS tapes that I tracked down when I started heavily getting back into collecting movies again in the late ‘90s. From the terrible looking costumes to the faulty logic, it is a great time. I mean they attempt to prove Bigfoot is real by using the scientifically accepted fact that the Loch Ness monster has been found… The ‘70s were such an innocent time or maybe I just was. Perhaps my perspective is off on this one, but I’ve always considered The Mysterious Monsters to be the gold standard of the ‘70s Bigfoot craze. 

Time for another classic from the decade of the 1970s. This time I popped in The Legend of Boggy Creek (1972) from director Charles B. Pierce. This movie also is a series of reenactments of supposed sightings of the Boggy Creek monster. This time instead of playing like a documentary there is an offscreen narrator that ties them together and it follows a more traditional story structure. There are some creepy moments, especially towards the end when a family is attacked by the creature over a couple of nights.

Legend of Boggy Creek is another fun bit of ‘70s drive-in cinema. We never get a good look at the creature, but it certainly seems like Bigfoot. I’ve always been fascinated by how the movie is put together. Pierce took a series of supposed encounters with the creature and using a manufactured wraparound actually tied them together into a cohesive storyline. Most of the time when a movie tries to do this it fails miserably, but it works here. That said there are a few spots where they are obviously padding the runtime with some shots of nature including some close ups of trees with wildlife sounds loudly playing. If you are going to watch some “classic” Bigfoot movies, then this is a must see.  I don’t like it as much as Mysterious Monsters because it of the padding, but it is still pretty good. 

Speaking of padding a movie out with some nature footage I think the time has come to talk about Ivan Marx’s The Legend of Bigfoot (1976). Many fans consider this movie to be a big tease. It is presented in the form of a documentary but the majority of the movie is really nothing more than footage of the wilderness and the creatures that live there. Marx cleverly repackaged shots of squirrels, rabbits, and such as a Bigfoot documentary. The narration loosely ties the footage you are watching in with possible habitats and migration of an unknown ape like creature aka. Bigfoot. 

The Legend of Bigfoot is admittedly slow and doesn’t deliver any real Bigfoot “action”, but I’ve always had a soft spot for it. The footage that Marx captured of the Pacific Northwest is beautiful. The narration over the animals he caught on camera is very well done and entertaining in its own way. The fact that they managed to exploit the Bigfoot craze and trick audiences into maybe learning something only makes me like this more. I get it when fans get angry about being fooled, but then again isn’t that the heart of a good exploitation movie? 

Sasquatch: The Legend of Bigfoot (1977) is an interesting movie.  While The Legend of Bigfoot is treated like a documentary, The Mysterious Monsters is sort of a documentary with reenactments, and The Legend of Boggy Creek is nothing but reenactments Sasquatch tries to be all this and more.

It starts off with some nature footage, tosses in some news clippings to prove Bigfoot is real, and then gives us a voice over from a science guy. He is leading an expedition to a part of the Pacific Northwest that a fancy computer has predicted to be the home of the Sasquatch. We are introduced to his motley collection of companions in yet another voice over and off they head into the woods. The rest of the movie is part nature footage, part staged drama (including flashbacks!), and finally part documentary complete with philosophical musings played over the same song in a loop.

I had to include Sasquatch: The Legend of Bigfoot. The movie is slow at times but is packed with so many tropes of the genre that it is a must see if you are going to check out Bigfoot movies. Frolicking racoons, goofy looking furry suited extras, and that groovy ‘70s tunes come together to make something that isn’t good but is fun. Yeah I know it doesn’t make much sense but it is worth checking out if you like this sort of thing… 

The Snowbeast!
Obviously, Bigfoot was big business in the ‘70s so of course TV had to get in on the fun. Hell, Bigfoot showed up on the Six Million Dollar Man! Of these many appearances I chose my personal favorite from 1977 Snowbeast. Here you have the hairy protagonist terrorizing a Ski Lodge by killing off a few of the guests. It is up to a former Gold Medal winning skier and his friends to kill the creature so that once again everyone can enjoy the slopes without fear of being murdered.

Since this was made for TV, there is no nudity or gore, though until the next decade that wasn’t a big component of Bigfoot movies so not a big deal. All the deaths are more implied, and it works well. This is further solidified by some killer dialogue and great performances from the cast. You get to see some familiar genre actors like Bo Svenson and Clint Walker who get to have fun chewing up the scenery.  The creature itself isn’t seen much and when you do see it is clearly a guy in a suit. But they handle that well enough that it isn’t a distraction from the fun. Snowbeast is a public domain movie and easy enough to find if you want to watch it, and really you should.

The ‘80s might have been dominated with Slasher movies but there were also Bigfoot movies. There are a couple that I need to talk about. First up from 1980 is Night of the Demon. Here again we have a familiar story about an investigator who hauls a group of people into the woods to explore rumors about the Bigfoot. Though since we first meet him in the hospital all torn up and the movie is explained in flashbacks we know this isn’t going to end well.

Bigfoot on VHS!
In many ways this movie took Bigfoot and shoehorned the big fella into a slasher style plot. Here Bigfoot isn’t portrayed as some mysterious creature roaming the woods. Nope this time he is a bloodthirsty killer that prowls around adding to a growing body count. Tied in with that is a subplot involved how he came to exist, which of course has that typical ‘80s sleazy feel to it that we all love. There are lots of kills, some bloody and some implied. This includes the one kill that convinced me I had to see the movie when it was at my local Mom and Pop rental store. I mean when you stroll in on a Friday night and ask the clerk what is cool and he responds, “have you ever seen a Bigfoot rip a guy’s dick off” it gets added to the must watch list. Or at least it did for me. Sadly, other than that one kill the rest of the movies has that mediocre made for VHS rental feel to it.

Next up is a sequel to the earlier drive-in movie The Legend of Boggy Creek.  Time to talk about Boggy Creek II: And the Legend Continues (1985). This time around director Charles B. Pierce casts himself as a professor of anthropology that takes some students into the swamp to search for the creature. They not only come face to face with it, but also have to deal with a rabid dog and a crazy local that has one of the creatures locked up in a closet! To lighten up the mood the professor tells the students some stories, which gives them an excuse to do some re-enactments like the original. 

While I love the original Boggy Creek this one fails to live up to the original. Instead of a series of encounters that are short and tend to hide the deficiencies of the movie here we get a main story and a couple of re-enactments. That means we spend way too much time focused on the professor and his students. The acting is weak, and the scripting/dialogue is bad as well. Also, the creature is shown way too much and is clearly just a guy in an ape costume. I don’t know how Pierce missed so badly with this one, but he must not really of understood what made the first movie work. There are a couple interesting bits, mostly in the re-enactments of previous encounters, but if this weren’t a sequel to a movie that I enjoyed so much I don’t know that it would have made the cut and been included on my list. It is certainly not worth a second look, once is enough. 

I know that someone is going to call me out on skipping the ‘90s. In general horror was in a rut and I honestly can’t think of a single Bigfoot movie that I’d want to mention from that decade. Though I’m sure someone will point out one that I missed, but that is part of the fun of doing an article like this.  So I’ll skip right to the ‘2000s.

Scream Queen Tiffany Shepis meets a bad end
in Abominable
In a decade that thanks to The Blair Witch Project was dominated by found footage movies we did get a nice batch of Bigfoot flicks. Most of them were made for the Sci-Fi channel or at least with it as a potential outlet. This lead to many poorly done CGI crap fests that kept Lance Henriksen working for a few years. There were so many movies to choose from but the only one that I really have a lot of affection for is 2006’s Abominable.

A man named Preston returns, with his nurse, to his home on a remote mountain for the first time since a terrible accident. An accident that left his wife dead and him in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the waist down. The only thing around for miles is his cabin and the one next door. The peace and quiet is shattered by a group of young women that show up at the neighbor’s cabin. Thru a strange series of twists only Preston sees one of the young women get taken into the woods by someone or something. With the phone lines down and his nurse thinking he is just stressed-out Preston watches helpless as Bigfoot mercilessly stalks the women next door.

This is Bigfoot meets Hitchcock’s Rear Window. You have a character that is stuck in a wheelchair watching a houseful of young pretty girls getting picked off by a Sasquatch. Of course, no one believes him and try as he might to convince them the body count rises. You get good kills, some tension, and a wicked ending. Toss in a few cameos from genre vets and you have a solid, entertaining movie. 

As I mentioned earlier found footage movies were and to some extent still are the rage. Let me be clear that I’m not a huge fan of found footage movies. They always come off cheap and are a crutch for filmmakers that don’t have the resources or talent to shoot a traditional movie. It also doesn’t help that they all follow the same exact formula. You take a group of characters, isolate them, have odd things happen, and eventually everyone dies. I mean that must happen otherwise the footage wouldn’t be just found, and we would have a voice over or something. So right from the start there are no surprises. In fact, the only thing that surprised me is that it took so long for this kind of movie to take advantage of the subgenre of Bigfoot flicks. Welcome to the new millennium where everyone had a camera and is wandering around the woods getting into trouble with the Bigfoot.

First up let's talk about Willow Creek (2013). This movie follows a young man named Jim. He has decided to make his own documentary about Bigfoot and drags his girlfriend Kelly along with him for the trip. They decide to head out to Willow Creek where some famous footage of a sighting had been shot decades before. Along the way to the woods we see them visit and joke around with some locals. It is clear that they aren’t taking things seriously at all. They eventually wander into the woods armed with some vague directions. What do they find? Well, what do you think they find?

Like I said I’m not a big fan of found footage flicks, but Willow Creek I was excited about. It is directed by Bobcat Goldthwait. The man has made some good dark comedies like Shakes the Clown. I was interested in checking out what he could do with a movie like this, and I wasn’t disappointed. It has some pacing issues in the beginning as the characters and situation is setup. I didn’t really care for the characters of Jim and Kelly as they keep doing stupid things like wandering in the woods without having a clue as to what they are doing. The fact that it sticks so closely to the formula was also sort of boring. But the second half of the movie more than makes up for this. 

There is an extended sequence of them sitting in a tent at night with something prowling the woods around them that is nerve wracking.  We hear all sorts of noises that are clearly getting closer to them as time passes. Eventually things start getting tossed on the tent and maybe something is pushing or grabbing on it. If you have ever been in the woods at night you already know how creepy it is and this nightmarish situation just keeps going and going. It was genuinely scary. I appreciated how the sequence created tension with just sound and the idea that something was out there with them. I found myself along with the characters straining to hear what was going on, which set me up for some great jump scares. 

After morning comes the characters try to leave, but of course are lost. Night comes again and things end how you would expect them to. Is Willow Creek a great movie? No but I’d say that it is solid. I bought a copy from iTunes and feel like I got my money’s worth which in my experience with found footage movies is the exception to the rule. 

The Lost Coast Tapes (2012) is more of a mixed bag. It too is a found footage movie. Here we have a host/journalist that used to do one of those ghost shows (or something similar I suppose). He is involved in some sort of hoax that discredits him and heads off into the woods to get his reputation back by doing a legitimate investigation. Only this time he heads out as a skeptic to disprove a hunter’s claim that he has a dead Bigfoot in his possession. After much walking and creepy sounds at night the characters find out that there might be something to the claims after all.

Like Willow Creek these characters seem intent on dying. They keep wandering deeper into the forest and towards the danger. I also wasn’t terribly fond of the characters in this movie, especially the main character Sean. Then again that might have been on purpose. There are a few scary moments in this one, but for the most part I found most of the movie to be slow. We don’t get a great deal of tension created which sort of killed the atmosphere for me. I have a rule that when I start a movie I always stick around to the end and with The Lost Coast Tapes I’m glad that I did. The ending is a unique twist on the Bigfoot mythology and is hinted at throughout the story. So, there is a bit of a payoff that might make it worth watching if you are really into these kinds of movies (Bigfoot and found footage).

Can’t talk about Bigfoot movies without mentioning at least one of the odd entries into the subgenre. There are all sorts of strange Bigfoot movies out there. They range from family friendly fare like Harry and the Hendersons all the way to Bigfoot porn. I’m not going to talk about either of those, but instead chose The Beauties and the Beast from 1974. It wasn’t until researching this article that I realized this came out before The Mysterious Monsters. The action opens with a scientist sort of guy standing in the shadows talking about Bigfoot and how he might be real and what he might be up to. Well as it turns out he is sneaking around the woods watching girls get naked and grabbing them… sometimes anyway. I mean he kind of leaves others alone for no reason.

This is the worst of the movies that I decided to watch and mention here. The story is all over the place with Bigfoot, Hippies, softcore simulated sex (think Cinemax), criminals, and probably a few things that I missed. There are plot holes like some of the characters talking about a hermit that implies some part of the movie is missing. Really, I checked the runtime on IMDB to see if my copy had been cut up! Oh, and there is a bit with coins and recently released criminals coming to claim them that is confusing. I mean one throwaway line of dialogue doesn’t really cut it. The best part is that Bigfoot is kind of a hero at the end of the movie and wanders away with the hermit. Only what the hell happened to the women he kidnapped and sealed in a cave? 

The Beauties and the Beast isn’t for everyone. In fact, the only reason I even mention it is because it is such an odd exploitation movie with a Bigfoot connection that I would feel remiss in not talking about it. This one is a mess and is only for the hardcore movie nerd.

This was both the easiest and hardest article that I’ve had to write for Grindhouse Purgatory. The reason for both was the volume of Bigfoot movies that I could cover. I love these kinds of movies and have stacks of them in my collection. It was easy to find what I wanted to watch and write about, or so I thought. I quickly realized that I had far too many on the list to make it feasible for an article. So, I had to start cutting them down. First to go were the ‘90s movies including Search for the Beast which I only like because David Friedman had a small part in it. 1970s “classic” Bigfoot starring John Carradine also didn’t make the cut. I even pulled out my favorite regional filmmaker Bill Rebane’s The Capture of Bigfoot! Hard choices had to be made. If you think that I’ve overlooked something, feel free to email me a gutmunchers@gmail.com.  I’d love to hear from you and talk Bigfoot movies. 


© Copyright 2022 John Shatzer

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