So I came across this top ten list today on Dread Central, and had to share it. Bigfoot movies are among my favorite genre of horror movies, and I’ve even reviewed two of the movies mentioned here: Exists and Willow Creek. Even though I (sadly) haven’t seen most of these movies, it’s a good list and I have heard of most of them. I’ll be using this to track down some future Saturday night viewing. Though it is mentioned, I disagree with The Legend of Boggy Creek being left off this list. That movie was a huge part of my paranormally formative years.
Bigfoot is my bro. While reports of an enormous and elusive bipedal hominid are an ancient and worldwide phenomenon, Bigfoot is nonetheless a staple of North American crypto-mythology—especially on the West Coast. As a life-long resident of California and an avid camper, I’ve always felt a close connection to the mysterious creature; whenever I find myself enjoying the woods and mountains of my state, I always keep an eye out for Bigfoot.
With the release of the famous Patterson-Gimlin film in 1967 (touted by many as the closest thing to definitive proof that the creature exists), America experienced what can rightfully be called Bigfoot Mania. An entire industry was established around the creature, one that included t-shirts, toys, and a plethora of films and TV shows, most notably The Legend of Boggy Creek in 1972.
And while it may seem like Bigfoot Mania has diminished over the years, a cursory look at our modern horror landscape proves quite the opposite; according to the IMDb, around 70 Bigfoot films have been released since the year 2000, with a noticeable spike around 2006 (this includes theatrical and made-for-TV movies, straight to DVDs, short films, and documentaries). So while he may seem like a throwback, Bigfoot is in fact one of the most popular monsters of this, or any, age and an icon in the truest sense.
The films below represent the best Bigfoot-centric horror movies of the 21st Century. They remind us that it’s best to tread lightly when we venture off the beaten path. Enjoy!
While Bigfoot movies usually target a relatively small (but rabid) subset of horror connoisseurs, Abominable is a film with vast appeal. It’s a creature feature and a comedy, but it’s also a deeply nuanced story that plays out like a reimagining of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window. The beasts are shown often and in all their glory, and the gore is plentiful; a scene where a creature bites into a man’s skull like an apple is especially satisfying. What really makes Abominable a must-see for horror fans, though, it’s a movie-stealing interlude that features Lance Henriksen and Jeffrey Combs as hillbillies hunters, sitting around a campfire, talkin’ S’quatch.
Love in the Time of Monsters (2014)
While many Bigfoot movies set out to be scary and fail, some of them find success in “so-bad-it’s-good” circles where they’re viewed as comedies. Love in the Time of Monsters, however, never tries to be anything except funny as hell—and it succeeds in spades! For side-splitting fits of laughter, you can’t do much better than a zombified Kane Hodder in a Bigfoot outfit shooting electricity from his fingers. Intrigued? You should be! In addition to being fucking hysterical, Love in the Time of Monsters is smart and endearing with characters who actually become less two-dimensional as the film progresses. Best of all, you don’t have to be a fan of Bigfoot movies to dig this sleeper—or is it a future cult classic?
Southern Fried Bigfoot (2008)
While Bigfoot sightings are most common in the Northwestern U.S., the creature is not exclusively a Pacific Coast phenomenon; Sasquatch sightings are surprisingly frequent in the South, specifically in Texas and Louisiana, where he goes by a few unique local monikers (perhaps in an effort to differentiate the beast from his left-coast cousin): Call him a Skunk Ape, a Boogey, a Wild Man even—just don’t call him Bigfoot. Southern Fried Bigfoot is a documentary that may lack the sensationalism of fictional cinema (and even other Sasquatch documentaries), but it goes a long way towards legitimizing the creature’s existence and de-stigmatizing purported eyewitnesses. While it falls far short of providing definitive proof, this one will make even the staunchest of skeptics take pause.
Not Your Typical Bigfoot Movie (2008)
The next film on the list is also a documentary, but as the title suggests, this is not your “typical” Bigfoot movie. The film follows Dallas Gilbert and Wayne Burton, two retired men from Appalachian Ohio who fancy themselves professional Bigfoot investigators. The film documents the expeditions and sometime -rocky friendship between these men as they seek validation from their idol: “famous” Sasquatch researcher C. Thomas Biscardi (who comes off like a total asshole). While there’s definitely a comic element to the way the men are portrayed (specifically their inflated senses of self-importance), Not Your Typical Bigfoot Movie is ultimately a poignant examination of human nature, where the search for Sasquatch parallels the search for meaning in a cold and complicated world.
The Wild Man of the Navidad (2008)
I know some Bigfoot fans out there are grumbling about all these recent films, feeling in your hearts that this type of horror movie peaked in the 1970’s and that films like The Legend of Boggy Creekbest exemplify this subgenre. Well, the filmmakers behind The Wild Man of the Navidad had you guys in mind when they produced this retro gem that’s almost indistinguishable from Bigfoot B-Movies of that Golden Age. The story is supposedly culled from the real-life journals of Dale S. Rogers, who in the 1970’s lived on the banks of the Navidad River in Sublime, Texas. While it’s never touched on in the film, the original legend of “The Wild Man” dates back to the 1800’s; it’s now widely believed that the “creature” was an escaped slave.
Valley of the Sasquatch (2015)
Look for Valley of the Sasquatch on VOD and DVD this fall courtesy of The October People (the folks who brought us Found) and Votive Films. It’s currently screening at festivals where it’s been kicking ass and taking names. This time Bigfoot gets a more serious, almost dignified portrayal in a film that focuses on a pack of creatures (as opposed to a lone giant). It creates a family dynamic that serves as a parallel and a foil to the dysfunctional family of humans, posing the question: Who are the real monsters? Sure, there’s some cheese, but it’s the absolute best variety, like dismembered limbs and heads getting squished like grapes! Indie favorites Bill Oberst, Jr., and Jason Vail bring genuine emotion and drama to VotS, something you almost never see in this kind of movie. (And, hey, it’s an Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies reunion!)
SIDEBAR: The remaining films are all in the found footage subgenre, and this is hardly a coincidence. By the mid 2000’s, the found footage craze was in full effect, but there’s something very apropos about using this presentation for Bigfoot movies specifically. It all harkens back to the Patterson-Gimlin film of 1967 showing a creature resembling Sasquatch sauntering across a riverbank in Bluff Creek, California. The picture is shaky and out of focus as Roger Patterson ran to catch up to the creature, and we only get a clear image for a few fleeting instances. It’s these imperfections that prove (according to some) that the encounter was unplanned and hastily recorded—and thus true. It’s the aesthetic employed in countless found footage films, where recordings are made during tumultuous, often terrifying encounters with all manner of otherworldly beasties.
Pursuit of a Legend (2010)
Pursuit of a Legend is a bare-bones found footage horror movie of The Blair Witch Project variety. A couple of aspiring television cryptozoologists decide to film a pilot in the Widjigo Woods of Washington State, where they hope to encounter a “Gentle Giant.” What they get is—well, it’s a horror movie, so I’m sure you see where this is going. Special effects are relatively nonexistent with hardly even a flash of the creature, but this film stands out thanks to the stellar lead performances: Steffen Dziczek and Chris Cantelmi act the fuck out of this movie! The viewers might not see Bigfoot, but we never doubt that the characters do, as we experience first their excitement and later—their abject horror.
Bigfoot: The Lost Coast Tapes (2012)
A disgraced journalist plots his comeback: Armed with a documentary film crew, he sets out to debunk a California hunter who supposedly possess an actual Sasquatch body. Frank Ashmore plays Carl Drybeck, the enigmatic outdoorsman claiming a connection to an entire community of Sasquatches. Many found footage horror movies take their time building up tension, but The Lost Coast Tapes has excellent pacing and top-notch suspense throughout as well as a really crazy final twist. “The Lost Coast” refers to a remote area of Northern California that’s a hotbed of Bigfoot activity (according to enthusiasts). A sequel is currently in the works titled Bigfoot: Beyond the Lost Coast Tapes.
Blair Witch writer/director Eduardo Sanchez knows that Bigfoot is the perfect subject for a found footage horror movie, going back to his roots with Exists. This time those who cross the Sasquatch’s path are simply campers who find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. And while all of these films subvert the idealized vision of Bigfoot as a “Gentle Giant,” this one actually communicates the creature’s violent motivations in a way that few are able. Yes, there are times when Exists feels almost like a Go-Pro commercial, but skillful storytelling and effective editing make for some excellent momentum. We’re treated to plenty of tantalizing glimpses of the creature throughout and rewarded with a final jaw-dropping money-shot, courtesy of the folks at WETA workshops.
Willow Creek (2014)
Willow Creek took some critical beatings this year, perhaps suffering from comparisons to the critically praised crowd-pleaser Exists, which was also released in 2014. Still, I thought this film was a brilliant and dark twist on established Bigfoot tropes. Yes, it’s a super slow-burn, including a 10-minute uncut scene of a couple in a tent listening to noises outside, but these filmmaking tactics succeed at putting the viewers right there in the darkness alongside them; I was literally at the edge of my couch, holding my breath as I strained my ears. And while there’s not much in terms of creature FX, what we do see (or rather, the implications of what we see) is infinitely more disturbing, suggesting a rather depraved motivation for Bigfoot’s interactions with humans.
Southern Fried Bigfoot, despite the silly sounding title, is a great flick. And while Willow Creek gets a lot of flack for (ironically) being more like The Blair Witch Project (in that most of the horror is in the build and the viewer’s imagination), I still think it is the superior film over Exists. But not by much.