Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Cinema File #80: "Bigfoot: The Lost Coast Tapes" and "Bigfoot Country" Review

I had originally planned this Bigfoot Season thing to be a four part series, before I realized that both of the last two films in my queue were actually found footage movies, and as with the last found footage movie I reviewed, there's really not a lot I can say about films in this genre. They're all pretty much the same, a lot of boring build-up with a brief pay off at the end that sometimes, though very rarely justifies the time spent. The only notable exception I can think of is the recent anthology film VHS, which got past this major flaw by presenting multiple shorter stories. Ultimately though, I probably would have reviewed both of these films together regardless of their format, because in many ways they are mirror images of each other, both sharing the same basic plot, one executed about as well as one can expect given the genre limitations, and the other about as badly.

The Lost Coast Tapes and Bigfoot Country both follow documentary film crews out to prove and/or disprove the existence of Bigfoot, who go out into the backwoods and encounter various degrees of shaky-cam inducing terror. The biggest problem I have with most found footage movies, beyond the cliched logical leaps of filming and editing in real time, is that more often than not this style seems to inherently sacrifice character development in order to create a more personalized POV feel of immersive horror. The Lost Coast Tapes does a better job than most I've seen, but it does it by paradoxically establishing a tone for its dialogue that seems intentionally unrealistic. The actors talk like they are actors playing these roles, with no attempt to affect the awkward unnatural behavior of real people in a real situation. Part of me wants to criticize this as not only a betrayal of the format but an impediment to my suspension of disbelief, but then I doubt I would have suspended it anyway, and I can't deny that it made for a much more entertaining experience than a more realistic one would have.

Bigfoot Country is much less polished and seems to go for the more authentic boring documentary feel, but then the problem of just how boring it is makes it almost unwatchable. If I had to believe that one of these two movies was absolutely real, I'd pick Bigfoot Country, but that doesn't mean its the one I'd pick to actually sit through. If I wasn't reviewing it for this site, I would have turned it off half way through. Not since Alien Origin have I seen a less interesting group of characters engage in a less interesting adventure, and the fact that its supposed to involve Bigfoot, a creature near and dear to my heart cinematic or otherwise, makes me sad. Not quite as sad as when I watched that Danny Bonaduce movie, but still, kinda sad. The Lost Coast Tapes is paced so much better, to the point where I could actually engage with it mostly for the entire run, but even then, keep in mind that I'm only speaking of it favorably by the standards of found footage movies, which is naturally a very low bar. On its own score, it barely merits a thing, but its a good start, and has a few worthwhile moments to make it something other than a complete waste of time.

Without spoiling either film, I should talk about the endings. The ends of found footage movies are typically the only reason to ever watch them, and strangely enough, I have to admit that the worse film in this lot actually had, at least to my mind, the far better ending. The Lost Coast Tapes ends with what I think may have been a twist that was somewhat obscured by the shaky cam, so that maybe I missed some crucial expository information. I tried to go back and check, but I didn't see anything. Its somewhat vague, except for the revelation that whatever they are dealing with is real, and is more than just what we think of as Bigfoot. Beyond that, I can't really say even if I was trying to spoil it, because its too unclear to really define what happens. Bigfoot Country on the other hand has an ending that I so very much wish was in a better movie. The fact that this movie's boring first and second acts practically dare you to give up before the end is frankly disrespectful to the awesomeness of this ending. I really don't want to give it away, except to say that it is the most hilariously nihilistic end to a Bigfoot hunt ever committed to film which just begs for a trombone failure noise, and it really puts the "Country" in "Bigfoot Country." If only the two endings had been switched, at least I would have had one great film to report on.

All in all, I can't really recommend either film to a general audience. Found footage devotees might find enough in The Lost Coast Tapes to find it worthwhile, but then they might be turned off by the acting choice that made me actually somewhat enjoy it. The chaos of the final act is legitimately suspenseful at times and the death scenes are well executed and more varied than I was expecting, for whatever that's worth. Also, if the Lovecraftian implications I inferred from the ending are correct, I have to give them respect for taking it in that direction, even if they could have made it much more clear. I almost want to say skip Bigfoot Country, or at least skip to the end, but in a way, the unbearably boring build up almost makes the insane ending that much better. Its like Andy Kaufman's Bigfoot Special, an intentionally aggravating exercise to see how long you'll let yourself endure it with the promise of something good to come. Actually, Kaufman-esque might also be how I'd describe the ending of Bigfoot Country itself, but that's another story.

So that's it for Bigfoot Season 2012 (ish). We'll see if and when we get any new sightings in 2013. If we do, and I haven't quit updating this daily blog by then out of exhaustion, I'll be writing about 'em.

Oh, and just as a production note, all the stills are from the Lost Coast Tapes, because that's literally how uninteresting Bigfoot Country was - there were no images of any use whatsoever. At least not ones that didn't spoil the ending anyway...

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