When I went down to the PO box recently and found this latest Troma treat waiting for me, I was perhaps unreasonably excited. After all, just think of it: Lloyd Kaufman and company entering the world of Sasquatchsploitation? Visions of a Tromatic skunk-ape danced in my head, and I looked forward to a Toxie-meets-Night of the Demon (1980) romp that would redefine the limits of good taste when it came to b-movie Bigfoot goodness. The fact that the largest review pull-quote on the dvd was the Cleveland Free Times gushing, "Reminiscent of JAWS" (no exclamation point!) only perversely added to my excitement.
Alas, it was not to be, as Bigfoot (2006) is not a Troma-produced flick, but rather a labor of love from writer/director Bob Gray, filmed on location in Ohio and only picked up for distribution by Troma. Shot on video using mostly local actors, Gray's movie is obviously a labor of love and he's to be applauded for getting it finished and congratulated for scoring the distribution deal. Unfortunately, that's about all the enthusiasm I can muster.
Jack Sullivan (Todd Cox) returns to his his hometown of Mentor, Ohio, with wisecracking daughter Charlie (Brooke Beckwith) in tow. He soon hooks up with old friend and now-sheriff Bob Perkins (Gray) and starts and romance with cute park ranger Sandy Parker (Liza Foster), whose school field trips have been marred recently by several mutilated deer carcasses. Crazy old man George Hobson (Van Jackson) claims it's the work of a Bigfoot who's lived in the area for years, and thanks to urban sprawl is losing his habitat. When the creature starts putting humans on his menu, Sullivan, Perkins, and Parker get closer and closer to a truth they can scarcely believe.
Let me just say that Bigfoot is not a bad movie, particularly considering its shoestring budget. The idea of a suburban Bigfoot is silly on its surface, but is executed with mostly a straight face and passable explanation in the script. The Bigfoot make-up is particularly well-done, and the few gore scenes are respectable when taken on that famous sliding scale.
The cast, which seems to be mostly local talent, is engaging enough. Cox is not your typical leading man, and while his line-readings are often stiff, it kind of plays to his tough guy character. (A late nod to Rambo as he suits up to fight the beast is kind of smile-inducing.) Gray, directing himself as the half-comic, half-dramatic character of Sheriff Perkins, is also okay. There are even a few standouts in the cast. Child-actor Beckwith makes an impression as Charlie, at least until the movie forgets about her around the halfway mark. (Her jealousy of her father's girlfriend and grudging acceptance worked for me.) Foster is attractive and very good as the park ranger/love interest, giving off a genuine good humor and compassion despite her irrepressible Midwest accent. (For example, upon discovering a mutilated deer she exclaims, "Oh my GAD!") And Van Jackson is entertaining as the Crazy Ralph analogue, and gets a fun final scene in the confrontation with the monster.
The problem is that Bigfoot, which as I say is not really that bad all things considered, still does nothing to distinguish itself from the pack of indie DTV movies of which it's a part. The performances are okay but nothing spectacular. The monster suit is good, but that'll only take you so far. The humor is inoffensive and good-natured, but not particularly memorable. The direction is capable but pretty static. (Although a few scenes in "Sasquatch Vision" led to chuckles, as the 8-foot-tall monster would have had to be crouching in sparse underbrush only a few feet away from the characters, completely unnoticed!) As a whole, the movie is just kind of there. It never sinks to the bottom but also never goes over the top, and as a result comes off as kind of bland.
In its press materials for the DVD, Troma calls Bigfoot "the movie that started the Sasquatchsploitation craze!" This means that either the PR people have confused Gray's labor of love with the 1970 flick of the same title (in which the creature kidnaps some women and fights bikers, apparently--now THAT'S Squatchsploitation!) or else hope the prospective DVD buyer will do so. The DVD extras consist of a trailer, a photo gallery, director's commentary, an engaging 10-minute "making of" feature (complete with a cryptozoologist stretching to make it seem plausible a Bigfoot could appear in Ohio), and the usual array of Troma trailers.
I can't really hate Bigfoot, because I can see Gray and his group put a lot of work and sweat into it, and it's nice to see that sometimes movie dreams come true. However, I also can't really recommend the movie unless you love DIY cinema and have a thing for any and all things Bigfoot. 1.25 thumbs.