Written by: Brian Brinkman, Micho Rutare
Directed by: Bruce Davison
Starring: Danny Bonaduce, Barry Williams,and Bruce Davison
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman
The legend is alive!
The Asylum is a strange, difficult beast to wrangle down; sure, the “mockbuster” purveyors will rarely be accused of putting forth much of an effort since their existence thrives on either recycling popular films to their own formula ad nauseum. However, the studio often has a reach that far exceeds its grasp since it attempts to make big budget spectacle on a shoestring sensibility, and the result is always cheap movies that look even cheaper because these guys aren’t content to just make a little monster movie. When combined with their blatant disregard for logic, tone, and general competency, this results in something like Bigfoot, a movie that’s sometimes impossibly bad, especially because it’s never quite that obvious just how aware it is of its own badness.
In other words, it’s typical Asylum fare, where a small South Dakota town is suddenly under siege by the monstrous, not-so-mythical beast after a local shock jock (Danny Bonaduce) destroys some of its territory to host a rock concert. While Bonaduce has revenge in mind, his tree-hugging rival and former band-mate (Barry Williams) attempts to save Bigfoot along with his own gang of hippies. Caught in between is the local sheriff’s department (headed by Bruce Davison, an Oscar winner who somehow got reduced to starring in and directing this) and the town citizens, many of whom are devoured simply because these two have a petty rivalry going on.
Just as the three-decades-late allure of Tiffany vs. Debbie Gibson propelled an earlier film in this “series,” the four-decades-late appeal of watching Danny Partridge and Greg Brady scrap is the gimmick here, I guess. Nevermind that such an “appeal” is lost on just about anyone in the demographic for something called Bigfoot, but this is what the Asylum has been reduced to: stunt casting with long-forgotten pop stars. It’s kind of like The Expendables, only with more obscurity and heinous CGI creatures stomping around. Actually, I guess Bigfoot fits right in with these guys, as, like them, his peak days of popularity seem to be well behind him. There’s always a certain sense of embarrassment that sends you sinking into your chair for these fallen idols, but Bigfoot is even a bit sadder since it sends Williams out onto a stage to perform a terrible song to a restless, booing crowd. If there’s a cinematic equivalent to performing in a podunk town’s backyard music festival to a crowd of dozens, it’s certainly an Asylum movie, so I’m not sure if this moment counts as self-awareness so much as sad, unintentional irony.
In perhaps the film’s most telling moment, it trots Alice Cooper out for about five minutes, which is enough time for him to take a stage and bounce around to a generic rock track, meaning the film could afford Cooper but not one of his songs--so take that how you will. Maybe Cooper just wanted a movie worse than Monster Dog on his resume. Somewhat luckily, Bigfoot intrudes pretty quickly and puts him out of his misery during one of the film’s half dozen scenes of tedious, mostly computer-animated destruction. Not content to simply put a man in a suit for a small-scale beast-run-amok movie like Snowbeast, Asylum cooks up this huge, horribly animated King Kong wannabe whose size oscillates from scene to scene; the biggest mystery is here is just how this thing was ever a mythological creature since it stomps around with earth-shaking authority. When he arrives on the scene, there’s no sense of larger spectacle--the government doesn’t immediately send in scientists or military, nor is anyone in the town particularly in awe; instead, they just go back to swilling their beer and having fights in their shitty little bar. Even as the Bigfoot continues to claim victim after victim, the central question of what to do with him--kill him, capture him, or let him be--just drags on when it’s obvious there’s no means of peaceful co-existence.
All of the carnage and mayhem sounds pretty cool, but it just amounts to Bigfoot tossing around weightless cartoon cars and smashing similarly feathery helicopters. His human victims also turn into a blob of pixels in his presence, and they’re often torn apart with a complete lack of blood; at one point, some severed corpses are glimpsed in the aftermath, but Bigfoot is largely devoid of one of the few things that could salvage it. Failing that, the wacky tone-deafness sometimes keeps it afloat, particularly when it comes to Williams’s character, who seems to be playing a creepy cult leader a la John Hawkes in Martha Marcy May Marlene. Maybe this actually started as a mockbuster of that film before shifting gears because the overtones are overpowering: this guy lives out in a rural shack with a gang of flower children, most of which seem to be impressionable young girls who play it like they’ve been brainwashed (then again, this might just be standard Asylum acting skills on display). Most baffling is his thick-headed insistence that Bigfoot’s basically an okay, misunderstood creature, a belief he maintains even after nearly all of his friends have been eaten by him. And he’s supposed to be the hero!
Bigfoot never makes light of any of this, and, with the exceptions of some obvious winks and nods at its stars, it earnestly charges ahead with a huge climax set atop Mount Rushmore, where Greg Brady hang-glides in to try and save the day. Whereas the monument once served as the stage for Hitchcock, it’s here desecrated with digital destruction and a howlingly awesome final shot that’s completely unearned unless it’s supposed to be some kind of ironic statement. I’d like to think so, but then I remember this is also a movie that features a gang of mercenaries who show up in a vehicle christened the “Bigfoot Death Mobile.” As if the film needed another black eye, it premiered on the SyFy Network as part of the network’s “Most Dangerous Month of Television,” which sounds like a threat more than a promotion. If you missed it there, you can now pick the film up on DVD, where the presentation is decent--it looks about as well as it can considering the low budget digital aesthetic (which sometimes results in some noticeable jaggies), and the 5.1 track is adequately boisterous. A gag reel, a making-of feature, and some trailers fill out the disc, which is destined to haunt video store shelves. Both good Bigfoot and good Asylum films are about as hard to come by as the actual Bigfoot, and combining the two doesn't change my mind too much about either one. Rent it!
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