The Movie Waffler New Release Review - SASQUATCH SUNSET | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - SASQUATCH SUNSET

New Release Review - SASQUATCH SUNSET
A year in the life of a sasquatch family.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: David Zellner, Nathan Zellner

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Riley Keough, Christophe Zajac-Denek, Nathan Zellner

Sasquatch Sunset poster

Funny thing about the Sasquatch, or the Yeti, or the Bigfoot, or even (in my favourite appellation) the Abominable Snowman, is that all indigenous cultures seem to have a myth which relates to the hirsute lumbering man-beast (if you were in Mongolia you'd be talking about the Almas, in China the Yeren, while Australia has the Yowie). Within cryptozoological study, the Sasquatch (let's stick with that, as it's the designation which indie oddity Sasquatch Sunset favours) inspires the greatest enthusiasm: it is the most sighted, the most advocated for, the most believed in. The Sasquatch abides, and, when you consider the cultural ubiquity of the lad, you do have to wonder if there is some veracity in his omnipresence... Despite the global bearing of the Sasquatch however, the legend is generally perceived within the woody landscapes of American folklore. Perhaps this is because North America otherwise has a paucity of native mythology, notwithstanding the country's richly spiritual indigenous legends; with the shapeshifting, environmental psychedelia of that canon placed in blunt juxtaposition to the earthy primitivism of the Sasquatch.

Furthermore, the Sasquatch has a specifically close relationship with an American form of cinema, by means of the 1967 Patterson-Gimlin film and its iconic footage of the creature; a real-life horror short which for many provides conclusive evidence that Bigfoot exists (the Wikipedia page is a joyous rabbit hole: aside from the Zapruder Tape, surely this is the most scrutinised film ever?!). Despite such an auspicious mainstream debut, compared to other paradigmatic monsters, further cinematic sightings of the Sasquatch are rare. A quick nosey down Imdb user freaksruz's list, 'Bigfoot and Yeti Movies' (which was updated only five months ago) reveals that, apart from a persistent strain where a kid makes friends with a kindly incarnation of the missing link, most films featuring Sasquatchy creatures are either pseudo-documentaries (The Legend of Boggy Creek, 1972), actual-documentaries (The Legend of Bigfoot, 1975) or movies which predicate upon the search for Sasquatch (Not Your Typical Bigfoot Movie, 2008): almost as if within the cultural imagination we sort of accept that these creatures are "real," and construct narratives which support this notion (1970's Bigfoot is bookmarked for later re its irresistible descriptor; "Bigfoot kidnaps some women and some bikers decide to go on a rescue mission to save them"-!).

Sasquatch Sunset review

Here's another one to add to the weird catalogue, Sasquatch Sunset, a "surreal comedy" with bravura indie credentials: it is directed and written by festival darlings David and Nathan Zellner, stars Jesse Eisenberg and Riley Keough, and is executive produced by Ari Aster. Envisioning the existence of a small tribe of Sasquatch (a "flurry") over the seasons of the year, we see the primal creatures gradually become aware of the human existence which is slowly but surely eroding their territory. With these humans and their roads, forest felling and cheap pop music you have to wonder who the REAL beasts are, etc.

The film sets out its stall early on with an extended static shot of two Sasquatch fucking like, well, animals. Sasquatch Sunset's visual set apes the quasi-documentary photography of its predecessors (cameras set slightly back, gorgeous indexical wide-angles of Rockefeller forest, etc) but the overall tone of the film is that of plaintive slapstick. How far you enjoy Sasquatch Sunset relies upon how inherently amusing you find the very concept of hairy, subhuman beasts...

Sasquatch Sunset review

From this opening, the Sasquatch continue to behave in ways you’d expect them to: they fight, they hunt for food, they have more sex. They get drunk on blackberries and fart. The males have penises which are the dimensions of a supermarket frankfurter whipping about in the breeze. Publicity claims that actors underwent weeks of training to calibrate their performances at "Ape Camp", but, come on. This is essentially monkeying about: less Andy Serkis as Kong, and more George Galloway playing a cat. Due to the lack of dialogue, there could have been an expressive correlation with silent cinema here, where motion, the "action" which is called at the start of the scene, is exclusively vital to the art of the frame. However, Sasquatch Sunset's soupy, emotive score is too instructive to justify such a take.

In Sasquatch Sunset's favour, throughout the film there are elements of the natural sublime, the sort of resplendent, mysterious verdancy which Herzog strives towards. Yet these are just moments of calm wonder, of simple "woah." Perhaps the ideal audience for Sasquatch Sunset would be stoned teens, who would bliss out at the inevitably leafy mise-en-scene, giggle at the apish antics and nod sagely at the film's elementary environmental message. To wit, there is a sad moment involving a fallen log, a sasquatch and a shallow river, which despite the poignancy makes you wonder just how fragile these supposed savages actually are (if only the doomed couple in Bobcat Goldthwait's mega-scary Willow Creek had access to a stream and a tree trunk, eh?). The most striking moment occurs when a spray-painted red X is spotted upon a tree, the eerie instance deftly capturing the strange irl dislocation of such markings (when I'm walking the dogs and see this sort of thing it is always weird, an uncanny indicator that the supposedly open forests are in actuality controlled by unseen aerosol wielding/chainsaw pulling authorities).

Sasquatch Sunset review

The sort of film Sasquatch Sunset is though, when the tribe see a road for the first time their freaked-out instinct is to first piss on it in fear, then defecate over it and then finally, via a female sasquatch, ostentatiously lactate upon it too because comedy rule of cumulative three, etc. Like I say, it depends on how funny you find this sort of thing: this thing being Keough in a full body Yeti suit spraying breast milk everywhere while whooping in outraged fury. Intriguingly, referential codes within the film obscure at what point exactly the narrative takes place. When the gang happen upon a deserted campsite, in pointedly tight shots we see main Sasquatch handle an old-fashioned tape player and get visibly moved by the sound wrangled from it: 'Love to Hate You' by the amazing Erasure. I think the joke is meant to be that this simian creature, this rube, is so without guile that he is affected by such artless music. Fuck you Sasquatch Sunset, I say. Erasure were, are, and always will be Great (perhaps I'm in a bad mood and misreading the gag, but I can't see it playing the same way if the tape player housed, I dunno, Nirvana or whatever other contemporary outfit these hipsters would endorse). In its stilted sketch comedy presentation Sasquatch Sunset exhibits as persistently self-satisfied, a knowing folly that even at 89 minutes outstays its welcome. Bigfoot? Big deal.

Sasquatch Sunset is in UK/ROI cinemas from June 14th.

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