A quick note about today's review--I don't know what was going on with the streaming for this one, but I just couldn't get the thing running with any consistency. I tried it no less than seven times last night and it kept cutting out and utterly refusing to restart. I finally got it working tonight, and it pretty much went through but for a few hiccups here and there. I didn't want to tempt it to quit working again, so I stopped trying to take screenshots. Unfortunately, that means we don't have a lot of pics for this one, and there were some hilarious shots I did want to take, but I really don't want to fight the awful streaming to get them.
Suburban Sasquatch is the story of a reporter and a Native American hunter who team up to try to track down and kill a sasquatch or Bigfoot that is killing people in a small town. That's about it, really...the story isn't much more complex than that. It's a stock monster movie that doesn't really do much to distinguish itself.
Except for being pretty consistently inept.
Suburban Sasquatch is one of those films that just can't quite seem to do much of anything right. Poor acting, awkward dialogue, a paper-thin plot, terrible special effects, horrid sound effects, generic music, a ham-fisted attempt to slap some sort of meaning in there...it's all pretty awful.
Let me start out by noting that this is another one of those films where you can actually see a little bit of potential in places. If the people involved hone their craft, they might actually make something decent somewhere down the line...they just really weren't ready to make a film yet, and tried to do something bigger than they were able to do. It isn't utterly hopeless. There are some good ideas, and there is an actual narrative here--not a strong one, but a recognizable story nonetheless.
The thing I actually rather liked about the movie was that it did end up giving the hero and heroine a pretty major issue to go through that made at least some sense for them to confront in the situation. Our hero, Rick, is a reporter who hasn't managed to really land solid work because he keeps dreaming of that one big story and won't settle for anything less. He also has problems with religion or mysticism, generally unwilling to believe in anything other than what he can see. Meanwhile, our heroine is Tala, a Native American hunter who believes in following your fate and is resolute in her purpose and sure of her path in life. This is a natural contrast and, despite the film's problems, it works quite well. The two come together and help each other--Tala helping Rick see that there are things to believe in and that the world is bigger than he knew, and Rick helping Tala find a more complete life and see that it's okay to do what she wants in addition to following what she feels she has to do--they don't have to be mutually exclusive. The film actually portrays this relationship astonishingly successfully...for the most part. More on that later. But overall, I think that's the film's strongest aspect--the writer really picked a good concept to focus on for the conflict and nature of the relationship between Rick and Tala.
Unfortunately...there's not much else that I liked.
I need to start by talking about the acting. Almost everyone in this film was clearly not prepared to be on camera. There are a few (notably Tala) who seem relatively ready to actually act, but just about everyone just looks uncomfortable with being in front of the camera. It isn't so much that they're tripping over lines...they usually manage to get those out right. It's just that you can tell they're very conscious of the fact that they're being filmed, and they're quite nervous about it. I think some of them might actually manage to have a career if they can just lose whatever it is that's bothering them and stop looking so inhibited and embarrassed. As one might guess, this does seriously hurt the Rick and Tala relationship--Rick especially isn't up to portraying his changing attitudes, and I think that's a contributing factor to what I'll talk more about in a little bit on the development of the relationship.
One lady in particular ends up sounding like a character in one of those early anime dubs where they just spoke as quickly as they could and forgot all about emoting or actually acting...she just rattles off her lines without any feeling. Reminded me of the old man from Max Magician and the Legend of the Rings, who I dubbed "Platitude Man" because his role consisted entirely of generic "wise advice" spoken without any feeling. She actually fulfilled that same role, now that I think about it.
Best acting job in the film actually goes to this one kid who looks maybe 8-10, purely because he manages to just act reasonably naturally and speak and emote at the same time rather than being too shy to get into character. Admittedly, his character was "generic kid," and his role consisted mostly of yelling "mommy, I saw a monster" repeatedly, so that's not that hard to get into...but still, it just felt so much more natural. Honestly, that's what everyone in this film needed--the ability to just be the character. If that requires that your character be really simple, so be it! It's much better to portray a simple character well than to add complexity or backstory and become too distant from it to handle it.
Additionally, I don't know if scenes were sometimes being ad-libbed or what, but there are numerous cases of people talking over each other, awkwardly pausing like someone else is supposed to be saying something, and just generally not acting naturally at all, particularly during any of the Bigfoot attack scenes. A lot seems to have been left to the cast to improv, and none of them seem to be particularly good at that, so you get awkward conversations filled with repeated lines and uncomfortable pauses, as well as the aforementioned nerves that lead people to visibly break character and have to hold back nervous laughter at times. The disconnect caused by this gets astonishingly severe at times. In fact, there's one moment in particular where a woman is calling the cops and we see both sides of the conversation...but they seriously don't sound like they're having the same conversation at all. Neither even remotely sounds like they're responding to what the other is saying or even listening in the least, and it ends up just amazingly disjointed. And just listen to the first scene in the movie if you ever watch it--the couple on the way to a party. They just keep going over the same lines over and over. If you don't have enough content for a full conversation, either write more or trim the scene down a lot!
Most of the characterization is pretty simple, but there are a few odd moments. The biggest is the fact that Rick keeps explaining that the police are corrupt and are covering things up. We never see anything much like that in reality...one cop wants to keep the story hidden, but he makes a good point about not wanting to cause a panic. He doesn't arrest Rick or anything, or even act shady...he justs asks Rick not to run the story. Rick turns that into "corrupt cops" entirely out of thin air. It's really odd--they clearly wanted to set that cop up as someone who knows more than he's telling and feels like he might be corrupt or something, but it doesn't work at all because they undermine their own point pretty frequently. Especially notable is the point when the cop sends a subordinate out to look around the town, and it's heavily portrayed as him just trying to get the subordinate out of his hair, but then the subordinate actually finds Bigfoot. What do you know, actual investigation yields results! Maybe this guy isn't useless and corrupt. Maybe he knows what he's doing!
There's a hilarious couple scenes with Rick and a newspaper editor, too. It's pretty clear that the actors weren't sure what the mood of the relationship should be--was the editor supportive, or insulting? So, of course, they did both! The editor mostly insults Rick and tells him he's a waste of space and only has one more chance, but he also every now and then just throws in a really encouraging line that makes it sound like he's more of a mentor. So...which is he? In this case, "both" is not acceptable!
I also said I'd mention the problem with Tala and Rick's relationship. It's odd, actually. They do a pretty decent job with it in the later stages of the film, but they don't appear to have any idea how to get the characters from "strangers" to "friends who talk about life" in the earlier stages. Thus, the beginnings of the relationship are rushed and awkward, and it feels like we miss a step somewhere. Rick's initial scenes with Tala are all about conflict--he doesn't believe her stories and she is clearly not fond of his presence because he's mocking her beliefs and getting in the way. We have several scenes like this, and then within the course of like one or two sentences in one scene, they suddenly start acting like buddies who disagree but like each other anyway. It feels like there's a transition missing! In addition...though I really liked the idea of the relationship, the film gets pretty ham-fisted about slamming the "meaning" into there every now and then, with Rick and Tala suddenly waxing unnaturally poetic about their personality conflicts and how they're both lost souls of a kind and things like that. You can tell when the filmmakers most want you to feel something, because that's when you're definitely not going to feel anything. The film just gets a little preachy and a little too obviously "meaningful" in those times.
The plot is very, very basic. What we basically have is a series of Bigfoot attack scenes in which Bigfoot randomly shows up somewhere and kills a fisherman or a hiker or a housewife or something, or possibly drags someone off to its cave for unknown purposes. Alternating with these scenes, we have shots of either the reporter doing something investigative, the hunter doing something investigative, or a couple cops doing something investigative. There aren't a lot of twists to speak of, and if you've seen one formulaic old monster film, you've pretty much seen what this has to offer. It gets old.
What makes it get even older is that we effectively get the same scene any time Tala actually shows up when Bigfoot is around. It always goes like this:
- Bigfoot menaces an innocent.
- Tala shows up.
- Bigfoot menaces Tala.
- Tala shoots at Bigfoot and hits it.
- Bigfoot yells a lot and runs away.
- Tala inexplicably fails to fire a second shot or give chase.
Sometimes Tala will miss the first shot and take a second, but you get the general idea. There are several of these confrontations throughout the film, and once you've seen one of them you've seen most of them. Aside from one or two points where the Bigfoot is chasing Tala and Rick, there just isn't much going on that's different in any of the hunter scenes. That's not necessarily such a bad thing--they could have tried something different and had it end up horrid--but there are just so many scenes like this throughout the film. This needed some serious trimming, I think, to make it less repetitive. Or, you know, have her shoot another arrow at some point so she can actually kill the thing instead of just letting it run off to kill other people. It's rarely clear why it gets away from her. She even inexplicably drops the bow at one point to tell an innocent to get out of there, and then just scoops the bow back up--it isn't like she had to drop it, it's so she wouldn't have enough time to get a shot off before Bigfoot disappeared into the trees.
I definitely also have to comment on the sound. The sound effects are clearly stock, but more than that, they repeat frequently, to an irritating degree. Bigfoot's roar is the biggest culprit. Anytime it starts roaring/yelling, it's this generic monster yell on a loop that repeats at least 3 or 4 times before it finally stops. The same sound, 3-4 times in a row, sometimes multiple times per attack scene. At that point, the sound has become intrusive rather than helpful. You can spot the same thing happening in other points in the film--the fire while Tala is talking about her quest, for instance--but the worst is definitely that Bigfoot roar.
And then there are the special effects...wow. We've got all the favorites: CG blood poorly blended into shots, fake-looking models for severed limbs, monsters lifting up still images of logs or cards, disappearing weapons, one truly silly-looking monster suit...and some CG birds who usually look okay but, in at least one scene, look straight out of Birdemic. We also get more than a few blue-tinged day-for-night shots. The special effects are hilarious in this movie and I wish I had gotten any real shots of them for you to see, but I am not fighting with that video again. This is one of those cases where the effects really take you out of the movie. Even if you are managing to feel some kind of suspense over how things are going, it all goes out the window when the monster lifts a still frame of a car over its head or Tala throws a couple tomahawks into Bigfoot's chest and they vanish before the next shot. Maybe they're spirit-tomahawks, like Nightwolf from Mortal Kombat?
Lest you think that would be too out there for this movie, I have to call out the extremely...interesting...idea of what Bigfoot is in this film. You see, Bigfoot isn't just a big primitive man or ape-like thing in this film...no, no. Bigfoot is a force of nature with mystical powers. It is hard to kill so long as it is in a natural environment. It can move with unnatural speed and resist bullets (his resistance level varies a bit throughout the film for unclear reasons). It has super-strength. It can affect your mind. It can teleport.
Yeah, you read that right. Bigfoot is psychic and can teleport. I gather that the idea of the teleport is actually that it is mentally causing you to be unable to see it for a moment and then just moving over next to you, but it vanishes from one place and nearly immediately appears in another place, so I'm calling that a teleport. And yes, they clearly intend "disappeared here and reappeared there" to be an actual power. It isn't just suggesting that he was at a place and people didn't notice him...Bigfoot can teleport. Bigfoot is a ninja, apparently.
In any case, the general idea is that Bigfoot is a super-powerful mystic thingamabob that can only be killed with magic arrows. Sadly, Tala is actually a pretty horrid shot and never manages to hit it in the right place to kill it (that and, again, she rarely fires again once she's wounded it).
As another comment on the action: people do not seem to know how to use guns in this movie. In almost every scene when someone is shooting at Bigfoot with a gun, they also end up running at him. You have guns, dangit! The purpose of a gun is to prevent you from having to get close to something to kill it! Guns are ranged weapons! It really isn't that hard of a concept. And yet, everyone runs at Bigfoot...unsurprisingly, most of the time people using guns end up dying. It's also rather irritating that we see so many scenes of people using guns against Bigfoot. Thanks to early information from Tala, we know pretty quickly that nothing will be able to hurt Bigfoot except the magic arrows, but we're still forced to sit through multiple scenes of people trying to shoot Bigfoot only to find out that doesn't work (and then run towards him and die). It just feels pretty pointless, and unfortunately it ends up making the part of the film that is about the two cops pretty worthless, since they spend the whole film shuffling around looking for Bigfoot only to not be able to do anything at all to him once they find him.
I touched on this a bit before, but one final major issue with the film is that it is just far too long. This thing is an hour an a half long, and that's just too long for the story it had to tell. A lot of scenes could be shortened, some could be eliminated entirely, and that whole plot about the cops that doesn't really go much of anywhere could pretty safely be cut or blended much more strongly into Rick's storyline. Cut about 15 minutes to a half hour off of this thing and you might be able to make something of it...as it is, it's pretty repetitive and feels like it's still doing random monster attacks well past the time we should have been at a final confrontation.
But for all that...it is, in a way, kind of entertaining in that ridiculous bad movie kind of way. There is a lot of hilarious stupidity in this film, from the cheesy special effects to some bizarre concepts for Bigfoot's attacks. I swear I'm not sure if the filmmakers knew whether they wanted this to be serious or a comedy (it ends up feeling more serious but ludicrous). For instance, in one scene Bigfoot rips out a man's intestines, feeds them to him, then rips his arm off and throws it at a second guy to knock him out. In another, an old woman is attacked and yells for her son to come because there's a monster out there, and he comes and goes to the door and Bigfoot is just kind of standing there like he's an encyclopedia salesman waiting for the door to open. The car lift just has to be seen to be believed, and there's one great moment where Bigfoot is lifting a log to throw it and Tala throws some tomahawks into the log, and Bigfoot just kind of doesn't throw it for some reason. It's not that it fell out of his hands, it's just that apparently he doesn't like to throw logs with tomahawks in them.
Honestly...this film was indeed pretty terrible. It was simple but also inept, repeated concepts and scene ideas frequently, focused part of the film on an utterly useless story, used a goofy Bigfoot concept, had a simplistic idea of how to defeat its monster that just kind of didn't happen just because, featured truly awful sound editing and special effects, and had people that were about as uncomfortable in front of a camera as I've ever seen. It's not utterly worthless--there are some flashes of competence, and I think with work those involved might be able to improve. But this one? This one is awful...but it can be that kind of awful that attracts bad movie buffs. I can't give it a solid recommendation for bad movie fans because of the large number of slow scenes and repeated ideas that really drag the film down and make it feel a lot longer than it is, but I'd say it might be worth a look at least to fast-forward through and find the attack scenes to see the bad effects, and perhaps to see the very underwhelming final fight. For people who'd like to watch good movies, though...obviously this is something I would suggest avoiding.