★★★ out of ★★★★★
The Scariest Things got to check out the World Premiere of this Northwest myth put to film at the Portland Horror Film Festival!
Directed by Justin Lee
Seems like filmmakers have been trying for so-so long to perfect the perfect bigfoot/sasquatch/yeti movie. Every angle has been sussed out — found footage, faux documentary, straight drama, science-fi — the works. 1972’s Legend of Boggy Creek gave us a “In Search of” look at the big man, complete with a Bigfoot-like creature that no one’s ever heard of: the Fouke Monster. Intriguing and fun 1970s drive-in fare. 2013’s Willow Creek gave us the found footage angle. Solid story with a solid premise. Directed by a Mr. Bobcat Goldthwait. Unfortunately, the perfectly perfect bigfoot horror film seems to be just as elusive as the big man himself. Unfound and unfilmed.
Enter Big Legend.
The one thing I’ll say about Bigfoot films and bigfoot filmmakers is that they bring an exceptional earnestness and fervent desire to get it right. Whether it’s their inherent belief in the subject matter, the subconscious desire to see Bigfoot on a filming location, or just the enormity of the subject, bigfoot’s a tough one to pin down.
Big Legend like many of its predecessors has a solid story and pretty darn fine acting. The story follows Tyler Lair (Kevin Makely) and his fiancé out to the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. South of Seattle, north of Portland, the epicenter of Sasquatch country. Tyler decides to go deep into the wilderness, and oh man, the Gifford Pinchot has got some vast wilderness to get in to. Squatch is having none of his new neighbors and decides to nab Tyler’s fiancé late one night. Chomp chomp. No fiancé. Broken and emotionally devastated Tyler.
Understandably Tyler has a rough time accepting the fact that his fiancé was abducted by THE Bigfoot, but the nuthouse? Seems a bit of a stretch. Needless to say, Tyler spends many moons in the sanatorium, but he puts in the work and is nursed back to his former rugged manly-man self by none-other-than THE Amanda Wyss (Nightmare on Elm Street and Fast Times at Ridgemont High.) Tyler is eventually released from the boobyhatch and this former military manly-man decides that while therapy is all well and good, the only way to get at his demons is to go out to the woods and get his demon.
After consulting with his mom (THE Adrienne Barbeau) Tyler trods out to the scene of the crime. Undeterred from what he might find Tyler decides that the only good bigfoot is a dead bigfoot. However, upon returning to the woods Tyler doesn’t (initially) find Bigfoot, but he finds a whacked-out fellow vet Eli Verunde — excellently played by Todd Robinson. After a little mutually coaxing these vets vote for a little good ol’ Bigfoot hunting!
Does Tyler avenge his fiancé? Is she still alive? Did Tyler and Eli bring enough Budweiser to make the trip worthwhile? Does bigfoot reveal him/herself? Does Tyler get into an awesome manly-man fist fight with Bigfoot? Why does THE Lance Henrickson show up at the end of the film? Ah…so many questions. Some get answered and some don’t. But there’s no need to fear because Pacific Northwest filmmaker, Justin Lee, has more bigfoot goodness planned for us all.
Big Legend is a solid go at the Bigfoot legend, but unfortunately, it’s just that, a solid go. Director Justin Lee doesn’t really offer much nuance to the story, nor does he offer anything we haven’t already seen. He does, however, offer a purposeful and warm approach to a well-trod subject. Most importantly, he filmed Big Legend in the heart of Bigfoot country, the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. For my money that qualifies as getting it right.
Big Legend is not rated. Probably an R, but not a hard R. A theatrical release has not yet been set.
An Eric Addendum:
Mike and I attended this World Premiere together at the Portland Horror Film Festival. During the aftershow Q&A session that the Big Legend team had, Kevin Makely shared his story of encountering a Sasquatch about seven years ago. He’s a true believer, and he enacted his tale like a campfire ghost story. Makely is a big dude, and I wouldn’t count him out in a mano-a-squatcho scenario. There were a lot of fun details to the film, like stacked stones, log totems, and of course… big ol’ footprints. Justin Lee has an affinity for westerns, and that’s evident in his shot selections. He really knows how to show off the beauty of the environment. Kudos to the production team for shooting during the biggest winter storm in recent Northwest memory as well! It’s Fitzcarraldo or Apocalypse now… NW style… a big shooting challenge. My thanks to the Big Legend team for being so accommodating to the fans at the festival!