When you really sit down (or, heck, stand up) and think about it, no two horror subgenres are a more natural match for “cross-breeding” purposes than Sasquatch stories and “found footage” flicks. The 1970s were absolutely rife with low-budget “In Search Of Bigfoot”-type documentaries, so it’s something of a wonder that once the “shaky – cam” craze took hold in earnest in the wake of the enormous critical and commercial success of The Blair Witch Project that it took several years before intrepid (and, perhaps crucially, broke) indie filmmakers chose to chronicle the exploits of “mockumentary” crews out for a weekend of ‘squatching. As a matter of fact, I foolishly believed that Bobcat Goldthwait’s admittedly-quite-good Willow Creek was the first of its ilk, but I’ve recently discovered that my assumption was — contain your surprise, please! — wrong and that he was beaten to the punch a year earlier by director Corey Grant’s low-budget 2012 offering Bigfoot : The Lost Coast Tapes (or simply The Lost Coast Tapes, as it was originally known during its brief run on the horror film festival circuit).
The plot for this one revolves around disgraced “reality” TV host Sean Reynolds (played by Drew Rausch), a guy who was pretty big shit a few years back but whose career was derailed when a purportedly “paranormal” lead he was following up on proved to be not just a dead end, but a hoax. In short, he was “punk’d,” and now he’s looking for a big comeback. He thinks he may have found one — or not — when northern California resident/outdoorsman Carl Drybeck (Frank Ashmore) tells him that he’s in possession of a real-life Bigfoot corpse, and that for a mere $75,000 the “exclusive” of a lifetime can be all his. Who could say no to that, right?
Sufficiently intrigued — and prepared to air a very public “debunking” of Drybeck if he turns out to be full of crap — Sean duly heads north, cash in tow, with his LA-based crew consisting of producer Robyn (Ashley Wood), cameraman Darryl (Rich McDonald), and sound technician Kevin (Noah Weisberg), hoping to snag a story that will re-establish his credibility whether it’s true or false. And, needless to say, Grant and screenwriters Brian Kelsey and Bryan O’Cain are determined to keep us guessing every step of the way.
Most of the acting, believe it or not, is pretty good in this one, with Ashmore in particular standing out as a semi-stereotypical “mountain man” type who can spin an enthralling yarn with the best of ’em but seems downright cagey when it comes time to follow through on his big promise. Events move at what I can only assume to be a deliberately slow pace for most of the film, but taking his time with the build-up works in Grant’s favor as he actually manages to establish a full ensemble of reasonably-fleshed-out characters — and as they delve deeper and deeper into a mystery they don’t understand, we’re right there with ’em in the “confused but ultimately intrigued” department. The director makes some questionable choices as far as his camerawork goes, it has to be said, but that’s not too terribly debilitating a flaw given the “rough-cut” trope he’s exploiting, which relies on feigned — or even actual — unprofessionalism in order to sell audiences on the “truth” of what they’re seeing. All in all, then, this is a quality production that everyone involved with can and should be proud of.
Unfortunately, it also succumbs to the customary “third-act stumbles” that so many flicks of this nature do, and while the ending itself redeems some of what immediately preceded it to a degree, those who don’t care much for ambiguity would do well to take note that it leaves you with many more questions than it does answers. If you don’t mind being forced to think for yourself and come up with your own conclusions, though, you’ll probably like the open-ended manner in which things are left every bit as much as I did, which is to say quite a lot indeed. Certainly the possibility of a sequel exists — although one has yet to materialize — and if it happens, I’d be more than game to check it out.
Bigfoot : The Lost Coast Tapes is available for streaming on Hulu right now for free and at Amazon for $4.99, and is also available on Blu-ray and DVD from XLerator Media. I’m not sure that it’s quite strong enough to recommend purchasing it in either of its physical-storage iterations — and I didn’t, so I can’t comment on their particulars — but it’s most definitely worth a look at least once, and truth be told if it sticks around on Hulu for awhile I wouldn’t be at all surprised if I gave it another go sometime down the road.