Director: Stephon Stewart
Writer: Stephon Stewart
Producer: Stephon Stewart, Michael Villar, Richard Halpern, Shy Pilgreen
Stars: Stephon Stewart, Davee Youngblood, Shy Pilgreen, Sam Ayers, Don Scribner
A trio of amateur filmmakers making a Bigfoot documentary find themselves lost and hunted in the woods of Siskiyou County, CA.
Much like how a real world Bigfoot search can only end in empty hands and disappointment, anyone venturing into “Bigfoot County” expecting a “found footage” Sasquatch thriller will discover that the hairy beast is virtually nowhere to be found. More accurately titled “Siskiyou County” once upon a time, the movie was rechristened with the more marketable moniker it wears now. While the amateur documentarians at the story’s center set out to hunt the elusive cryptozoid, they end up running afoul of a different threat entirely. Which is a fine enough premise, albeit one destined to alienate viewers misled by the title.
“Bigfoot County” opens with the audio of a somewhat infamous 911 call in which a frantic man describes an apparent Bigfoot encounter. Hoax or not, this recording does exist outside of the film. Using a real world element that many Sasquatch enthusiasts are aware of is a smart touch for adding a taste of authenticity. However, the story fuzzies details to a point where the audio’s inclusion is more of a forceful jam than a delicate weave into the storyline.
The 911 caller references a sensor light being triggered and is pretty clear about the fact that the Bigfoot sighting takes place in his yard. Yet when documentary filmmaker Stephon identifies the caller as a forest-dwelling recluse named Travis, the mystery man hikes Stephon four miles into the woods to show him a remote campsite where the encounter supposedly took place. Toss in that Travis sounds nothing like the voice from the audio recording and “Bigfoot County” is not exactly off to a start seamlessly melding reality with fiction.
Accompanying Stephon on his Northern Californian escapade are Stephon’s brother Davee and Davee’s girlfriend Shy. Something the trio can be complimented on is natural rapport, although nothing they do is overly thrilling and nothing they say is of any great importance. But in a rarity for the sub-genre, this is “found footage” that feels genuine. As prickly as Davee in particular can be, there is honesty to his behavior that makes even grating personality traits feel authentic. They may not qualify as memorably interesting, but “Bigfoot County” offers more realistic characters than many of its contemporaries do.
On another hand, Shy is perhaps the only hiking companion more useless than a broken compass. After pushing the start time back one hour so she can do her hair and makeup, important concerns when camping outdoors on a Sasquatch safari, Shy further frustrates the brothers and their guide with an additional delay by going back to the car for sunglasses. If the point of portraying these quirks is to highlight Shy as the dead weight she is, mission accomplished.
Shy earns a pinch of redemption by bringing along a roll of fluorescent tape to notch their path, although trackers usually carve signs into trees to prevent the exact sort of thing that ends up happening. And that is the sabotage of those markers, leaving the intrepid trio fearfully stranded in the forest. Along with this wilderness survival element, “Bigfoot County” throws several more possible dangers into the mix involving Bigfoot myth, trigger-happy pot farmers, slack-jawed hillbillies, and ritualistic animal sacrifices.
Rather than pick one thread and focus the story in a clear direction, Stephon and company spend a seemingly endless amount of time wandering through trees while the audience wishes for any one of the aforementioned possibilities to appear and shake up the boredom. When something finally does happen, logic drowns in a lake and “Bigfoot County” suffers a similar fate by swallowing a lungful of confused indecision, overacted hyperventilating, and nonsensical plot developments. And once the movie’s true threat is revealed, the time invested mulling over red herrings is rendered pointless.
There is so little substance to the lost-in-the-woods storyline that “Bigfoot County” cannot help but confound. Those looking for Sasquatch suspense will leave feeling cheated and those onboard with the switcharoo will have their attention spans depleted to zero before the climax can pay off. “Bigfoot County” offers a more realistic take on a “found footage” creature hunt, but “Bigfoot: The Lost Coast Tapes” (review here) delivers more entertaining moments, even with a literally out-of-this-world concept.
Review Score: 40