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The Bigfoot Tapes - 2013 Review

This is the story of three film-makers who go out in search of the Bigfoot due to a recent alleged sighting. This is meant to take place in Siskiyou County, California. These three young individuals are similar to those characters in the Blair Witch Project (BWP) in that they are of low intelligence and act irrationally - perhaps I think this because I'm British.

There are plenty of reviews of this film and I agree with the frustration conveyed by the ones I've read. The Bigfoot Tapes DVD is currently selling for £7 in Sainsbury's and I pondered long and hard (5 seconds) as to whether I should buy it or rent it via Virgin Media at home. I decided on the latter option and now I'm pondering if Virgin Media will take pity on me and refund me my £3.99 for watching it. The Bigfoot Tapes is one of those films that simply shouldn't have been made.

Perhaps the reader will permit me an opportunity for a fair rant as to why I think this is a bad film. The Bigfoot Tapes was made in 2012 by Stephon Stewart, who wrote, produced, directed and even starred in it. A very difficult thing to accomplish but perhaps a scary film should not have been his first piece of work.

The film copies the mock-docmentary style used by earlier films such as the Blair Witch Project. In fact Bigfoot doesn't add anything new to this style and I wonder if Bigfoot had a special focus elsewhere such as plot. Unfortunately, this isn't the case, the film is unoriginal and it left me feeling disappointed.

This is the story of three film-makers who go out in search of the Bigfoot due to a recent alleged sighting. This is meant to take place in Siskiyou County, California. These three young individuals are similar to those characters in the Blair Witch Project (BWP) in that they are of low intelligence and act irrationally - perhaps I think this because I'm British. As adults they lack even the basics of common sense, they were annoying and very unconvincing. They also did no research into the subject matter they're supposed to be investigating. Background research plays a part in the BWP. Mr. Stewart should have picked up the phone and called Richard Freeman or someone from the Centre for Fortean Zoology first (Britain's most famous cryptozoology group)! It would have resulted in a film worth watching, especially if you want interesting characters.

Whether this film is attempting to seriously make a comment about American society is up for a very short debate, something else I'm not convinced about. There seems to be three elements to this film; the mysterious elusive Bigfoot, the urban film-makers with money, opportunity and a sense of 'fun' - because let's face it that's the only reason why they're making a film and the rural population who appear to be just as wild and chaotic as nature itself and who are bent on savage criminal acts, which they consider normal. In this way, the film appears to convey stereotypes, which I think is unnecessary and unfair - almost in the way The Wrong Turn and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre encourages viewers to be scared of strangers including those people who live in the country, because let's face it psychopaths and cannibals love living in isolated places!

Film-makers often don't understand the rudimentary elements of human psychology, particularly when trying to make a good scary story and Bigfoot illustrates this.

If one reads about the reported Bigfoot sightings in the USA then one would learn that these observations are being reported by your average person, not backward individuals with nothing better to do than create a good yarn for a fast dollar. A sighting of the Bigfoot does not necessarily reflect the intelligence or the religious beliefs of the observer as suggested by this film (although in some narrative personal beliefs do come through but I'll discuss this in a more relevant entry).

Permit me to ask you this? If you're in a tent at night (something you're told you shouldn't be doing) investigating a mysterious creature in the middle of nowhere and then in the early hours you hear strange frightening noises nearby do you

a - keep still, stay calm, keep listening and hope that the noises don't come near you or do you

b - act like a freak, switch on as much light as possible and make enough noise so that whatever's out there learns of your location?

People panicking, acting like idiots and accompanied by irrelevant camera shaking makes frustrating watching - I felt a little like this when watching Cloverfield. These characters are not schoolkids, they're adults, admittedly very stupid ones but this doesn't make a good story. If characters are going to be so annoying then the viewer will be tempted to switch off. I didn't and that's only because I paid £3.99 to watch it. Yesterday I lost 1 hour and 19 minutes of my precious life.

Viewers are informed in the film that the forest is the home of the Bigfoot but it's also where evil men hang out and grow drugs! So who are we meant to be more frightened of? The Bigfoot or a gang of druggies? I didn't feel a thing in this movie except the coming of Death to take me away to a place where I would be forever exposed to Coronation Street reruns.

One scene in Bigfoot presents a clearing in the forest where goats are tied to posts, spilled blood has been found along with a black cockerel, so this alludes to the belief that these locals are into devil worship. Yet this isn't explored at all, it's a red herring from the start and adds nothing to the story as the 'bad guys' are plainly just evil men. Although questions about the coming harvest was discussed briefly by farmers this was lost in the story arc and made no sense. Is there a devil worshiping community in the outback as suggested by one of the characters? Well we don't know because the film doesn't go in this direction.

I hate to say this but Bigfoot is a lazy production. The religious nut (the man who made the phone call to the police) leaves the film makers behind because he had an 'experience' and then we don't see him anymore. It's not logical for a writer to not invest in his characters - I just don't see how his religious belief connects with the Bigfoot or if he had a role to play with the other men.

The three film makers believe that the locals are setting them up for some occult ritual but the film consists of unconvincing dialogue. Just look at the work of amateur film maker Ashley Thorpe, it's very refreshing to have someone like him focus his material on existing legends (e.g. the Hairy Hands legend on the B3212 road) - a lesson from Ashley's work can be learnt here and originality is pivotal.

One thing that really gets under my skin, more so than a bad plot and shallow characters is the amount of swearing contained within the dialogue. Perhaps it's my age but one of the reasons why I hated this film was the use of the F-word. I don't think this is needed even as an expression of fear,, in fact, it diminished my ability to lose myself in the story.

So, does the film contain any scary moments? Apart from the opening 911 call, which drew my in to what seemed like an atmospheric piece, no it didn't. When characters started disappearing by an unseen force the remaining characters, in trying to look for the girl Shy for example, lacked any credibility. They had no sense of urgency, they frequently self-reflected as if they were characters in a war movie, they lacked genuine emotion. Davey, one of the film makers, says "I think tomorrow is going to be a good day." No it isn't. The viewer knows that Davey and Stefan are going to die, it's obvious. The fact that they're completely dumb actually encourages the viewer to want them to have a most horrid death. In fact, the sooner the better.

I didn't care for any of the characters. None of them were believable nor did the plot take me away to a place of the imagination. I was excited more by the Cadbury's creme eggs I was chomping away on accompanied by two cups of tea! The whole plot was lame and any special effects were reserved for the final few seconds where....I won't spoil it but even that was a pointless exercise even as a nod to the 1967 Patterson footage.

The Bigfoot Tapes is a major disappointment. I don't know if my friend Steve Horvath has reviewed it but knowing him he would have spat it out. I can appreciate that it's a steep learning curve for anyone new to directing and writing etc etc but scary films aren't as easy to make as one may think. This is unfortunate as the subject matter is rarely tapped into by writers..

Whilst the legend of Bigfoot is universally known, the cases of alleged sightings are actually quite creepy. This atmosphere is lacking in the film and could have done with a build up of tension but alas it vanished after the opening scene..

Knowing, and having spoken to a couple of cryto-zoologists myself, who have also been to the States (and elsewhere) to try and find Bigfoot, I'm aware that there are some really interesting observations.One example is of an American Bigfoot hunter who took the CFZ to a place where she believes she communicates with Bigfoot regularly, also leaves food out for it. For her the Bigfoot inhabits a tree and communicates to her by banging on the wood. When I was told this my sceptical thinking came into play but I couldn't help but imagine how scary this would be in a film. Of course, it wasn't Bigfoot but a bear and the CFZ knew this, but it's how the scenario played out in my mind, like a story being told in a tavern, it caught me completely like a fish to a baited hook. This is what the film lacked, using sound to allow our imagination to build a picture in our minds in order to terrify us. The only sound the viewer got to hear was the constant rustling of grass and branches and the annoying unnecessary shouting of the characters. It destroyed any element of surprise that sound could bring to the screen.

The mysteries in our world also say much about the people who report, even experience, strange events. These encounters inform us about social concerns and anxieties and then there is the genuine esoteric element to these encounters that I find fascinating, which involve ideas of liminality. Instead of presenting such themes in the film as I expected The Bigfoot Tapes was merely a cheap attempt in making a scary film and it failed completely.

Anyone interested in the mystery of Bigfoot should watch the infamous and enigmatic Patterson-Gimlin film. (A stabilised version of the film can be found here). Its authenticity is irrelevant, it's the way it's been filmed that offers the viewer a shuddering moment and the recognisable camera shake that led to the style adopted by the Blair Witch Project et al. Obviously Mr. Stewart thought that is was appropriate to mimic this in his own film but he should have created something more original.

Do I have anything good to say about the film? Just two. The film starts off with a realistic sounding 911 call where two voices, the police woman and the caller, are conveying a frightening scenario. That there's an intruder in the caller's grounds, that the intruder is big and that the intruder is staring directly at the observer as he's making the call. The caller doesn't know what he's looking at. This works as a device and is the best bit of the film and the viewer is advised to switch off at the end of that scene. The Patterson film is briefly included that's the second point but that's it.

I think this is an awful film. A harsh review I know and I didn't intend to be so cutting but I'm a scary film buff and I want to be entertained but The Bigfoot Tapes did not do this. Perhaps I'll feel differently with Mr. Stewart's next attempt.