Shooting Bigfoot

Shooting Bigfoot


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

Originally this review was going to start with a brief argument about the existence of Bigfoot, where as a joke the fact that Occam's Razor was a philosophical construct rather than an actual razor would be used to suggest that it had no power in the physical world and as such couldn't be used to disprove anything, but Sally Morgan won her court case against the Daily Mail. Admittedly, on the narrow point of the allegation that she used an earpiece, but let's not risk anything.

So, there might be a Bigfoot. There's certainly footage of Bigfoot, and while there are a lot more footage and artifacts relating to the moon landings and the Kennedy assassinations and Gojira, nobody doubts which of those really happened and which didn't. Similarly without doubts are Tom Biscardi, Rick Dyer, and Dallas and Wayne.

Copy picture

Tom Biscardi has made a career out of hunting Bigfoot, Rick Dyer was involved in a 2008 Bigfoot hoax and wants to redeem himself, and Dallas and Wayne regularly encounter Sasquatches. In three inter-linked narratives director and protagonist Morgan Matthews joins them as they hunt the titular cryptid. A lot happens but, through clever editing and delicate pacing of his own footage, Matthews has created a documentary that is fair, funny, sympathetic, genuinely frightening at times and always compelling.

Biscardi is looking for Bigfoot with a crew, a convoy of vehicles, a veritable arsenal and a web of informants. Rick has an SUV, a vegetarian assistant, and Matthews to keep him company as he camps in the woods. Dallas and Wayne have a can of mackerel from the dollar store.

Given that Matthews himself mentions it, The Blair Witch Project deserves a nod, and given later revelations this takes on a metatextual weight that's fascinating, not least when it's made very clear that something bad is going to have happened. Twister's "us vs. them" narrative where the rag-tag meteorologists rail against those who've "gone corporate" is another useful touchpoint. The monetisation of cryptozoology is visible - while at times the hunts seem like performance outsider art for art's sake, at others more mercenary motives are clear, and at others it seems like the only real hobbies are the expensive ones.

There's also an important underlying narrative about rural poverty, homelessness, the state of American healthcare and the ravages of unemployment - and weaving between these subjects is a mixture of fantasism and optimism that's sometimes heart-breaking and sometimes heart-stopping.

There's all sorts: someone with a sheep's bone in their skull that lets them commune with Bigfoot; a man with seven stents in his heart; a person we're told is a Navy SEAL who betrays a noteable absence of wilderness skills; a lonely man in a folding chair with a high-powered rifle and a torch; other men, with more guns; a man who earnestly explains that they might be "UFOs just pretending to be airplanes"; a guy with a badly injured dog, in a sequence that is unequivocally disturbing; men who will argue about who carried the bread, and who carried the hot dogs, that one time; a pseudonymous interview compromised only by visible tattoos and the on-screen interlocutor continually using his real name; a guy who "fell off a building"; a delicious pasta dinner; a car crash; an assault; wild shooting in the darkness.

Matthews' approach is somewhere between that of Louis Theroux and Nick Broomfield, and his subjects are fascinating - good documentary finds something interesting, great documentary shows us its subject in an interesting way, and this is a great documentary - brilliant, even. With a narrative sophistication that's a stark contrast to the ham-fisted amateurism of most of the hunts, the most complicating factor is that Matthews' involvement becomes itself a component in the Bigfoot-Industrial Complex. When interpretation outstrips evidence conspiracy abounds, and it's made very clear that there is something afoot.

If there's one odd note it's that Shooting Bigfoot appears to have two title sequences, but then it does amount to two stories - one about the hunters, and one about the hunts. Both parts are good, as are the animated title sequences, but it's the way the threads of the hunts are woven together, even as they individually unravel. That makes Shooting Bigfoot a film to seek out.

Reviewed on: 20 Jun 2013
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A young British filmmaker travels to the US to meet bigfoot hunters, but discovers that they may be more dangerous than they seem.

Director: Morgan Matthews

Year: 2013

Runtime: 90 minutes

Country: UK


EIFF 2013

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