I never know what I’ll run into in the woods, so that’s why I keep going back for more (but only in horror films). Let’s see what I encountered this time.
AMERICAN BIGFOOT (aka Kampout) (2017)
I get that someone like cutie Zach Galligan of Gremlins needs to take roles to stay relevant in the horror industry (and until Gremlins 3 is made), but more often than not, indie filmmakers offer familiar faces roles in less than stellar movies.
American Bigfoot is an agonizing 93 minutes long. I don’t even know if cutting it down to 65 minutes would have helped.
After we initially see an oddly innocent looking Bigfoot in full (sort of looks like caveman makeup) the first hour of the film is just endless scenes of white trash and rednecks, from hunters to military dudes.
Virtually nothing of any value happens. It’s torture. Finally one white trash dude shoots a Bigfoot. Another Bigfoot abducts a kid. Zach Galligan is the sheriff on the case. Clint Howard is a scientist. There’s a really hot park ranger.
With only 30 minutes to go, a group of camping kids is introduced. WTF? That’s barely enough time to do drugs and have sex! When Bigfoot attacks, Zach and crew attempt to come to the rescue. But don’t expect any sort of concrete conclusion to the film. It ends with everyone still stuck up in the mountains and Bigfoot still out there. WTF?
WILD MEN (2017)
This mockumentary Bigfoot hunting reality show found footage horror comedy is one of so many these days demonstrating that simply filming your footage and having your actors deliver their lines to the camera in the style of The Office does not make it brilliant comedy. The humor actually has to start with the written dialogue.
Indeed, it’s another 90 minutes of Bigfoot comedy to struggle through. However, unlike American Bigfoot, I do think Wild Men may have worked a bit better if it were drastically edited. There are some funny, quirky moments here, they are just way too far apart to keep the momentum going, and the film starts to drag.
The plot focuses on a reality show crew that heads into an area known for lots of Bigfoot activity. They interview the locals, they head to a cabin where a Bigfoot incident supposedly took place…and they set up fake Bigfoot discoveries.
Meanwhile, rogue crewmembers decide to sabotage the show and expose it as a fraud by planting more fake evidence to make the others think there really is a Bigfoot.
It just doesn’t hold up for the 65 minutes it takes to get to the actual Bigfoot action. Once we do reach that point, it’s the usual found footage chaos, shaky and jumpy camera, choppy editing, and excessively dark footage as the crew is torn apart by Bigfoot—which sure does change the tone of the previous wannabe horror comedy.
It’s the best part of the film, and had it come about a half hour earlier, it could have made this a much more enjoyable film.
DYING BREED (2008)
While it’s rather derivative of most wilderness/backwoods cannibal films out there and kind of throws in some confusing plot points at the end, Dying Breed definitely delivers on the nasty gore and brutal deaths. Plus, it stars Nathan Phillips of Wolf Creek and Leigh Whannell of Saw.
Some chick’s sister died in a terrible “accident” in an area known as both the location of an historic case of cannibalism and as the habitat of a now supposedly extinct tiger, which she believes may have been the killer of her sister. Sooooo…she decides to go there with her friends.
Blah blah blah, someone messes with their car, MAN BUTT at 27 MINUTES!…
…blah blah blah, they finally hike into the woods, the main girl has…“visions” of what happened to her sister? Is she supposed to be psychic or is she just somehow imagining exactly what actually happened to her sister? Seriously, if you need to break up the slow pacing of your film with some horror, just give us the usual cheap pussy scare or asshole prankster of the group scare.
Needless to say, it wasn’t the extinct tiger that got her sister. The kill scenes (and sometimes not quite dead but in agonizing pain scenes) totally rule.
But, like I said, I didn’t quite get the backwoods family twist this time, and that includes why some old man feels up Leigh Whannell’s tit.
ARBOR DEMON (2016)
Under normal circumstances, a movie like Arbor Demon would really bore me.
Okay, it was a normal circumstance for approximately the first half hour. A troubled couple goes camping in the woods. Their thoughts about their future together are going in opposite directions. She’s keeping a secret from him. He’s got a sizzling hot body.
They camp. And they camp some more.
Then in the middle of the night, a group of redneck hunters battles a howling beast nearby. The couple rescues one of the still alive but wounded hunters. It’s Jake Busey. Now the three are trapped in the tent with the beast lurking right outside.
Here’s where I ran into the usual problem with Jake Busey.
It’s virtually impossible to assume he’s a good guy because he pretty much comes across as a mentally unstable serial rapist no matter what the role. I started to feel the couple might be better off risking being outside with the beast…or that the woman should just leave the tent…
Anyway, eventually the threesome has to come out of the tent to fight for survival. The action is packed into the final act, when we do get to see the creature at last. Let’s just say the name of the movie literally tells you what it is, so the film has an oddly fantastical, fairy tale quality to it…complete with violence and gore.
It’s not exactly a movie I would watch a second time, but it’s definitely engrossing and intriguing enough to see once.
Lycan will most likely get tons of backlash because it isn’t a straight up werewolf film. Instead, it deals with the legend, folklore, and mythology of lycanthropy while introducing just enough transformation to deliver what is essentially a slasher film. In fact, you’re best off approaching it with a slasher mindset if you want to get a little more out of it.
It’s a familiar formula—college kids go camping in the woods to do a class project and get picked off one by one in between partying. The film is supposed to take place in the 80s, but there’s no distracting exaggeration of the decade in fashions, music, pop culture references, or anything like that. The stereotypes are about as predictable as it gets, from the bitchy girl to the weird outsider main girl and the pretty boy popular guy who is oddly drawn to her.
Hell, this film even throws in a big burly bear having sex in a barn for the opening scene.
As much as all that is good enough for me, Lycan adds unique atmosphere and mystique thanks to the werewolf angle. The score for the film beautifully suits the visual footage of the country landscapes. And stepping outside of the focal point of the kids being kids, a mystical mood is created establishing a perspective of being in another life form’s terrain, from the techniques used to show the animal presence and POV (I was reminded of the 1981 film Wolfen) to the grisly lair-like locations the kids eventually stumble upon.
I say eventually because there is a lot of weirdness going on in the middle of the film. One of the girls goes missing from her tent, so the group decides to pack up and get out of there (WHAT???). There’s a lot of trekking through the woods, lots of talking and bickering, and bizarre occurrences for everyone as they split up and then get, you know…split up.
The various tangents make this a sort of mystery, which works to an extent, except for two things. First, you kind of know from the very beginning where this is all headed. Second, there aren’t really any clues dropped along the way, simply a Scooby Doo unmasking moment at the end hurriedly explaining an entire backstory that simply couldn’t be developed throughout the course of the film without giving away the twist. But it does follow standard procedure for a horror movie climax.