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One summer morning, at the end of a dirt road in the thick western forests, a team prepares for a three day hike into the deep woods where no one has ventured before. The team consists of two paleontology professors, Dr. Ethan Edwards ' it's some kind of graveyard! The scientists are beside themselves with joy'they neverexpected to be so lucky. But their luck turns bad, as one of the Rangers disappears and another is attacked by an unknown creature while searching for him. Since the safety of the civilians is theirnumber one priority, the Rangers order the team to head home. But as they hastily make their way back to the main road, they come to realize that they are being hunted by the creature, an eight foottall gorilla-like animal that walks upright. One by one the team members are plucked away and viciously killed. Who will survive the night?
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The film opens with three buffoons hunting something in the woods with pistols, when they run afoul of Sasquatch, who is none too happy to see them. Bigfoot makes short work of them, and even had the good graces to kill the most annoying character first. After the title sequence we meet up with a group of students and professors who want to go into the woods to look for bones, and the group of forest rangers there to keep them safe, headed by former ranger and obvious hero Matt Lattimore. The cast includes brother and sister forest rangers (Spencer and Janet) who both have difficulties keeping their hormones under control to no avail. For a monster-in-the-woods movie there is amazing restraint on the romantic subplot front.
As the cast walks through the woods the tasteful score swells in the background to the point it's distracting. The music is actually well done (especially for a film on this kind of budget) but is overly loud and intrusive at times, and even more annoyingly frequently crescendos when absolutely nothing significant is happening; it seems to get better after the first half hour or so, but maybe I just adapted to it. For a film of this nature the script isn't bad, although there are some ridiculous lines ("Maybe it's one of those man-bear things!"), which is probably unavoidable given the subject matter. I was also quite amused by the discussion about how dense the forest was, despite the fact that there are veritable wide boulevards carved out of the foliage on the trails they're following.
The researchers stumble on the sacred Yeti cemetery (actually, "Yeti Cemetery" would be a great name for a movie, but I digress) and the academics are gleeful at the cornucopia of bones they have unearthed. Very shortly thereafter they discover a bear carcass in a tree and wonder how it got there. Without further ado, cast members start disappearing, mercifully starting with the hormonally-challenged Spencer and Janet. An interesting note here is that despite the presence of several lovely female cast members, most notably Lou (Juliana Dever), the director never resorts to nudity, although there is plenty of adult language and violence. I was genuinely surprised by that.
The real violence begins at night when the Bigfoot gets the cast split up in the woods and starts picking them off. Sometimes the Bigfoot appears to be all digital, and sometimes it is clearly a guy in a gorilla suit with a CGI face, but for a B-movie the effects are certainly passable. The Bigfoot is actually pretty scary, and can run much faster and more quietly than I would have expected. The cast finds an old trapper's shelter surrounded by bear traps and stay there during the evening's Bigfoot siege. At this point two things become clear: first, there is more than one Bigfoot in the woods, and second, the name of the movie is "Sasquatch Hunters" because the Sasquatch are hunting the humans, not named for the group of humans hunting the Sasquatch. I liked that subtlety, and I liked the fact that even the prettiest girl isn't immune from Bigfoot attack.
The nighttime Bigfoot stalking scenes are quite atmospheric, work well in context, and set up the grand finale for the next morning when the battered survivors hike to their jeep and are pursued by a whole pack of Bigfoots (Bigfeet?), barely escaping, while managing to kill several Sasquatch in the process. Fittingly the movie concludes back at the Yeti cemetery with a funeral for their fallen comrades, another touch I liked.
Don't misunderstand me: this film will never be confused with a big-budget science fiction theatrical release and the special effects budget was not large, but for entertainment purposes I found it to be rather enjoyable. The cast was generally likeable, the script had a concept of continuity, the acting was not bad (if a bit hammy on occasion), the cinematography was much better than the budget would imply, and the Sasquatch is adequately scary. There are many big-budget movies that aren't half this entertaining, and because the cast plays it completely straight, this works as an effective old fashioned lost-in-the-woods monster movie. It's less campy than I expected, but that's fine: it does what it set out to do.
This is a low-budget Bigfoot movie. You have to realize this going in to appreciate it. I mention this because of the heavy criticism of other reviewers. C'mon, it's a freakin' Grade-B creature feature. What did these grumblers expect – "Apocalypse Now"?
In any case, this is a serious Sasquatch film. There's no comedy, goofiness or camp to be found. The characters are likable, which is something another reviewer noted. This is important because if you like the characters you're more likely to care what happens to them. Some criticize the acting, but I feel it smacks of realism. Bear in mind that many in the expedition are meeting for the first time. The characters act like a group of people awkwardly getting to know one another. The F-word is thrown around a few times but no more than in real life; besides, when the situation becomes a matter of life or death it's to be expected.
The cast features three quality women. Amy Shelton-White plays the scientist Dr. Helen, essentially the heroine of the tale. She may look like the girl next door but she's actually quite attractive. Then there's Lou, the sexy petite dirt blonde college gal who's documenting the expedition, played by the stunning Juliana Dever. She has a brief shower scene at the creek, albeit in a bikini, so don't expect nudity. Lastly there's the naive, meek and kinda-cute young ranger, Janet, played by Stacey Branscombe. Janet is sweet, but doesn't seem like she even belongs in the forest like a real ranger.
Another positive is the location. The film was shot entirely at Topanga State Park in the Santa Monica Mountains in western Los Angeles, which is notable as the biggest wilderness area of any major city in the entire world. The forest foliage is just dense enough to give the proper wilderness impression while sparse enough for the viewer to see what's going on. I'm sure it made filming easier as well.
Some criticize that the score is too epic, melodramatic and LOUD. It's true that the "epic" part is too loud in the first half hour (as they're trekking through the forest), but overall I appreciate it. Some parts are reminiscent of the original "Planet of the Apes" (1968), which is a good thing as far as I'm concerned. The best part is played over the end credits, a pleasant quasi-classical piece. This gives the film a touch of class, as if the filmmakers were at least aiming for something greater than the limitations of a direct-to-video monster flick.
Some criticize the appearance of the creature(s). The film deviates from (supposed) real-life accounts and other film depictions of Sasquatch in that the creature here is just a big shaggy black gorilla, albeit really fast, almost like a super gorilla, like the super wolves in "Wolfen" (1981). Some shots are obviously total CGI and you can tell, but other shots are of actors in gorilla suits with CGI faces. In any event, the creature looks fine for a straight-to-video flick. What were these complainers expecting, blockbuster quality? I like what they came up with.
On the downside, there's an overlong and meandering night sequence that starts near the 45-minute mark and lasts a full half hour, which is about 1/3 of the runtime (88 minutes). The problem with night sequences like this is that it's too hard to see what's going on, but they did a pretty good job with the lighting and this sequence adds an air of horrific mystery.
FINAL WORD: The film is called "Sasquatch Hunters" not because the people are hunting Sasquatch but rather because Sasquatch is hunting THEM. Bigfoot here is not a gentle giant; he's an angry monster killing machine. This is actually one of the better low-budget Bigfoot flicks. The material is taken seriously, the cast is likable and believable, the women are attractive, the locations are great, the score is surprisingly classy (albeit too loud/epic in a couple spots early on) and the adventure is fairly engaging.
"Sasquatch Hunters" is a picture filmed on spit, chewing gum and home-movie enthusiasm. Some would call it a guilty pleasure, others a piece of crap; I respect it.