Moving Pictures
Apr 24, 2024, 06:28AM

Monkey Mediocre

Out of Darkness is a better movie about primitive humanoids than Sasquatch Sunset.

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In an alternate universe, we might have a great movie about the Sasquatch.

HBO had a blockbuster series, True Blood, derived from the occult fantasy series created by the comic mystery writer Charlaine Harris. Harris frequently blurbs (and is blurbed) by several similar writers, one the equally prolific Patricia Briggs. Harris ended her series about Sookie Stackhouse (played on HBO by Anna Paquin), a rural Louisiana waitress who is, though mainly human, a telepath and part fairy, who takes vampire lovers and ends up solving mysteries and negotiating political settlements among witches, vampires, demons, and other “supes.” Briggs’ supernatural characters instead emphasize werewolves, though her “Sookie,” is a butch (but straight and petite) part native-American gal, Mercy Thompson, who owns an auto repair shop in the Pacific northwest and is a shapeshifter who can become a coyote (and see, talk to, and control ghosts).

Mercy balances her blue-collar life with the supernatural much as Sookie does (Sookie’s a waitress dating vampires; Mercy’s a mechanic who marries a werewolf). Briggs’ series is enchanting. Paramount or Showtime should’ve already made it into a True Blood-style show. It would be much better than some of the occult shows they do offer.

In Briggs’ recent novel, Wild Sign, Sasquatches appear, reinterpreted as beings with a dual nature like werewolves: they can appear as normal humans, operating some Oregon trading post for hikers, and then they can become the stronger-and-tougher-than-human Sasquatch.

In that alternative universe where Showtime decided to compete with HBO, and turned Patricia Briggs’ novels into the hit occult fantasy show, Howl!, we’d have a great show about Sasquatches. But instead, there’s Sasquatch Sunset, for some reason starring Jesse Eisenberg and three other actors film reviewers claim are well-known. It’s not very interesting. A tribe of four Sasquatches go through a year in the forest. They eat psychoactive plants and get high involuntarily, forage for grubs, have sex, poop and pee a lot, rub their genitals and then smell their fingers, do some rudimentary musical call and response to beautiful northern California forests (where there’s no response), and become pregnant. There’s so much peeing and pooping and throwing poop and getting high and being stupid that it’s funny Seth Rogen isn’t in the movie (I bet he’s hairy enough) but since there’s really no dialogue he and James Franco might not be able to have a bromance.

A pivot point in the movie is when one Sasquatch stupidly fights with an animal that has more claw and fang than he and also eats meat. Eventually we learn what time period the movie’s set in and whether there are humans yet in the area. Is it supposed to tell us something about ecology, as the Sasquatch seem to be dying out? Are we supposed to generalize from their low IQs and impending extinction to our own? Or is this just erotica for furries?

Sasquatch opened in 850 theaters April 19 after a very limited release April 12. “We are taking Bigfoot to America. We have high hopes that the broader market will embrace the movie,” says Kyle Davies of distributor Bleecker Street, calling it “a very different” kind of movie and “a bit of an unknown… It’s a wildcard.” I’ll be surprised if the box office doesn’t show he’s playing a losing hand.

A better movie about primitive humanoids came and went earlier this winter, Out of Darkness, about an early tribe of homo sapiens starving and wandering the wilderness looking for food. Mysterious beings try to scare them away from a newly-discovered fertile valley, and a lot of killing ensues. The mystery beings turn out to be a remaining Neanderthal family with a theatrical bent who make scary masks and costumes. “Our side” wins, though at a huge cost that leaves viewers wondering which race had the more highly developed moral sense. Not a scintillating movie, but still better than Sasquatch Sunset.


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