FilmReview

Sasquatch Sunset: Controversial Bigfoot movie is rewardingly novel, touchingly human and agreeably nutty

The Zellner brothers inject genuine pathos to elevate what could otherwise have ended up as an extended skit

Jesse Eisenberg in Sasquatch Sunset
Sasquatch Sunset
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Director: David Zellner, Nathan Zellner
Cert: 12A
Genre: Dramedy
Starring: Riley Keough, Jesse Eisenberg, Christophe Zajac-Denek, Nathan Zellner
Running Time: 1 hr 28 mins

The most talked-about film at both Berlin and Sundance is finally here with a riot of masturbation, defecation and Erasure-soundtracked extirpation. No film since Swiss Army Man, in which a frazzled Paul Dano dragged Daniel Radcliffe’s flatulent corpse around an island, has married scatology and austere art-house rhythms quite like this new Bigfoot-themed dramedy from the Zellner brothers, makers of Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter.

Sasquatch Sunset concerns a makeshift family of the cryptozoological wood apes of the title. A brutish alpha male (Nathan Zellner) and his female mate (Riley Keough) spend their days fornicating and foraging, observed by her son (Christophe Zajac-Denek) and a second, tagalong friend-zone male (Jesse Eisenberg).

Roaming through the wilderness of northern California, they pause to perform tree-tapping rituals, presumably as a signal for others of their kind. When the pregnant female rejects the advances of her voracious male, he seeks gratification elsewhere, with absurd and tragic results.

It could be an extended Saturday Night Live skit in the mode of Coneheads, but the Zellners graft genuine pathos to an explosive territory-marking sequence.

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As seasons pass in the sasquatch’s increasingly human-encroached territory, the film’s cinematographer, Mike Gioulakis, makes us believe we’re watching a genuine nature film. One almost expects a voiceover by David Attenborough. Remarkably, the talented quartet of actors emote through layers of prosthetics. A mishap with a log is genuinely heartbreaking to watch. The extraordinary creature suits, designed by the FX whizz Steve Newburn, lightly curtsy before Rick Baker’s beloved creation for Harry and the Hendersons.

Nathan Zellner: ‘We’ve talked to a lot of Bigfoot experts ... it’s fascinating how it feeds the mythology’Opens in new window ]

Multiple walkouts at Sundance suggest that the film is too languorous for some tastes and too gross for others. Hang in there and it’s rewardingly novel, touchingly human and agreeably nutty.

Sasquatch Sunset is in cinemas from Friday, June 14th

Tara Brady

Tara Brady

Tara Brady, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a writer and film critic