“VALLEY OF THE SASQUATCH” (Film Review)Movies/TV,News,Reviews Ken W. Hanley
One of the oldest North American myths of all time, it’s no surprise that the Sasquatch (a/k/a Bigfoot, Yeti, etc.) is still prevalent in the imagination of so many today. Living in the forests within our suspension of disbelief, the Sasquatch can take on any form we’d like it to, and therefore not only can it exist in our wildest dreams, but also our darkest nightmares. And while some films, like WILLOW CREEK and EXISTS, provide a painting of the Sasquatch as a territorial and animalistic monster, VALLEY OF THE SASQUATCH offers something much more benign and conscious, even if it’s similarly terrifying in its own way.
Interestingly enough, perhaps the greatest element to VALLEY OF THE SASQUATCH is that the film is an out-and-out creature feature while crafting its main monsters as sympathetic being. The crisis that pits man against Sasquatch in VALLEY is that of misunderstanding and ignorance, so not only do we get a look at the interests of the Sasquatch, but we also get the bloody and brutal moments that go hand in hand with that kind of fright flick. It’s definitely an interesting and refreshing approach, especially considering the budget for which the film was made.
Yet at the center of VALLEY OF THE SASQUATCH lays another dilemma, and that’s between the film’s direction and writing. Both are executed by John Portanova, but they’re not necessarily complementary to one another throughout VALLEY. In all honesty, Portanova is actually an excellent director in a technical sense, and his vision for the film is both ambitious and true to the Sasquatch myth. But the human element, whether it be the heart of the project or just the characters themselves, is seemingly empty, with the dialogue and plot points either waving too far into generic territory or outright flat. That said, beyond that human element, VALLEY OF THE SASQUATCH is intense, scary and beautiful, with Portanova crafting a forest environment that feels deep, rich and genuinely creepy.
Portanova also proves himself adept at bringing together an exceptional crew, as VALLEY OF THE SASQUATCH sports some great creature designs and SFX. The special effects and make-up work from Doug Hudson is nothing short of exemplary, bringing the Sasquatch to life in a big, bad way. Cinematographer Jeremy Berg, another member of the film collective The October People, is perfectly in sync with Portanova’s cinematic vision, creating an engaging and deliberate visual composition that is built from the ground up rather than relying on influence. And the score by Jon Bash helps establish the tone for the film, adding a sense of adventure and scale to the creature feature structure of the film.
As for the acting, the results in VALLEY OF THE SASQUATCH are hit or miss, with some performers excelling while others unfortunately providing weak links in the chains. The best in the bunch would likely go to D’Angelo Midili, whose performance as the supportive and rational Will is solid, believable and empathetic. Jason Vail and Miles Joris-Peyrafitte both have low moments as the father and son team of Roger and Michael thanks to their unfortunate dialogue, but mostly hold their own and make for proper performances in the bigger picture. Sadly, the same can’t be said for David Saucedo, whose poorly written and one-dimensional character of Sergio comes off as a desperate facade of an antagonist instead of a legitimately hate-filled force to be reckoned with. Special note should also go to Bill Oberst Jr. who shines in his small role as the survivalist Bauman, while Connor Conrad happens to make the most out of his physical performance behind the beast make-up and costume.
Make no mistake: VALLEY OF THE SASQUATCH is a good film, and perhaps with a rewrite could have been even better, but instead it’s faults keep it from being a great monster movie. John Portanova, while extremely technically skilled and armed with an intriguing take on the Bigfoot, puts his creatures before his characters; an admirable approach, but not entirely successful. Still, for those who come to a Sasquatch movie to see some Sasquatches and have been disappointed when certain films deliver either blurry images, quick cuts or nothing at all, VALLEY OF THE SASQUATCH puts their Bigfoot front and center, and at the very least, the film lives up to it name.