I grew up during the golden age of Bigfoot movies, so I have a lot of fond memories of Saturday matinee fodder like The Legend of Boggy Creek, Sasquatch, the Legend of Bigfoot, In Search of Bigfoot, The Mysterious Monsters, and of course, that episode where Steve Austin meets Bigfoot on The Six Million Dollar Man. I'm a confirmed fan of the genre. So it's with sad regret that I must say Sasquatch Mountain (originally titled Devil on the Mountain prior to its premiere on the Sci-Fi Channel) is barely a Bigfoot movie at all - and a pretty poor film to boot.
Sasquatch Mountain opens (in faux The Blair Witch Project style - which was faux already) with Chase Jackson (Lance Henriksen) losing his wife to Bigfoot. Well, no, not really. She sees Bigfoot and is subsequently mowed down by a car because she's too busy videotaping the big guy (why she's taping her husband coming to fix her car at night in the first place, is conveniently left unexplained). Fast forward to today. A gang of robbers, led by Travis (Craig Wasson), blow into town to rob a bank. Aided by getaway driver Vin (Michael Worth), a charismatic sleazeball, the gang pulls off the job, but not before psycho Wade (Raffaello Degruttola) caps a cop.
Meanwhile, seriously gorgeous Erin (Cerina Vincent of Cabin Fever fame -- and no, she doesn't get naked here, so forget it) is passing through town. Stopping at Chase's service station, manned by Raquel (Melanie Monroe), Chase's daughter, Erin peruses Raquel's rummage sale, and picks out a tape - the tape of Raquel's mother's death (why in the world Raquel would be selling this to complete strangers is conveniently left unexplained). Even more curious, Raquel decides to give the tape to Erin as a gift (I know, I know). Heading out of town, Erin unfortunately crosses the path of the robbers' getaway van, driven not by cautious sleazeball Vin, but by psycho sleazeball Wade. Quicker than you can say, "Are you in good hands?" the two cars collide. Wade tells tough girl Kayla (Karin Kim) to take Erin along with them, but almost immediately, sirens are heard. Coming to Erin's rescue are Sheriff Harris (Lance Howard) and his two dumbbell deputies: redneck Chris (Chris Engen) and Hispanic Ken (Frank Rivera). Can't you just imagine the comedic racist bantering that's going to ensue with these two wacky guys?
After an abortive gunfight, Sheriff Harris realizes the robbers have headed into the timber, and he calls for backup: grizzled old tracker Eli (Tim Thomerson). With a nose like his missing bloodhounds (and apparently, a personal odor to match), old Eli takes the point, and strides confidently into the woods to bag his prey. Now, if you're wondering when Sasquatch comes in, well, keep wondering. Because throughout the rest of this tedious trek into the woods, Bigfoot only makes a few sporadic appearances (and when he attacks, he always comes out of nowhere, rather like those funny "Messing with Bigfoot" commercials). Much of the rest of the film is an incessant back-and-forth dialogue between the cops and the robbers, who (yes, you guessed it) forge an uneasy alliance to battle their way out of the woods, and away from Bigfoot. Who will live? Who will die? Honestly; who cares.
I really tried with Sasquatch Mountain. The cast is quite good for such a film. Henriksen is always interesting to watch (although I must confess; I prefer him as a bad guy), and Worth, Wasson, Vincent, and old pro Howard all try to keep their dignity by approaching the film with at least a modicum of seriousness. But too many things are just off in Sasquatch Mountain, with the main culprit being the script. I didn't expect Sasquatch Mountain to be a "good" movie, in the sense that it had a competent, pertinent script, with maybe something to say outside of its genre limitations. In fact, I would have probably been disappointed if it had been that kind of movie. No, if a movie is labeled Sasquatch Mountain, I want that, man. I want lots of crazy backwoods, ass-stompin' Bigfoot action - which I didn't get. Bigfoot only shows up for a total of about seven minutes' worth of screen time, and he's no big shakes (sorry), let me tell you. Where's the gore? Where's a shot of Bigfoot stomping somebody's guts out, or ripping off their head, or tearing somebody limb from limb? In Sasquatch Mountain, all I saw was some fleeting, too-quick shots of Bigfoot (who does, I admit, have an attractive shag haircut) grabbing his various victims, accompanied by some very loud celery-crunching sound effects, as the camera cut away right at the moment of impact.
Instead of action in Sasquatch Mountain, I was subjected to endless philosophizing by the anyone and everyone, all at the drop of a hat. I mean, this is the chattiest bunch of thugs I've ever seen. No less than four of the characters give syrupy, cliched ruminations on their upbringing and their subsequent dissatisfactions in life, with some doing it more than once. And what dialogue they are given to say. If it wasn't a homily or bromide about life's disappointments and tribulations ("We all have scars," says Kayla - yeah, too bad they're not from Sasquatch), then it was some of the damnedest lines I've heard in a long time. Poor Craig Wasson (what happened to the guy from Body Double and Go Tell the Spartans?) gets the worst of the lot. Confronting Bigfoot after he's killed Kayla (the only time we kind of see Bigfoot in close-up action, and it's still way too tame), Wasson yells, "She's my friend, you stinking sack of bad genes!" Actually, he may have said "cheese" instead of "genes," because it's almost impossible to tell on the soundtrack - but hey, either one works in this case. At another point, when the lodge that the group is holed up in is under siege by Bigfoot, Wasson jumps up and screams, "This thing is really making me sick!" Amen, Craig. Amen.
Shot on Hi-Def, the 1.78:1 widescreen Sasquatch Mountain has some startlingly clear, vibrant shots, particularly in the outdoor Arizona location work, but many outdoor shots are also "hot," with some of the blacks in the night scenes not holding, either. The bit rate could have been higher, as well.
There's an optional 5.1 Surround soundtrack for Sasquatch Mountain which is surprisingly strong and crisp, with some great separation during the gun battle and some of the Sasquatch attacks. The 2.0 Stereo track is fine, as well. There are no subtitles or close captioning options.
There's a twenty minute The Making of... featurette for Sasquatch Mountain, which is kind of fun, if you're really into the movie.
I like Bigfoot movies. But Sasquatch Mountain barely qualifies as one. More Rio Bravo (and by subsequent homage, the original Assault on Precinct 13) than The Legend of Boggy Creek, Sasquatch Mountain fails to deliver even a modicum of Bigfoot thrills or action, substituting instead a cliched, tired story of cops and robbers on the run, bonding through their shared humanism (blah, blah, blah). I suppose completests of the genre, or Lance Henriksen fans may want to rent Sasquatch Mountain, but for all others: skip it.
Paul Mavis is an internationally published film and television historian, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, and the author of The Espionage Filmography.