For the record, I am one of those people that believe in Bigfoot. Like so many kids who grew up in the 1970s, I was weaned on the television series In Search of, various documentaries and docudramas like The Mysterious Monsters, Sasquatch and The Legend of Bigfoot, the ridiculous series Bigfoot and Wildboy, and of course the classic episodes of the Six Million Dollar Man where Steve Austin squares off against Bigfoot. I read books about Bigfoot and even dreamed of the day that I would be part of expedition that actually saw the legendary creature. And after all these years, through many hoaxes and even though the existence of Bigfoot has yet to be confirmed, I still believe in the creature. The problem--at least for me--is the other people who believe in Bigfoot, and tend to question my own convictions. Not that there's anything wrong with these people (really, it's me, not them); it's just that they seem a little...I don't know...different?
Documentary filmmaker Jay Delaney's Not Your Typical Bigfoot Movie is, as the title suggests, not your typical Bigfoot movie. Specifically, the film has little to do with Bigfoot, and doesn't seek to prove or disprove the creature's existence. Instead, Delaney profiles Dallas Gilbert and Wayne Burton, two intrepid Bigfoot researchers/hunters that live in rural Ohio. Between the two of them, Dallas and Wayne claim to have over 150 photos of Bigfoot, many of which are shown in the movie. But I have to be honest, most of the time I can't see a thing other than some bushes and the occasional dark blob that I'm assuming is what's supposed to be the elusive beast. And how Dallas, Wayne or anyone else can see Bigfoot in these pictures is beyond me. But that is what faith is all about. It allows some people to believe in God, and others to "see" a Bigfoot in a blurry dark mass located at the far bottom corner of a grainy picture lifted from the frame of a video tape recorded with a camcorder.
Delaney and his crew follow Dallas and Wayne as they go out looking for Bigfoot, and interview them about their lives. The result is an odd mix of watching amateur crypto zoologists in action, and revealing portraits of Dallas and Wayne that are as compelling as they are discomforting. Dallas claims to have sheep DNA, is something of a self-proclaimed shaman, and professes to have healing powers and the ability to communicate with Bigfoot. And he comes across as the more "together" of the two. Wayne, on the other hand is a hulk of a man that seems to have been battered and broken by his own intense self-loathing. So while Wayne doesn't claim to be part sheep, he lacks the assured self confidence of his best friend. Together they make quite a duo, as they share a common interest and an unwavering support for each other. But things become complicated when a fellow Bigfoot researcher has Wayne on his radio show, making a fool of him while also discrediting a photo that may or may not be of the creature.
Not Your Typical Bigfoot Movie is an interesting film for what it tries to be, more than for what it doesn't completely accomplish. Delaney deserves credit for not turning the film into some sort of mockery at the expense of Dallas and Wayne. Instead, he profiles the two friends in a compassionate way, set against the backdrop or rural Ohio, where economic hard times have left the American Dream a crumbling mass of shuttered factories and foreclosed homes. But there is something missing from the film that I can't quite pinpoint.
With a running time of just over an hour, it feels like the film is either to long by thirty minutes, or possible short by that amount. Either way, the documentary doesn't quite feel fully formed. Not Your Typical Bigfoot Movie is the sort of documentary that plays well in a film festival setting, where it might be accompanied by a short, and it exists in a context of movies you might not see under other circumstances. But on home video, it doesn't come across as a fully realized piece of cinema so much as it does a bit amateurish. It is not a bad film, nor is it your typical Bigfoot documentary--although the more I think about it, the less I'm convinced I know what that is. Delaney's documentary has an interesting set up and concept, but it is never as compelling as it wants to be, and by default not as good as it could be.