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Bigfoot: A Beast on the Run
Back before the end of the 20th century, mythic monsters like The Abominable Snowman, Loch Ness's Nessie, and Bigfoot were certified cultural crazes. TV specials were devoted to their "discovery", while everyone from top scientists to cynical skeptics had a take on the creatures. Many believed that, by the time of the new millennium, Yeti and their (make believe) brethren would be taking up residence in local zoos, major museums, and more than one carnival side show attraction. Yet, some four decades later, we are no closer to uncovering the "truth" behind these legends as we were when Lee Majors was Six Million Dollar manning his way around the North American Sasquatch. Now, filmmaker David Thayer hopes to bring a fresh, no nonsense approach to the growing Skunk Ape industry, and while its certainly intriguing, Bigfoot: A Beast on the Run offers no more answers than the sometimes suspect people chasing the elusive biped.
Thayer's designs are simple - he will interview some of the remaining hardcore Bigfoot experts, along with one or two newbies to the corps, to see if we are any closer to capturing the creature (either alive or on film). He outlines the technology (night vision, motion detection, surveillance cameras) being utilized currently and talks to the people whose approach - either new or very old school - seems destined to uncover the truth. The main narrative thread centers around the Great American Bigfoot Research Organization and famed researcher Tom Biscardi. Loaded with the latest equipment, they make a bold claim - within 48 hours from the moment filming begins, they will have a beast in captivity.
Elsewhere, a young man plays a tape of a haunting scream he captured one night, while another group heads out into the Pacific Northwest wilderness to "communicate" with the creature. There are some fringe groups followed, including ones that believe Bigfoot is an "inter-dimensional" being capable of time travel and invisibility, and others tying him to a specific set of ancient astronauts. Through it all, Thayer pushes the primary question - does Sasquatch exist, and if it does, why is it so hard to find. The answers are intriguing, to say the least.
It seems like no documentary on Bigfoot can be completely serious. Somehow, just when you think the well spoken professor from a prominent University will convince you of the monster's authenticity, someone comes along quoting Erich von Däniken and all bets are off. Indeed, the beginning of A Beast on the Run seems so similar to dozens of recent "found footage" fake films (The Blair Witch Project, The Fourth Kind) that we wonder when director David Thayer will drop the façade and bring on the full blown fiction. Dealing with the subjects involved, who come across like characters in an In Search of... version of Spinal Tap doesn't help. Each interviewee is sincere in their position, not matter how plausible or improbable. So it takes a while to get adjusted to this movie's mannerism, recognizing that Thayer is just as earnest as many other moviemakers who've found inspiration in those unexplainable bits of biological folklore that have fueled several speculative theories and explanations.
So starting right off the bat, Bigfoot: A Beast on the Run is really not offering us anything new. There is no new photographic evidence of the creature, the one new audio tape debated back and forth between legitimacy and coyote cries. For many, the faces will be unfamiliar, this new breed of Sasquatch detective just as fanatical, if tricked out with the latest in modern pseudo-scientific gear. As a matter of fact, one of the best sequences in this short (55 minute) film has one of Tom Biscardi's assistants doing his best Top Gear impersonation, showing off a tricked out truck and an ATV which will allow the team to reach those wholly inaccessible areas that have eluded trackers before. That he gets so much joy out of revving up the engines and showing off the vehicular hardware that the real reason they need such expensive transport is never even addressed. It's like part of the whole Bigfoot paradigm - big toys for big Skunk Ape searching boys.
There remains an inherent level of curiosity in any discussion of the long simmering myth, a reliance on the same old pieces of evidence that still manage to stir our middling modern cynicism. Like the scream of the Fouke Monster in The Legend of Boggy Creek, the recorded noised featured several times in the storyline is truly disturbing. And again, there are some participants whose obvious mania is shuttered by a true sincerity. They BELIEVE in what they have seen or experienced, and no amount of outsized loony tuning will convince you otherwise. As for Thayer, he knows a good yarn when we weaves one and we follow the hour long travelogue wherever he wants to take us. Again, there are no major revelations to be found, no "new and startling proof" provided. But by taking the Bigfoot tradition through five decades of dissection, A Beast on the Run provides a nice primer of where the story sits today. It would be easy to dismiss most of what is discussed here, invisibility and time travel antithetical to any pragmatic discussion. But there is still something reasonable about all of these sightings and stories. It's that element that makes Bigfoot, and this documentary, impossible to dismiss outright.
Offered to DVD Talk in a Region 2 transfer that has a few minor issues, Bigfoot: A Beast on the Run looks slightly better than its low budget, shot on home video roots would otherwise suggest. The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen image offers a colorful, crisp image - that is, until a couple of wildly pixilated night scenes. As some Sasquatch scholars discuss the creature, the visuals render down into a series of tiny boxes. It often resembles an already bad YouTube clip gone grotty. Still, the rest of the film looks polished and professional, Thayer avoiding a halting, handheld camera conceit to deliver some decent shots and set-ups.
Presented in standard Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0, there are a couple of concerns about the aural aspects of this documentary. First, there is a lot of ambient noise in the exterior interviews. Second, the internal microphone mannerism for some of the recording leaves the listener missing out on some important conversational information. Both are clearly born of the limited technology available. Toss in a very moody underscoring and you've got a good (not great) set of tech specs.
The sole bonus feature provided on this Region 2 DVD is nearly two hours of additional interview footage. It is all very intriguing, even if Thayer was wise to trim some of the more outlandish discussions and theories. Biscardi and the boys get more screen time to defend/hang themselves, while other subjects spell out their ideas in more specific detail. Doing what a digital supplement is supposed to do, these bits of added content truly flesh out the Bigfoot: A Beast on the Run presentation.
Most Bigfoot investigations fluctuate wildly between the nonbeliever and the fully fundamentalist. Either the notorious cousin of the Yeti can't and never did exist, or he's visiting the house every evening looking for some tasty Man-Ape Kibbles and Bits. David Thayer deserves a lot of credit for taking on both sides of the situation, finding the few who regularly fly in the middle, and making a major overview on all the prevailing opinions. For that reason alone, Bigfoot: A Beast on the Run deserves a Recommended rating. While it may be a tad short sans the hours of added extras and fail to find a true conclusive common ground between the parties, it's still a significant addition to the standing research. Go in expecting mythological fireworks and you'll be disappointed. Reconfigure your goals to a more reasonable - and slightly cynical - approach, and you'll soon become a believer...maybe.
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