'Sasquatch Sunset' Has Big Feet, Little Laughs

Directed by David and Nathan Zellner

Starring Riley Keough, Jesse Eisenberg, Christophe Zajac-Denek, Nathan Zellner

Image courtesy of levelFILM

BY Vanessa SanginitiPublished Apr 17, 2024


Inspired by Sasquatch lore and the infamous 1967 Patterson-Gimlin film that has fascinated them since childhood, directors/brothers David and Nathan Zellner created Sasquatch Sunset. Written by David, the film follows a family of Sasquatches as they traverse a North American forest over a year. Starring Riley Keough, Jesse Eisenberg, Christophe Zajac-Denek and co-director Nathan Zellner, Sasquatch Sunset is an absurd journey from start to finish.

The film begins with a group of four Sasquatches: a commanding and violent alpha male (Nathan Zellner); a steadfast matriarch (Keough); the young Sasquatch that she's tasked with raising (Zajac-Denek); and a reserved adult male (Eisenberg). They survive day-to-day life while making shelters using leaves and trees, hunting for food and picking each other's fur for bugs and other edible objects. When a revelation is discovered by the matriarch, their journey becomes one of intensified survival across the wilderness.

Shot in just 23 days in the gorgeous Californian wilderness, the film's stars — particularly Keough — shine despite the physical appearances they don. Covered from head to toe in prosthetics and hairy costumes, the actors have no lines — grunting and flailing their arms around to communicate instead. The actors even attended "Ape Camp" (what they called their rehearsals and movement workshop) prior to shooting, to familiarize themselves with how to walk, sleep and eat in a feral and animalistic manner. This preparation comes through in the impressive and often broad comedic acting by the ensemble. 

The ferality and horniness of the Sasquatches is quite charming at first. In one scene, the matriarch and the alpha male have sex, as the young Sasquatch and the reserved Sasquatch look on. It's an awkward and hilarious moment, but as the film continues, the crudeness starts to feel like the Zellner Brothers are just trying to outdo a level of grossness to forego any focus on narrative. The filmmakers include so much piss, shit, vomit and Sasquatch erections that it becomes repetitive and draining. 

Sasquatch Sunset tests the patience of its audience, and not in a riveting way. Funny instances, such as the first time two of the Sasquatches hear music, are scattered throughout, but they're few and far between. Instead, David Zellner's script opts for vulgarity that becomes corny and tired. Further, the film feels scattered and fragmented, as though it's a bunch of gags or bits being compiled into a feature film. This feeling becomes more solidified in knowing that the Zellner Brothers directed a short film called Sasquatch Birth Journal No. 2, which depicts exactly what it says on the tin. This lack of narrative cohesion throughout the 89-minute film makes it feel much longer, which is almost never a good thing — especially for a comedy.

The tender interactions between the matriarch and the Sasquatch she's raising are some of the film's most redeeming qualities, backed by a wonderful score by the Octopus Project and Mike Gioulakis's cinematography that captures the atmosphere of the California wild effectively. Like humans, the Sasquatches are trying to survive, albeit in a clumsy manner. The film depicts how scary being a mother is for the female Sasquatch, which is only heightened by being surrounded by the elements and not fully understanding the changing world. If the film did more with its inclusion of forest fires and what this means for the creatures of the forest, the comedy would feel slightly more balanced. Ultimately, the slapstick overshadows any real feeling.

It seems that every time an original film is released, conversations about the movie often revolve around the risks associated with its commercial viability. Filmmakers are labeled brave for having a singular vision amongst a sea of reboots and sequel sludge, and audiences are no doubt yearning for these filmmakers and their stories. Unfortunately, not all big swings lead to home runs, and Sasquatch Sunset merely edges out a weak bunt single. 

Not shocking enough to be entertaining, the movie's raunchy comedy is only worthy of a few sighs and eye rolls. Sasquatch Sunset offers some spirit, but it's not nearly enough to ease the annoyance viewers will inevitably feel. 


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