(director/writer: Braden Croft; cinematographer: Naim Sutherland; editor: Braden Croft; music: Patric Caird; cast: Shawn Roberts (Will Oates), Tyler Johnston (Kris Oates), Britt Irvin (Emma), Aleks Paunovic (Pete), Emily Tennant (Brit), Erica Carroll (Janet Oates), Lane Edwards (Hank), Eduard Witzke (Curtis), Tara Wilson (Shanna), Gary Chalk (Sheriff), Christine Willes (Baba); Runtime: 84; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Elizabeth Levine/Adrian Salpeter; Xlrator Media; 2014-Canada)

“Aspiring to be an art film, it just doesn’t get there.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Canadian filmmaker Braden Croft (“Hemorrhage”/”True Fiction”) is the talented writer and director of this low-budget indie fright horror film that revolves around the Bigfoot myth and the bonding of opposite brothers raised from childhood by foster parents.

It’s a dark film with mostly unlikable characters, depicting a sinister-looking small mountain town in Canada with weird secrets and an unpleasant Bigfoot monster story that borders on the absurd (but, nevertheless, is following in the traditional ways most B films have treated the monster).

It’s a film that I had difficulty connecting with as I found the storytelling at times too confusing and jarring, while the acting was not horrible yet it was still stiff and far from natural. Other reasons for the dislike is that it was so darkly photographed that I had trouble following the action. The biggest fault, however, might be that the story’s logic needed to be better grounded in reality for such an illogical story to have at least the appearance of being believable, which I think is an important reason many such outrageous films either succeed or fail. The real world it shows seems artificial. It’s a world of unfriendly residents slamming their house doors on visitors, which seemed like the cribbed scenes from too many bad B film horror pics (best done in Shirley Jackson’s novel The Haunting).

As for the dialogue, it had the most fire in its belly when the opposite brothers were trading snarky remarks on a car ride. I could best relate to them then, and felt the pic had some laughs in it. I think it might have worked better if it went in the direction of making it a comedy about disposable tourists at a Bigfoot tourist trap and forgot about all the other things it was trying to do.

Though aspiring to be an art film, it just doesn’t get there. I kept getting weighed down by all the negatives and only saw in glimpses how this artful filmmaker, working on such a tiny budget, was reaching for a story that would take root in being perhaps filled with psychological dynamics (which I think was his intention). But Croft never gave the viewer enough space to grapple with what happens to children who are abandoned for the story to have any psychological impact that mattered.

In the first scene, we see a frantic mother (Erica Carroll) so fearful of not being able to leave town that she just hands over her precious children to a hostile stranger, and he gives her a ticket to leave town (how can the viewer just believe that or not judge her as a monster!).

This in your face opening placed the story in a direction that needed more of an immediate explanation for it to make any sense, rather than getting to it at the midpoint of the film when I already made up my mind whether or not I liked the film.

After the frantic opening the story picks up many years later, following the death of the brothers’ foster mom from a stroke. We see the abandoned brothers as young adults who never knew their real mom–Kris Oates (Tyler Johnston), the twenty-something yuppie lawyer, and the thirty-year-old slacker and wannabe filmmaker, Will Oates (Shawn Roberts). They are at their lawyer’s office to receive their inheritance of photos and mementos from their foster mom and a videotape of their biological mom in a cardboard box.

Will wants to investigate the depressed ghost-town of Tendale, where the real mom came from, to find his roots (why he was not interested in doing this sooner, is not answered). Kris sees no reason for going there now, but his girlfriend Brit (Emily Tennant) does. So the trio drive about a half-day to reach Tendale, with the brothers arguing all the time.

At night, they stop at a bed-and-breakfast that looks like a haunted house, located in the woods (it’s a place you would expect to find Norman Bates). The manager Emma (Brit Irvin) is curious why they came here and questions them, as she later talks on the phone to her Uncle Hank (Lane Edwards) about the guests. Meanwhile Will befriends the only other guests, a loudmouth Aussie couple (Aleks Paunovic & Tara Wilson), who came to explore the Bigfoot legend the town is known for.

In the morning, Brit and Kris scour the unfriendly town looking for info on the real mom, while Will gets a scary close shave from the sinister-looking barber Hank. Because Will asks about Bigfoot, Hank gives him a tourist map of the tours.

It soon is revealed that the few locals remaining have made a devilish pact with the Sasquatch creature, who is not fully seen until the final moments (with the creature referred to as the Wild-Man, who is a big man dressed in an animal costume). The pact stipulates that they feed the newcomers to the Wild-Man as sacrifices so he won’t attack them and they could leave town if they want to.

REVIEWED ON 4/13/2020  GRADE: C+