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Not Your Typical Bigfoot Movie

Director: Jay Delaney
Cast: Dallas Gilbert and Wayne Burton

(US DVD: 29 Sep 2009)

The title warns you not to expect “your typical Bigfoot Movie” and you should indeed look elsewhere if you are a budding cryptozoologist. Documentary filmmaker Jay Delaney’s first feature is not about the search for an American Wildman, but is instead a fiercely watchable exploration of the hopes and aspirations of two Ohio “Bigfoot researchers” named Dallas and Wayne who send their weekends tramping around in rural Ohio.


On these weekend jaunts, the two aging pals manically ululate into the woods in what appears to be some combination of Comanche war cries that they believe will attract the friendly monsters. They return home to pore over thousands of pictures and hours of video footage, occasionally stopping to insist that a shadow, a log or tricks of sunlight are really creatures emerging out of the American wilderness.


If this is not your typical Bigfoot movie, it also not your typical art house documentary. The filmmaker did not expand his vision to the normal hour and 45-minute format (the film comes in at around 63 -minutes), undoubtedly leaving out much memorable weirdness in the process But the economy of footage actually works very well and, in this brief period of time, Delaney manages to create for us the entire world that these two guys inhabit, from Wayne’s past struggles with depression and failure to Dallas’ involvement in the larger “Bigfoot community” (a short, but wonderful, segment of the film follows Dallas on a trip to Tennessee to received a kind of lifetime achievement plaque from America’s premier “Bigfoot researcher conference”).


A persistent theme has to do with Dallas and Wayne’s hopes for making money out of their Bigfoot research. This is a bit more endearing than it might seem as we learn more about their lives and families. Both are victims of the American economy. In the shot where we watch Wayne looking sadly out the window of his rattletrap home that sits beside the carwash where he works, we are in an America that more people inhabit than we are often willing to credit. The search for the beautiful monster embodies their insistence that there is, despite all evidence to the contrary, a better kind of life, a life beyond failure and the broken American dream.


Not Your Typical Bigfoot Movie created lots of excitement at the SXSW festival last year and its good to see it released to DVD. The low-fi transfer stays true to the film’s indie origins and the only disappointment is the lack of extra beyond some deleted scenes. Most fans will want more of that extra footage since the feature itself was relatively short, in part because the film manages to get us deeply invested in Wayne and Dallas’ lives and odd friendship. 


I honestly also found myself wanting to know more about the creepy “big time Bigfoot researcher” who puts Wayne into a radio interview he is clearly unprepared for and sets up the central crisis in the film. His combination of enormous self-regard and attempts to manipulate our to heroes make him one of the best, and most deeply irritating, documentary villains since Billy Mitchell in King of Kong .


Budgetary concerns clearly influenced the final product, but this shouldn’t keep you from buying this gem. No “Ultimate Edition” DVD is likely to ever appear. Don’t let that keep you from missing an example of indie documentary at its best.

Rating:

W. Scott Poole is a writer and an associate professor of history at the College of Charleston. He's the author of Vampira: Dark Goddess of Horror, a book about the life and strange times of America's first horror host out in September 2014 from Counterpoint/Soft Skull. He is also the author of the award-winning Monsters in America (2011). Follow him on twitter @monstersamerica.


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