Since my uncle gave me my first secondhand copy of Fortean Times back in about 1986 I’ve been hooked on the paranormal and the earth’s mysteries, everything from spontaneous human combustion, ghosts and possession, to UFO’s, rolling rocks and Bigfoot. I’m not saying I believe everything I read about these subjects but I enjoy a great skeptical tour of those unusual things which are often talked about around the campfire.
It seems that some monsters and paranormal entities are easily adapted to the big screen, I couldn’t fathom how many ghost or vampire movies have been created to date but the number of Bigfoot movies are probably outnumbered by the sightings.
Each yeah more explorers and adventurers seem to find more shaky cam blurry footage of the elusive creature, more books are written, more strange stories catch small press headlines. The latest was only yesterday (literally why I am writing this today, lord knows when I’ll post it. but on the 25 January 2020, in Washington, traffic cameras supposedly caught a hairy hominid and you can see the evidence on Twitter (https://twitter.com/WSDOT_East/status/1220090003805442048?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed&ref_url=http%3A%2F%2Fkatu.com%2Fnews%2Flocal%2Fwsdot-camera-captures-images-of-figure-that-might-be-sasquatch)
The legend of Bigfoot has probably existed as long as people have been getting lost in the woods, each continent has its own variety, Yeti; Sasquatch, Yowies and Mapinguari are among the more popular and for the purpose of this article I shall be using the term Bigfoot to refer to them all at time. While there’s tons of evidence of missing links and or strange connections with great apes, like vampires and ghosts we have no firm proof but people keep experiencing encounters.
It’s strange that out of all the plausible monsters out there, there just isn’t much love for the old hairy man of the woods, mostly because a lot of us have to get out there from time to time and don’t want to be reminded of what be watching us back. Luckily the history of movies is as old as the legend. Before I dig in I do want to remind you that it’s never been my intention to list every single movie, I’m sure there’s a wiki page for that, I have a few other variations in the pipeline, fore example I am working on an A-Z of Bigfoot movies which should hopefully get published as soon as I find one or two elusive titles.
Back in yesteryear we had our first big push of monster movies, the 50’s saw the release of The Fly (1958), The Blob (1958), The Creature from the black lagoon (1954), It came from beneath the sea (1955), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) and many more instant classics which thrilled and terrified audiences, having to remember that it’s only a film. It’s no surprise that while Hollywood was gripping at any monster it could, the Yeti made its debut in W. Lee Wilder’s icy adventure The Snow Creature (1954). Where a group of explorers trek to the Himalayas where they find a Yeti and ship it back to Hollywood, there’s a handful of Yeti antics but most of the movie is taken up with deeply movie sci fi/philosophical debates about the creature being human or not.
There were a few other 50’s movies which played with ideas of huge hairy creatures but the most notable being the Hammer Horror addition The Abominable Snowman (of the Himalayas) (1957), starring Peter Cushing as a quintessential British scientist heading out to the Himalayas and running into a giant Yeti. With Hammer behind the production a lot more effort and money went into the creature an effects. Based on Nigel Kneale’s 1955 TV Play it strives to be better in all ways, but like its predecessor it fell into the trap of spending more effort on defining humanity and than exploring Bigfoot as a viable horror monster. This is something that raged through 50’s sci fi and horror movies, there’s very few without epic speeches about how we as a race should think about the world around us. And this wholesome approach has its advantages, after some time with the creature Cushing works out that they are a peaceful species and there is an attempt to deny their existence to allow them to live in peace, which is an unusual stance for a horror movie, no one asked the Blob if it wanted to chill out somewhere. On the other side of the planet Ishiro Honda created his classic originally titled Beast Man Snow Man, the film was later re edited, dubbed and re-titled to Half Human (Jū Jin Yuki Otoko (獣人雪男) (1955) The film follows the ongoing torment of a group of people on Mount Fuji, although due to the negative manner in which Burakumin (inbred mutant savages) are portrayed, Toho created a self-imposed ban on the film which stopped it from being available on home video. Later when the film was rehashed, it was re-released in 1958 as a Half Human but now the villages worship the monster and his son who live in an island cave until a circus discovers them and tries to make them a main attraction but after a tragic shooting trouble starts.
The Bigfoot movie trail gets a little quiet until the 70’s. There were a few changes in the perception of horror in that time, the trend changed dramatically, directors has gone through all the folklore and mythologies and during the 60’s they experimented with ideas about the darker side of humanity with Psycho (1960), Eyes Without a Face (1960), Hammer Horror took over with stories about the classics, Kiss of the Vampire (1963) ad The Gorgon (1964) but the edge of horror sci fi widened with great titles like X the Man with X-Ray Vision (1963) and Day of the Triffids (1962) and of course there was a huge push for flesh and brains with a host of Zombie movies most notable Night of the Living Dead (1968) and the occult in Rosemary’s Baby (1968) and The Devil Rides Out (1968).
It seems that Big old Hairy had already had his day and was no longer a viable option when writing a screenplay.
Despite this being the decade of the most influential and compelling film of Bigfoot being filmed and distributed when Roger Patterson and Robert Gimlin spotted a real life cryptid walking out in Northern California along Bluff Creek and managed to film it. While sparking lots of criticism and new believers it didn’t manage to create a cinebuzz.
an analysis video but with 4K resolution?
It wasn’t until the early 70’s when things started to look good for Bigfoot cinema initially this kicked off with an exploitation film rightfully named Bigfoot, filmed in the previous year it was eventually released in January 1970. The story transforms the Sasquatch stories from the Pacific Northwest into an old fashioned monster movie with ties to King Kong. It starts out an average horror story, some unlucky camper accidentally stumbles onto a Bigfoot graveyard and one live creature who attacks them, the sheriff’s officer a skeptical but a local circus promoter sees an opportunity and offers to help in order to capture the bigfoot, which turns out not to be big biggest monster in the field, but with the help of some dynamite wielding bikers all sorts of havoc is unleashed in this gutsy b movie later rename in 2012. And thus came the era of having a proper Bigfoot Monster to contemplate rather than a rational and sympathetic creature and things only get wilder in the dangerous 70’s.
Only a year or two later a large number of reports started to flood in about a cryptid molesting livestock and attacking people in Arkansas, with all of this fresh evidence and wild accusations, the media basically wrote the next film The Legend of Boggy Creek which is styled as a docufilm following the random attacks and hunting of the Fouke Monster, a 7′ tall creature that terrorizes a small Arkansas community apparently since the 1940s. Directed by Chales B. Pierce, who used an old camera for authenticity and hired lots of locals and amateur actors to keep an authentic feel and the movie was a brilliant success, taking 20 million at the box office and costing a mere 100-160K to make. Another notable title is Creature from Black Lake (1976) . It sees two men exploring and fishing the Louisiana swamps and encountering a giant hairy monster, researches then come to the small town to discover more about the mysterious missing link. this low budget independent film is one of many and its approach
As the 70’s were such an experimental era of sex and drugs and rock and roll, it’s no surprise that Bigfoot hit the screen for the first time (?) in a feature length sexpolitation film called The Geek (1971) where a Sasquatch goes on a raping campaign attacking a group of teen campers, beating and molesting them in and around their campsite. the film ends with the wounded campers limping away wearing to get their revenge on that creature.. how poetic
On a tangent, only a year after The Geek dragged Bigfoot and his reputation through the gutter, he was brought back to decency in Eugenio/Gene Martin‘s Horror Express (1972), adapted from John W. Campbell Who Goes There? an unknown creature is found in the ice, thought to be some kind of prehistoric missing link. As this is a horror movie the creature escapes and wrecks the trains occupants as its travels from person to person through a strange hypnotism but it’s danger doesn’t come from this planet, so while this is more of a sci fi monster adventure it’s connections to possibly bigfoot theories cannot be ignored.
But by the end of the decade Bigfoot was a wild monster lurking the woods again in films Sasquatch (1976), The Capture of Bigfoot (1979) and the B-Movie horror anthology Screams of a Winter Night (1979) where some friends start to tell creepy stories, and one of them involves the Moss Point Man, it’s like a dwarf bigfoot (yeah something like that) it’s a low budget movie but one of those which has thrilled a small select group of fans over the years, even with the final segment being missing from the finished production. But the film is a testament that if there’s something lurking in the woods it’s likely to be hairy and strong and is probably Bigfoot or one of his cousins.
Overall the 70’s didn’t do much than add to the hysteria of the creature sightings, but it was the forerunner of the new wave of Bigfoot movies and this open flood gate lead to a lot of variety within the cryptids representation on screen.
The next decade begins well but all horror characters eventually become fodder to the world of comedy, but first, the decade opened with Boggy Creek 2 (1980) and Night of the Demon (1980) directed by James C Wasson, the film has a decent kill count it was classed as Video Nasty (until 1994) and underwent heavy censorship, a team of students lead by their tutor Bill Nugent, venture into the wilderness to search for Bigfoot but only Nugent returns and the film is his retelling of the story that touches on cannibals, human sacrifice, and satanic sexual rituals. The film makers attempt was to make a memorable mindfuck and to a degree this was achieved. For me the highlight of the movie is suggesting that bigfoot is a demon and one who has a tendency to rip off the occasional penis and disembowel people. It’s very psychotropic and beautifully done for its age and budget.
Later on came Demonwarp (1988) this sci fi horror follows a father and daughter who believe they were attacked by Bigfoot, but as the movie progresses they begin to uncover more evidence that proves an alien connection with their attack. This was one of the first to really hit upon the ideas being written about in a number of books being written at the time. Ideas that aliens use the bigfoot “suit” as a suit to traverse the planet, or that Bigfoot is an interstellar creature have been floating around for some time and explains why we never find bones in the forests. Check out this list of All Time 50 Best Bigfoot Books (1961- 2014) (http://www.cryptozoonews.com/top10-bf-bks/)
After all the gore and nastiness, way out sci fi connection and satanic rituals, by 1987 things took a sudden change, and one of the biggest grossing Bigfoot movies hit the big screen in Harry and the Hendersons. It was a total shocker that this family comedy see’s Harry, a gentle giant creature and constantly hits home that he should be protected by hunters and shadowy government agencies. It was never loved by the critics but reached a cult status among the kids and spawned a TV series (1991-1993) but this portrayal of a friendly and lovable creature wasn’t new, that’s how we began this journey back in the 50’s and it seems this face of old Biggy was the one which is easily accepted by audiences as it reaches more people and gets more butts in seats. The transformation from flesh eating rapey beast to lovable fuzzy critter let lose some wonderful titles in the 90s and beyond such as Bigfoot: The Unforgettable Encounter (1994), Cry Wilderness (1987) and Big and Hairy (1988) To Catch a Yeti (1995). RIP the intimidating monster…
Fast forward to modern times and with this wealth of back history and vibrant filmology the gates are now wide open to potential of Bigfoot movies, in any genre. But he/it/she still hasn’t reached it’s full potential in film exploration but there are some brilliant notable movies, especially as cinema introduced and flourished the Found Footage genre and became obsessed with zombies, Bigfoot got brought along for the ride.
I might as well start with Bigfoot Vs. Zombies (2016) it’s Mark Polonia‘s project which employs a little bad science and gore, a scientist creates a toxic cocktail which accidentally gets unleashed on a police body farm (much like Eerie 13) creating an army of flesh eating zombies but only Bigfoot can save us, from monster to warrior the role for the big guy is forever changing. It was only a matter of time before he got caught up with zombies and with both characters being played to death by now it was only going to happen in B Movie fan cinema, and what a trashy clash this is. The world of low budget films aren’t all about the gore and action, especially in Jamie Tracey‘s drama Howls (2011) where two friends get lost in the woods looking for a run away dog, each night they hear strange howls in the night but the solitude and midnight stalking causes them to break down their barriers and talk about their feeling, coming out of the woods stronger and more attuned to nature, the film seems to suggest they are then ready to come face to face with their forest watcher, it’s a whisper of a movie with some inclinations that we need to return to a natural life in order to really find the Big guy. But with the reliance all on us.
On top of this we the garden variety of low budget movies which are aided by a man in a fur-suit for its thrills, such titles as Dear God No (2011), Field Freak (2016), Suburban Sasquatch (2004) Bigfoot Wars (2014) and Hunting Grounds (2015) all come to mind.
In terms of found footage, mockumentary and other films, Biggy F turns up again and again. It’s hard to believe that with the complex history of the creature, the many sightings and iconic Patterson-Gimlin film that Bigfoot wasn’t the forerunner for found footage. Hoax (2019) was released only last year, an attempt to make a film about a team making a film about hunting for a real Bigfoot after a spate of murders, it wasn’t as thrilling as it could have been, but there are some great notable movies like Exists (2014), where a group of young people film their adventures while camping in the woods when they realise they are being stalked by something which repeatedly attacks their cabin in the night, with lots of shaky cam and night vision it’s a fast paced action horror. But in contrast Willow Creek (2013) the campers are just a couple, not prepared for anything out of the ordinary. They stumble not just on the creature but the hint of a cult surrounding the being, is this starting to sound a little familiar? The strength of the earlier movies still stands strong within these modern movies, they might be presented in a new way but their made up is very familiar. Evidence (2012) stood out it has a similar format to the other movies mentioned here, made on a shoestring budget but everything goes haywire here as it seems every inhuman creature is suddenly unleashed and Bigfoot is only one of many attackers on a roller coaster of shaky cam fear but the cracker for me is easily Bigfoot: The Lost Coast Tapes (2012) A man claims to have the body of a dead Sasquatch, a disgraced investigative journalist stakes his comeback on joining the team in order to prove that everything is a hoax only to discover a terrible truth which is a in pretty incredible twist in the plot that reveals the “real” reason why Bigfoot exists in our forests.
So there we go a brief introduction and a rough history to Bigfoot and B Movie Cinema, well really all Cinema, I tried my best to cover it all, while not naming every movie..but I can’t sign off without saying something about one of the most unusual title to date The Man Who Killed Hitler and then The Bigfoot (2018) a newish film starring Sam Elliott as a badass hunter and if anyone is going to save us it’s going to be Sam. It’s a downbeat drama about a man who single handedly managed to accomplish the impossible and kill Hitler but the fascist war machine kept on moving with a “back up hitler” so despite his great effort he didn’t end the war, feeling like a failure, he moves on in life and is later called upon by his country to kill Bigfoot, who is a hairy, not to big footed hominid who is spreading a deadly disease, it’s a very unusual style of entity compared most others in films, especially with the design of the creature glassy eyes, but sadly there’s only a short chase towards the end of the film, and the creature doesn’t have much character but he does show a lot a of guts.. *ahem*.
I believe that the comedy value of Bigfoot will continue to see him, her and the entire family keep reviving in the B Movie genre over time, either as a man in suit or otherwise. However as with all movie monsters there’s scope to adapt characters and reveal new origins and histories, have the vs all sorts of other creatures and send them into space, so who knows what will come next for the big footed icon.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my piece, I plan to write a few more of these and possibly about a few lesser areas of cinema, so if you have any suggestion please send me a message.