Bigfoot, Yeti, and Sasquatch, all different variations of the same age-old terror: a gargantuan primate thought to roam the wilds of Earth’s mountain ranges and forests. Of course, little evidence exists, but a quick google search can prove that plenty people claim to have seen these elusive terrors. In fact, so many people claim to have seen them, it seems ignorant to totally dispel the rumours. Where Bobcat Goldthwait’s recent Willow Creek is an enthusiastic venture into the mysterious territory, and 2012’s The Lost Coast Tapes plays with what the legend might be hiding, Justin Steeley’s debut feature Hunting the Legend is every bit a gonzo Bigfoot film.
Christopher Copeland plays himself (as do the rest of the cast), a young man out to discover the mystery behind his father’s mysterious disappearance on a hunting trip. Setting off into the woods with his best friend, girlfriend and two camera technicians he hopes that he can once and for all prove the existence of the legendary Bigfoot.
The film successfully sets up a kind of road movie vibe, having the group collect weapons and even a defensive dog before their venture. The early parts of the film superbly relay the effect Bigfoot has on local communities, splitting them into believers and non-believers whilst glazing the whole community with an ominous kind of deniability. Steeley expertly manoeuvres his crew into a similar structure throughout the film, slowly toppling each character into a state of disbelieving belief. Special mention goes to the townsfolk who seem to be genuine locals with genuine stories. Half way through, Stan Copeland’s threatening forest hermit appears and delivers a much needed breath of gusto and menace to the laggy first half.
Though the film spends too much time running wildly about in the woods with hysterical people, it works because Steeley is so stingy with what he actually shows, but even then your still fairly spooked. In those moments when he might actually present us with a Bigfoot (we are told there are many) your brain kind of scrabbles to make sense of the sheer size. There’s a density to these beasts that lets them drift out from hearsay, but enough shadow to keep everything veiled.
In the end, Hunting the Legend has perhaps too much reliance on the viewer’s own innate discomfort with a camera pointed into darkness. Other than that there’s plenty suspense and enjoyment to be found in one of the most rounded and terrifying Bigfoot features of recent years.
Dir: Justin Steeley
Stars: Christopher Copeland, Hannah Wallace, Jeff Causey, Stan Copeland