Starring Ben Browder, Brian Thompson and Adrienne Barbeau
Written by Matt Allen and Scott Park
Directed by Matt Allen
Rum River Productions
There’s been a resurgence of Bigfoot-inspired films in recent years that have sought to either shed new theories on the cryptozoological marvel or just present him as the violent brute legends have always feared him to be. PRIMAL RAGE (not to be confused with the classic fighting game) featured an incredibly creative redesign of the fabled beast, but dropped the furball when it came to dialogue, acting and placing too much emphasis on an unlikable lead. BIG LEGEND might have lacked the ambitious retelling of the former, but it more than made up for it with a dramatic approach that relied on character and emotion rather than a constant outpour of violence. Hell, even WW2 got a reimagining with Robert Kryzkowski’s THE MAN WHO KILLED HITLER AND THEN THE BIGFOOT; a poignant and sorrowful depiction of man and monster elevated by the always impressive Sam Elliot. Even writer/director Eric Red will be throwing his foot down in 2020 with his Sasquatch soiree NO MAN’S RIDGE. In the meantime, the newest addition to the cinematic mythos is Matt Allen’s HOAX, a creature feature that attempts some respectable misdirection, but falters in its lusterless execution.
When people go missing in the backwoods of Colorado, a group of investigators journey into the mysterious terrain to get the scoop on who—or what—is behind the rash of disappearances. Led by FARSCAPE’s Ben Browder, the crew is comprised of typical monster fodder with nary a personality being given much to do beyond panic, yell and die (with consistent sarcastic remarks thrown in for good measure). Because each character is simply a walking cliché (arrogant producer, entitled valley girl, wisecracking comic relief, underestimated nerd with a moral compass), there’s little reason to invest in them. Even the potentially cool role of John Singer (played by MORTAL KOMBAT ANNIHILATIONS’s Brian Thompson) is given little room to make good on his character’s perceived badassery.
The lack of meaningful characterization is mostly attributable to the story’s structure and how it plays with the concept of a hoax. Compelling protagonists take a backseat to the filmmaker’s reliance on attempting to subvert expectations. Such playful back-and-forth between fact and fiction is admirable. It creates a guessing game of who/what/why that adds an interesting layer to a narrative that would have otherwise been used to just showcase a body count. Unfortunately, even with the ‘who-dunnit’ approach, HOAX is rather routine until it gets to a climax that presents both a shift in tone and content. While points are due for attempting something a tad different, it’s like receiving two types of horror subgenre in one—but both are depicted in a bland (albeit gruesome) way. It also doesn’t help that the script is rife with characters forced to do senseless things and the camera techniques utilized for the attack/dragging moments are of particular low-quality; something one might see on a cheesy made-for-Syfy flick.
HOAX is a somewhat entertaining diversion (and the poster art is killer), but if you’ve seen the aforementioned titles or EXISTS, WILLOW CREEK, THROWBACK, BIGFOOT: THE LOST COAST TAPES, CHEROKEE CREEK, ABOMINABLE, BIGFOOT (Troma’s version), STOMPING GROUND, FIELD FREAK, etcetera, it’s roughly more of the same. Having said that, if you’ve seen all of those films and want more of the same (because hell, it’s Bigfoot we’re talking about), then HOAX won’t disappoint.