Sasquatch Sunset (United States, 2024)

April 16, 2024
A movie review by James Berardinelli
Sasquatch Sunset Poster

Bigfoot legends have been around for more than a century but they had their Moment in the 1970s and 1980s (alongside the Loch Ness Monster) when a Sasquatch craze swept the nation. It eventually died down as Bigfoot hunting parties came home empty-handed and much of the popular “evidence” was found to be the result of pranksters (again, like the Loch Ness Monster). Today, only a few die-hards still believe that Bigfoots exist but that hasn’t stopped directors David & Nathan Zellner from making an unconventional fictional film about what it might be like to be an invisible lurker observing the antics of a quartet of the more-ape-than-human species.

Sasquatch Sunset is most definitely not for the average movie-goer. It runs about 90 minutes and there’s not a bit of dialogue in the whole thing. Nor is there anything resembling a discernible plot. It’s about four Bigfoots wandering around the woods doing the kinds of things Bigfoots do on a daily basis – have rough sex, sniff themselves, engage in “play,” go fishing, and sniff themselves some more – while seemingly looking for others of their kind. Occasionally they come across evidence of human activity, which more often than not confuses them. Their reaction when they discover a paved road is one of the film’s standout moments (for better or worse – walkouts have been known to occur).

At times, Sasquatch Sunset functions on a dramatic level, with an earnestness that's surprising. Then there are the instances when it feels like we’re watching the Wookies from The Star Wars Holiday Special doing a Benny Hill sketch. The seemingly dysfunctional tone works, however, because that's what the directors intend. Sasquatch Sunset is designed to be corny and loopy but with a kernel of sentimentality at its core. It's a Valentine to Bigfoot Lovers old and new, although perhaps not as campy as "The Secret of Bigfoot" from TV's The Six Million Dollar Man.

The cast features four actors, all buried so deeply under heavy prosthetics as to be unrecognizable. (The movie was given an R-rating by the MPAA for, in part, “full nudity.” There is in fact no actual nudity in the film – the actors are all wearing costumes – but I guess prosthetic nudity counts.) The main couple are played by Jesse Eisenberg and Riley Keough – she’s pragmatic and pregnant; he’s easily distracted. They are accompanied by Christophe Zajac-Denek as a child who may or may not be the offspring of Eisenberg and Keogh (without dialogue, there’s no way to be certain). Then there’s co-director Nathan Zellner as an older curmudgeon who is apparently pissed that he’s not able to have sex with Keogh and spends his time jealously guarding his blackberry bush and making unwise advances toward a panther.

There aren’t a lot of readily available comps for Sasquatch Sunset but one can find something similar looking back to Jean-Jacques Annaud’s 1981 quirky dawn-of-humanity film, Quest for Fire. Although that was a “period piece” (while this one takes place in modern times) and featured proto-humans rather than Bigfoots, there are a lot of similarities in terms of how the story is presented to the audience without dialogue and with the actors needing to express feelings without words. Sasquatch Sunset has more advanced prosthetics but the makeup in Quest for Fire still stands up pretty well today. The movies would make for a curious double-feature.

As a short, Sasquatch Sunset would have made an enjoyable 20 or 30-minute experience. At more than triple that length, it quickly wears out its welcome. By the end, the movie has become a little tedious, despite attempts by the filmmakers to insert events to liven things up. The comedy is of a variety that some will find hilarious while others will not be amused. There’s one big “gross-out” scene where the excrement and urine are flying but one wonders whether this might represent true-to-life animal behavior. Just because Animal Planet documentaries don’t show this sort of thing (for obvious reasons) doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.

Although the primary reason to see Sasquatch Sunset is for the uneven fun of watching Sasquatches roaming through woods, it’s hard to miss the unsubtle environmental message about the perils of deforestation. Although we don’t see any humans, evidence of their existence is plentiful and the title creatures are unsure how to relate to things like a campsite and a road. The filmmakers don’t lean too heavily into the messaging and it never threatens to become preachy, but it’s there.

Sasquatch Sunset is sufficiently different that it’s almost worth seeing for that reason alone. Alas, I don’t think it sufficiently rises above the gimmick of its premise to provide a compelling reason to spend 90 minutes in a movie theater.

Sasquatch Sunset (United States, 2024)

Director: David Zeller, Nathan Zeller
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Riley Keough, Christophe Zajac-Denek, Nathan Zeller
Screenplay: David Zeller
Cinematography: Mike Gioulakis
Music: The Octopus Project
U.S. Distributor: Bleecker Street Films
Run Time: 1:29
U.S. Release Date: 2024-04-12
MPAA Rating: "R" (Violence, Sexual Content, Prosthetic Nudity)
Genre: Adventure
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1