Brothers David and Nathan Zellner have had a long fascination with the legend of Sasquatch, aka Bigfoot. These quirky indie filmmakers first explored the world of the elusive forest ape in their 2011 short Sasquatch Birth Journal 2. Now they return with a feature-length dive into the daily doings of everyone’s favorite cryptid.
Sasquatch Sunset chronicles a year in the life of a small Sasquatch family struggling to survive the elements and human encroachment. Without any dialogue, this hairy quartet led by Jesse Eisenberg and Riley Keough grunts, snarls and emotes their way through comic misadventures, family drama, and unexpected tragedy. It’s a bizarre premise brought to life through stunning landscapes and creature effects.
More earnest art project than outright comedy, the film promises to be a weird meditation on nature and what it means to be human – or rather, a nearly-human primate. Backed by indie darlings like Ari Aster, Sasquatch Sunset seems poised to deliver on the strange promise of its cryptozoological concept. Strap in for a furry, feral ride.
Furry Good Acting: Sasquatch Sunset’s Standout Performances
Hidden under thick fur suits and primal prosthetics is an unexpectedly A-list cast that rises to the challenge of wordless physical acting. Leading the pack are indie darling Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network) and up-and-comer Riley Keough (Daisy Jones and the Six). As the central romantic duo, their expressive eyes and body language convey the tenderness and turmoil of this makeshift family. Whether bonding with their young ward (Christophe Zajac-Denek) or facing threats, their grunts and gestures tug at our heartstrings.
Also pulling double duty is co-director Nathan Zellner as the aggressive alpha male vying for Keough’s affection. With gangly limbs and domineering body language, he nails the physical comedy while also eliciting uncomfortable winces. And major credit is due to creature designer Steve Newburn for conceptualizing the authentic Bigfoot look. Covered head-to-toe in shaggy fur with dangling private parts, the actors are utterly unrecognizable. Yet their humanity still shines through, grounding the humorous hijinks in relatable emotion.
By committing wholeheartedly to this absurdist experiment, the cast strikes an improbable balance between laughs and poignancy. Their wordless interactions speak volumes about the universal bonds of family. Audiences may chuckle at their animal antics, but the impactful performances ensure we ultimately feel for these all-too-human beasts.
Gorgeous Cinematography and Creature Effects
Beyond the curious concept, what immediately strikes viewers about Sasquatch Sunset is the beauty of its natural world. Filmed on location in Northern California’s verdant Humboldt County, cinematographer Michael Gioulakis captures lush forest vistas bathed in misty light. Each season brings textured changes to the vegetation and skies. DP Gioulakis previously shot atmospheric indies like It Follows, and his work here is equally stunning. Wide landscape shots place us in the Sasquatches’ domain, while close-ups heighten their emotional states.
Complimenting the scenery is the excellent creature design bringing our cryptids to life. Facial prosthetics with ample brow ridges, pointy ears and nuanced expressions resemble relic hominid species. Shaggy bodysuits complete with dingles and furry breasts emulate biological accuracy. Kudos to designer Steve Newburn for crafting such authentic-looking beings. It’s a captivating blend of costumes and committed performances.
The ethereal score by Austin band The Octopus Project likewise attunes us to the mysteries of nature. Tribal drums give way to folk guitars and synth atmospherics that would make new age guru Enya proud. As the tone shifts from wispy to foreboding, the multifaceted soundtrack parallels the Sasquatches’ emotional odyssey.
Through harmonious world-building both in front of and behind the camera, the film fully transports us into its forest habitat. Audiences may grin at the outlandish concept, but the spellbinding craft keeps us invested in this family’s quest for sanctuary. Few Bigfoot flicks can compete with such rich aesthetics.
An Emotional Epic: Comedy and Heartbreak Across the Seasons
Unfolding over a year in the forest, Sasquatch Sunset’s story is structured into four chapters corresponding with the seasons. This framework allows audiences to intimately understand the rhythms of our cryptids’ world as conditions and challenges shift. Despite spanning a full calendar, the narrative maintains focus on the central Sasquatch family.
We first meet the quartet in a relaxed Spring as they forage and mate. Summer brings drama when the alpha male’s unwanted advances are thwarted. By Fall, the family bonds against external threats. As icy Winter settles in, their very survival hangs in the balance. Throughout the year-long odyssey, the Zellners strike a balance between absurdist humor and poignant empathy.
Much of the comedy stems directly from the beasts themselves, thanks to generous bodily function jokes. They fart, piss and hump like hairier versions of Frank Reynolds from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Yet while these gags elicit shocked laughter, the skilled performances ground the outlandish scenarios in psychological realism. When baby-making fails to go as planned, the pathos cuts deeper than any momentary gross-out.
As seasons pass, the dangers confronting the family – from territorial disputes to deforestation – underscore larger themes of the human impact on nature. Their habitat shrinking, rituals disrupted and kinship fractured, the Sasquatches become proxies for endangered species worldwide. Like refugees seeking sanctuary, their wordless eyes reveal profound soulfulness.
What begins as a tongue-in-cheek lark evolves into a meditation on the universal bonds of family and fragility of life. Our monkeyshines may amuse, but the looming threat of loss makes the plight piercing. Spanning the comedy-drama spectrum, Sasquatch Sunset promises a furry rollercoaster that’s equal parts silly and sobering.
Crass Comedy: Farts, Flops, and Sasquatch Shenanigans
Sasquatch Sunset pulls no punches when it comes to bodily humor. These beasts barge through the forest bluntly farting, pissing, and humping like sex-crazed teenagers. Nathan Zellner’s boorish alpha male sets the crass tone as he repeatedly flops his junk around and gnaws ferociously on vegetation. When the family trips out eating psychedelic mushrooms, their tripped-out monkeyshines ratchet up the ridiculousness.
The tongue-in-cheek laughs even extend to the very premise itself. Watching clearly human bodies covered in fur suits pretending to be non-verbal primates is patently absurd. Yet the fierce commitment of the actors somehow grounds these ludicrous scenarios. We can’t help but chuckle as Eisenberg’s gentle giant tenderly interacts with forest critters while letting loose noxious fumes.
When the alpha’s unwanted mating antics are rejected, the humor curdles into discomfort – and that uneasy tension carries through the film. As their forest habitat shrinks, the absurdity of their very existence heightens. Yet the worse their prospects become, the less amusing their vulgar behavior seems. The laughs ultimately give way to a melancholic recognition of our own role in disrupting the natural order.
A Surprising Success – With Some Fur attached
For such an eccentric film populated by mythical beasts, Sasquatch Sunset delivers startling emotional impact. Between the naturalistic performances and immersive worldbuilding, the story wields surprising power. When tragedy strikes the makeshift family unit, kitschy laughs give way to sincere pathos. We end up invested in their shared struggle for sanctuary despite initial skepticism.
Much credit goes to the bold cast for grounding the unusual premise in psychological realism. Through subtle gestures and glances, their wordless communication taps into universally relatable bonds of kinship. Natural chemistry between stars Eisenberg and Keough sells the unlikely romantic connection. By film’s end, their hairy exterior hardly matters – we recognize fellow complex creatures navigating life’s travails.
Yet sustaining audience investment remains an uphill battle as the barebones story stretches across four seasons. There are definitely lulls and loose threads in pacing and logic as the freewheeling narrative meanders episodically. Less patient viewers may disengage from the minimal plot during slower passages. But overlooking narrative weaknesses, the Zellners have woven an eccentric tone poem to the enigmatic wonders of the wild.
Clearly this shaggy art project with its crude yuks won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. Sasquatch Sunset seems destined for appreciation within festival circles and niche midnight movie crowds. But for those craving something furry and ferally strange, it scratches a distinctly cryptid itch. Just be prepared for a few head-scratching moments along the way.
A Swing for Sasquatch Fences
For decades, curious minds have wondered about the existence of elusive forest-dwelling beasts like Bigfoot. In Sasquatch Sunset, brothers David and Nathan Zellner bravely imagine a year inside the lives of one such family struggling to survive the elements. Their bold gambit pays off with a film that’s alternately amusing and tragic. Not afraid to get hairy, these indie filmmakers have created a cryptid curiosity that should tickle – and touch – niche crowds.
Undeniably offbeat, Sasquatch Sunset thrives on awkward humor and wordless world-building. Scenes of the shaggy clan eating, mating and passing gas in the forest often border on the absurd. Yet emotional undertones eventually emerge from their quieter moments of loss and rumination. Slow-paced and meandering, the film tests our patience even as it builds hard-won empathy for its hirsute leads.
Of course sensibilities will vary regarding both the crass comedy and minimalist drama on display here. Only the most adventurous moviegoers may fully embrace the eccentricities within. But for all it’s funky flaws and periodic longueurs, Sasquatch Sunset ultimately rewards those seeking a dose of weird wisdom. Love them or leave them, the Zellners have boldly granted Bigfoot’s existence – now it’s up to audiences to decide whether these beasts belong in our world.
Sasquatch Sunset is a weird and wooly swing for the fences that should deeply delight some audiences while perplexing others. Those with open minds and a taste for the eclectic will discover captivating textures in its noble experiment - including surprising emotional resonance. Yet the deliberate pace and crude humor certainly won't be everyone's cup of tea. Love or hate it, the film succeeds on its own cryptid terms.
- Stunning cinematography and visuals
- Excellent creature design/costumes
- Strong lead performances despite no dialogue
- Moments of surprisingly touching drama
- Effective tonal shifts from comedy to tragedy
- The score complements and elevates the story
- Premise may be too weird for mainstream audiences
- Bodily humor and gross-out gags may turn some off
- Narrative has slow passages and loose threads
- Hard to emotionally invest at times due to eccentricity