Oct 7, 2016

13 Bigfoot Movies

Article By: Tony Timpone

A current mainstay of dubious reality shows, Bigfoot has fascinated both the gullible and non-gullible for nearly 50 years. Though Bigfoot (a.k.a. Sasquatch) sightings peaked in North America in the 1970s, folklore surrounding the humongous, bipedal ape-like creature can be traced as far back as the 1800s. Bigfoot has stomped his way through movies, documentaries, books, TV series and cartoons ever since. Although the lack of physical evidence and today’s omnipresent technology make it highly unlikely that such animals could continue to hide out in the Pacific Northwest, many want to believe. So today, Chiller’s latest edition of The Friday 13 identifies our favorite Bigfoot films and TV appearances, including the big guy’s cousins: the Himalayan Yeti and the U.S. South’s Fauke Monster. (List arranged according to year of film’s release.)

1. The Abominable Snowman (1957)

An English scientist accompanies big game hunters into the mysterious Himalayas seeking the white-haired Yeti in this Hammer Films production. In his first stint for the British studio, Peter Cushing plays the altruistic researcher out to study the elusive creature, while blustery Forrest Tucker (of US sitcom F Troop) wants to exploit the discovery, à la P.T. Barnum. But the Yeti’s smarter than the humans anticipated and may not even be of this world… Scripted by Quatermass series vet Nigel Kneale, The Abominable Snowman exhibits suspense, some pertinent philosophical musings and low-tech monster chills.

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2. Patterson-Gimlin Footage (1967)

On October 20, 1967, Bigfoot hunters Roger Patterson and Robert Gimlin captured the most famous cyptid footage in “real monster” history, and the debate over its authenticity rages till this day. The two reportedly stumbled upon the 6-to-7-foot female Sasquatch in Northern California’s Bluff Creek. In the grainy 16mm snippet, we spy the floppy-breasted simian walking boldly through a clearing, then gazing back at the intruders with a look of contempt. Scientists and even celebrated FX artists like Stan Winston and Rick Baker have deemed the under-a-minute clip as a hoax, while Patterson and Gimlin continued to insist on its authenticity till the day they died. You decide.

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3. The Legend of Boggy Creek (1972)

Produced during the early days of Bigfoot fever, this debut effort from director Charles B. Pierce (regional auteur behind The Town That Dreaded Sundown) attempts to unravel the enigma behind Arkansas’ own swamp-dwelling Fouke Monster. Pierce tells his story in docudrama fashion, with many of the real-life witnesses playing themselves. The atmospheric G-rated movie sports a certain verisimilitude and proved so popular (it played drive-ins for years!) that it instigated two totally lame and unconnected sequels.

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4. The Six Million Dollar Man: “The Secret of Bigfoot” (1976)

A year before Fonzie jumped the shark on Happy Days, Bionic Man Steve Austin leaped over Bigfoot in one of the most incredible episodes of any ’70s TV show (and a two-parter to boot!). Col. Austin (Lee Majors) treks to the California woodlands to help locate some missing geologist friends, but instead runs into (in the series’ slow-motion style) the forest behemoth, as personified by 7-foot/500 pounds-plus André the Giant. The fight scenes between the two represent the best in ’70s TV sci-fi kitsch, as does the silly alien subplot (!). Bigfoot proved such a ratings-pushing guest star that he returned two more times (replaced by Addams Family’s Ted Cassidy) for shaggy rematches, joined by more extraterrestrials and the Bionic Woman (Lindsay Wagner) for good measure. 

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5. The Creature from Black Lake (1976)

Not to be confused with that more-famous Black Lagoon swimmer, the monster stalking the environs of Black Lake hews closer to the rural swamp fiend of Boggy Creek. But unlike Pierce’s film, Black Lake director Joy Houck Jr. cast a few Hollywood character actors for flavor (Jack Elam, Dub Taylor and House of 1000 Corpses’ Dennis Fimple) instead of inexperienced local yokels. Two university students from Chicago venture to Louisiana’s marshlands to get the skinny on a legendary creature. After squabbles with rude rednecks, the undergraduates ultimately meet with the titular bogey, and he’s not particularly hospitable toward tourists… This low-budget guilty pleasure will satisfy your grindhouse yearnings.

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6. Sasquatch, the Legend of Bigfoot (1976)

Another docudrama approach, this obscure Bigfoot flick scared the dickens out of kids in dollar theaters throughout the Me Decade. The only movie ever directed by one Ed Ragozzino, Sasquatch follows yet another journey into Bigfoot Country to unravel the mystery. Campfire chats lead to fuzzy recreations of past Bigfoot encounters, while the forest interlopers soon learn that the monsters will staunchly defend their unspoiled turf. Sasquatch includes reels of dated nature footage, though the shadowy appearances of the huge hominids inspire a palpable sense of dread.

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7. Snowbeast (1977)

Produced during the golden age of TV-movie terror, Snowbeast plays out like Jaws on the ski slopes. A Yeti-ish ogre goes on a killing spree at a Colorado winter retreat, making trouble for a better-than-usual cast of movie actors slumming on the boob tube (including tough guys Bo Svenson and Clint Walker, Time Machine’s Yvette Mimieux and Beetlejuice’s Sylvia Sidney). Written by Psycho scribe Joseph Stefano (!), Snowbeast packs in a decent amount of creature carnage without taxing the brain cells.

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8. In Search of… “Bigfoot” (1977)

This fondly-remembered pseudo-science documentary series traumatized grade school kids and even influenced future filmmakers such as the creators of The Blair Witch Project. Narrated in professorial intonations by a straight-faced Leonard Nimoy (sans pointed ears), the thorough Bigfoot episode recounts the lore behind the possible missing link. The show’s hallmark—those grainy reenactments and monster POV shots—illustrate great moments in Sasquatch history. One man even recalls the awful, lingering stench Bigfoot left behind! Some 40 years later, you can still notice the influence of In Search of… on such questionable programs as Ancient Aliens, which also devoted an entire episode to Bigfoot!

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9. Harry and the Hendersons (1987)

Just as many kiddie pictures have been made about Bigfoot as horror ones, mostly due to the modest success of this family friendly fantasy. When the Henderson family accidentally runs over a Bigfoot with their car, they take the oversized galoot home. The story soon follows the E.T. template rather closely; just substitute Sasquatch for alien and John Lithgow for Drew Barrymore! Harry deserves kudos for its Oscar-winning makeup FX by Rick Baker, who transformed former Predator/Arnold stalker Kevin Peter Hall into the towering but heartwarming Harry.

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10. Abominable (2006)

In a horror-twist on Hitchcock’s Rear Window, a man recovering from a mountain climbing accident spots a bloodthirsty Bigfoot scoping out the nubile girls next door. Of course, no one believes the paraplegic until it’s too late. Director Ryan Schifrin, son of Mission: Impossible composer Lalo Schifrin, who wrote Abominable’s score, makes the most out of his B-movie premise. He keeps the action moving and unveils plenty of convincing man-in-a-suit monster bits. Lance Henriksen has a small part as an unlucky hunter; the actor is the king of Bigfoot quickies, having also turned up in 2002’s The Untold and 2006’s Sasquatch Mountain!

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11. The Wildman of the Navidad (2008)

This Texas-lensed cheapie perfectly evokes the Bigfoot movies of yore and the faux-documentary stylings of Texarkana’s Charles B. Pierce. Writers/directors Duane Graves and Justin Meeks’ story unfolds in a small, sleepy town plagued by a rash of gory murders that some suspect may be the work of a nasty Sasquatch stand-in. Can a band of neighborhood buddies defeat the hungry beast? Fans of retro horror and Southern-fried terror will groove to this Wildman. The consultation of original Texas Chainsaw Massacre producer Kim Henkel adds bloody spice to this clever throwback effort.

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12. Willow Creek (2013)

Comedian-turned-director Bobcat (Police Academy) Goldthwait goes for a major change of pace with this Blair Witch-inspired found footage Bigfoot tale. Set in the actual locale where many classic sightings transpired (such as the Patterson/Gimlin incident), Willow Creek tracks a couple (he a believer, she a skeptic) who head to the woods to film the hirsute myth and prove its existence. If you can get past the dreaded shaky-cam photography, the leisurely set-up and the fact you never see Bigfoot in the movie (!), Willow Creek will still engage you thanks to Goldthwait’s mastery of slow-build suspense and the unsettling sound design.

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13. Exists (2014)

Speaking of The Blair Witch Project, that movie’s co-director, Eduardo Sánchez, returned to the woods for this exciting Bigfoot assault movie. The familiar story sends five friends into the Texas thicket for a weekend of revelry. When the group accidentally strikes something on the road, said something (or its relative) wants payback—and it is large, bushy-haired and pissed. With a minimum of shaky cam this time (thankfully), Sánchez continues to keenly exploit our fear of the dark. He derives optimum scares in the cabin battering scenes and with a breathless foot chase. Likewise, FX chief Mike (Hellboy) Elizalde has crafted some frightening and realistic Bigfoot costumes.

Do you call yourself a Bigfoot believer? Let us know on our Facebook page or Twitter using #Friday13.

Tony Timpone moderated a Q&A screening with The Neon Demon director Nicolas Winding Refn in NYC, which you can read about here.

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