Starring David Nichols, Paul Mercer, Darren Nichols
Directed by Darren Nichols
So I’m standing in the middle of a blizzard trying to pour the last quarter cup of molasses out of the jar while frigid winds tear at my flesh and freeze the breath in my lungs. As my bones ache, I wonder to myself why I am attempting such a futile task. Then I wake with a start to realize that my true effort has been trying not to doze off while watching what I thought had promised to be a decent little indie flick.
With my eyes burning, I blink painfully at the screen. How much did I miss? A few seconds? A few minutes? It seems like an eternity. Maybe it’s just because I was up early and then tried to watch a movie too late at night. Am I getting too old for this? Should I pack up and move to an elderly community in Florida and take up shuffleboard? I think shuffleboard might actually be more exciting.
Ah, my eyes focus for a moment on the screen, and my interest is again piqued. The glow in my living room has changed. Could there really be something different happening? Bah, who cares! At this point I would rather be back in the snowstorm with my jar of molasses or playing shuffleboard. At least the molasses was moving faster.
What had brought me to such a state of apathy? I remember sitting down to watch The Briar Bushman, a documentary/mockumentary about a legendary creature that supposedly roamed the countryside of Briar, Texas. From the trailer I expected to see a film in the same vein as The Blair Witch Project or maybe even The Last Broadcast, but this time the subject at hand was the ever-elusive Bigfoot. Intriguing, no?
The Briar Bushman is played up as a straightforward documentary showing the lost footage of Darren Lance’s interview with two local “Bushman Authorities,” Ray Smitty and Willie Jones, and their subsequent hunt for the legendary Briar Bushman. The DVD is packaged with a warning that reads…
The Briar Bushman Warning:
Film is in its original state. All edits were left unchanged out of respect for Mr. Lance and the Lance Family.
It contains adult language and disturbing images which should only be viewed by persons over 17.
This “warning” should really read more like the back of a cough syrup bottle…
The Briar Bushman Warning:
This film may cause drowsiness. Avoid alcoholic drinks (or you may end up in a rundown trailer wearing a stained wife-beater, surrounded by empties and being shunned by your family and neighbors).
DO NOT operate motor vehicles or heavy machinery after viewing.
Alcohol, sedatives, and tranquilizers may increase your chances of escaping the impending monotony.
The film opens with Darren Lance’s voice introducing the legend of the Briar Bushman that has inspired the documentary he is setting out to create. After a tiresome drive down a winding country road, we finally arrive at Willie Jones’ RV type trailer that doubles as the Briar Bushman Headquarters and a redneck residence/trash-can. The two men engage in a painful exchange of clichéd “hick-speak” and the ramblings of an inexperienced interviewer. Ray Smitty completes the trio when he shows up, makeshift beer bottle “spittoon” in hand, and then the interview begins.
Forty minutes later…
ZZZZZzzzzzzz… Huh? Oh sorry… My interest waned about 20 minutes in.
Diddlin’ around like that’s what’s gonna get ya killed out here.
We are now traveling down a dark country road en-route to an undisclosed destination with hopes that our back-woods yokels might actually show some aptitude at hunting the Bushman. The camera is turned off in order to preserve the secretive location.
Another quick cut…
Now we’re in the inky blackness of the woods. Our hunting party is only visible in the dim illuminations of a few flashlights and camera equipped with night vision. As we travel deeper into the surrounding darkness, we are met with the strange sounds common to the forest at night and the looming feeling that something dreadful is about to happen … like getting to the end of the movie with absolutely no payoff!
Darren Lance’s voice becomes increasingly shaky as his skepticism fades into fear. The film swirls to its twisting conclusion, not unlike an unfortunate goldfish circling the bowl as you attempt to end its annoyingly long life. The damned thing has taken up your counter space for far too long! It fights the current in a frantic effort to save itself only to finally succumb to its inevitable demise.
And that’s it…
There are no police interviews as suggested by the trailer I saw. There is no real explanation of when, where, or how the footage was found or by whom. We don’t even know why the footage has been released. The film simply ends.
What had originally sounded like a pretty cool concept for a mockumentary turned out to be a stretched-out, wobbly film of a poorly conducted interview followed up by a weak half hour of shaky, hand-held chaos with one decent scare. The Briar Bushman lacks any real grounds for portraying itself as a documentary.
The film is not a total loss, however. It contains some great humor, a somewhat effective twist, and as I said before, one good scare. Regrettably though, it doesn’t back itself up with anything. I’m not sure if the makers were trying to avoid looking like a blatant Blair Witch rip-off or if they purely dropped the ball. The Briar Bushman could be a fantastic and frightening mockumentary if it had some more bases in reality. The Blair Witch was successful for its fans because of its extensive back story and “facts” that had the viewer wanting to believe, if not actually believing, what they were seeing to be true.
If I were involved with The Briar Bushman, I would give it a genuine documentary feel. This could easily be accomplished by taking the existing film and cutting in segments of police interviews and local perspectives of Briar residents that would substantiate the Bushman legend. By doing this, you could break up the tedium of a droning interview that takes up over half the film’s actual duration and make the film more interesting.
The idea behind the Bushman was great, and the film, as it is, has some potential. The acting is a bit amateurish, but the lines and delivery are sometimes funny as hell. Although the camerawork is meant to be unsteady, this loses its effectiveness because it is overdone. The Briar Bushman certainly isn’t the worst indie film I have ever reviewed, but it isn’t the best either. I’m definitely interested in seeing what else these boys will come up with; they’re crazier than a two-peckered goat!
The Briar Bushman DVD contains the film and a chapter selection (it baffles me that there are only two scenes in the whole movie, yet somehow they stretched it out into six chapters). It also has an “In Memory,” which is a laughable and pointless add-on to honor the memory of the “late” Willie Jones and Ray Smitty. Silly I know, but so is a redneck’s ass-crack, and you get to see one of those too!
“In Memory” featurette
2 out of 5
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