Sasquatch Mountain (2006)
Reviewed by Jon Condit
Starring Lance Henriksen, Michael Worth, Cerina Vincent, Craig Wasson, Rance Howard, Tim Thomerson, Karen Kim
Directed by Steven R. Monroe
This might sound like an odd thing to say, but Sasquatch Mountain is a fairly decent movie; it's just not a very good monster movie. The story plays out like a character-heavy crime drama, the sort where the moment there's a quiet opportunity, shady characters will suddenly begin rattling off their life stories and revealing their deepest thoughts to perfect strangers with little or no motivation for doing so. It just so happens that this particular crime drama also has a rampaging monster complicating matters for both cops and robbers.
A gang of murderous bank robbers are making their getaway along a forest road when they have a traffic accident with a young woman who is herself on the run from a troubled past. She gets taken hostage just in time for the small town police to arrive. A gun battle erupts, the crooks and their hostage make their way into the forest, and the crusty old sheriff, along with two deputies, one a bit on the skittish side, and an even crustier local hunter who knows these woods, pursue them. They’ve all got bigger problems in the form of a very pissed off Bigfoot. Soon they'll all be holed up in a cabin, forced to work together and aided by a truck driver whose wife was killed a dozen years earlier when she made the fatal mistake of stepping out into a dark road where she got killed in a hit-and-run while capturing a Sasquatch sighting on film.
No doubt Sasquatch Mountain boasts a good cast of characters. Craig Wasson (Body Heat, Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors) plays the leader of the bank robbers, who is constantly talking to his stock broker on his Bluetooth and also suffers from some serious "daddy" issues. Michael Worth, who also wrote the screenplay, casts himself as the somewhat dimwitted loverboy with an eye for the ladies and a mouth that's constantly pissing off the Prozac-deprived, America-hating Brit in their group. Rounding out the criminal side of things is Karen Kim as the tough-as-nails dragon lady of the gang.
On the law and order side Rance Howard (father of director Ron Howard) plays the geriatric sheriff who may be overextending himself on this one. Tim Thomerson plays Eli, a local hunter/tracker that aids them in their pursuit and is first to realize that they've got some tall, dark, and hairy company. In a shocking twist Thomerson's character actually survives to the end. I know that might be a bit of a spoiler, but I just felt compelled to point it out because Thomerson is usually one of the first to get killed in movies like this.
Overall, these are good actors giving good performances, and aside from a few forced moments of dialogue, the script they're working with is above average for the genre. Well, at least for a crime drama, which this owes more to than the creature feature genre. The actors have a good dynamic and they play off one another well, so much so that sometimes the appearance of Sasquatch into the scene almost feels like an intrusion rather than being the whole point of the movie in the first place.
If there's any weak link here, it would have to be Cerina Vincent as the young woman looking to start a new life after a bad relationship with a man who may or may not have been a violent criminal himself. Her comparing Wasson's character to this mystery ex of hers and saying that's why she's not afraid of him may justify to the filmmakers why she reacts so nonchalantly when taken hostage by violent bank robbers, but it rang hollow to me. I don’t care if she used to be married to Al Capone; I seriously doubt anyone would react with this much indifference to being dragged off at gunpoint by murderous thieves, one of which has already physically assaulted her. Yet, there she is reacting to all of this with more of a sense of annoyance, an "I'm having a bad day" sort of attitude, as if this is little more than an inconvenience to her than an actual life or death situation. Even when Sasquatch shows up and starts killing people, she's still remarkably calm in the face of danger. Frankly, the movie could have completely eliminated her character, and it really wouldn't have made a bit of difference.
Part of me would also like to ask the same question about Lance Henriksen's character, the dour widower who has never been the same since his wife's death. This marks Henriksen's third Bigfoot flick in the last four years. It's also marks the best performance he's given in any of them. I just wish his contribution to the plot would have felt more substantial. By the end, like much of the cast, he’s just a spectator. I also got the feeling that if his and Thomerson's characters had been combined, it would have made for one more fully rounded character.
As for the titular cryptic, it seems this movie’s Sasquatch is a hardcore anti-gun advocate. People with weapons keep ending up dead. Unfortunately, the Sasquatch attacks are often more comical than scary. I realize that the monster is famous for being able to hide in the woods undetected, but the way it's constantly sneaking up on people here, and by the end seems to be literally teleporting from location to location, is often quite laughable. One hilarious moment has the director ratcheting up the tension between the shaky rookie cop holding one of the cool-headed crooks at gunpoint. You’re waiting for the cop to screw up so the crook can get the drop on him. Instead, Sasquatch comes charging from out of nowhere, knocking one guy out of its way just so it can gets its hairy paws on the other. Later on Sasquatch is literally taunting the characters in the cabin by hurling rocks through the window, which it abruptly stops doing the moment it manages to conk one of them on the head. But mostly Sasquatch dispatches people off-camera or is shown pouncing on them and either pounding them to death with its fists or crushing them with its powerful grip. None of these deaths are especially grisly, visually inventive, or the least bit horrifying.
We do get an idea as to why a noble Bigfoot would suddenly begin mauling to death everyone it comes across, but the vague explanation isn’t enough to really justify its doing so. This proves to be a sticking point because the movie initially paints Sasquatch as a rampaging killer and, by film's end, expects us to feel pity for the beast. Because of this, the climax will probably leave most viewers cold.
Sasquatch itself isn’t much of a looker either. This isn’t one of the more imaginative Sasquatch costumes. It’s just a very shaggy hominid with barely humanoid facial features. You only get a really good look at it two or three times. Mostly, like the real life Sasquatch on film, it’s just a big brown blur.
Director Steven R. Monroe (It Waits) does a nice job keeping everything flowing, even though his attempts at generating suspense - at least in the scenes involving Sasquatch - often fall flat. Some of his editing decisions are questionable at best. I'm reviewing the Sci-Fi Channel version of Sasquatch Mountain so cannot say for sure if they edited out entire scenes or shortened others for time constraints. That was definitely the vibe I got on a few occasions. Given some of Monroe's editing choices, such as having a buffer consisting of sped up forest footage and blurry Bigfoot shots in between damn near every single scene of the film, I'm left to wonder.
For example, prior to the first commercial break we're shown the bank robbers beginning their getaway and Cerina Vincent's character driving off to wherever she was supposed to be going. Upon returning from the commercial, we are immediately treated to one of those buffers I mentioned and are then shown the aftermath of their vehicular collision. I'm guessing this was Monroe's way of getting around having to stage an actual crash sequence, but damn, is it ever an awkward jump. A bit later Vincent will begin walking off into the woods away from her captors, one of whom angrily demands to know where she thinks she's going. And then the scene abruptly ends. Again, was all this the doing of the Sci-Fi editors or the filmmakers?
Monroe also overdoes the washed out look of the film. This is actually becoming a pet peeve I’m developing in regards to a lot of today’s filmmakers. I just hate that washed out look.
Like I said at the beginning, Sasquatch Mountain isn’t a bad movie; it's just that it’s not a very good monster movie. It's got good characters and good actors, and it works just fine as an admittedly familiar crime drama. But given that it's called Sasquatch Mountain (its original title before Sci-Fi changed it was Devil on the Mountain) and billed as a creature feature, in that aspect it simply flounders. If the monster side of the movie were on par with the dramatic side of things, then they'd have really had something here. As it is, it's an okay crime drama with some hokey monster action tossed in for good measure.
2 1/2 out of 5