SASQUATCH, LEGEND, MYTH, OR TRUTH?

There are in the world a lot of unexplained phenomena, things like the Loch Ness Monster for example and other creatures that every so often pop up here and there some even having film footage to back up a sighting, but I think the one creature or legend that sticks in many people’s minds is that of Bigfoot or the Sasquatch in Canadian and American folklore. Which is said to be an ape like creature that inhabits the dense forests of Northern America, there have been literally hundreds of sightings many being as I have said backed up by either audio or visual evidence, in the form of photographs and video film. However, the existence of the creature has never been proven, but saying that the evidence although challenged by scientists etc has also never been disproven to the degree that we can totally rule out that the creature does not wander the countryside hiding away from mankind in the depths of the forests. 

Some of the so-called evidence has been ruled out and treated as hoaxes, some elaborate others flimsy and easily spotted. I always remember the footage of Big Foot a creature covered in hair and walking upright like a man rather than on all fours like a bear or a wolf.  Bigfoot has become an iconic figure within cryptozoology and an enduring element of popular culture stories being passed down from family members to children and then from those children to friends and eventually when they became adults to their children and grandchildren. Folklore experts have maintained that the creature is a combination of factors and sources. These include ancient folk beliefs amongst various Native American tribes across the continent and other elements of folklore surrounding the European ape man figure. Beliefs shared from sources that include lumber workers, miners, hunters, and prospectors often include stories of hairy wild men, but are these Animal or human? After all mountain men would sometimes spend years in the wild without seeing another human and with solitude comes a little madness maybe, and allowing themselves to become wild as it were to fit in with the environment that they have been living in, so maybe these sightings were of mountain men and not Bigfoot or other such creatures? A cultural increase in environmental concerns have been cited as additional factors, some putting the argument that because man is moving deeper into the wild that maybe the Sasquatch is being forced out into the open and thus sightings have become more frequent?  Many scientists have historically refused to believe the existence of Bigfoot or a creature that resembles the description of Bigfoot, they have always considered the stories and supposed sightings to be the result of a combination of campfire tales and folklore stories handed down through the generations, misidentification, and hoax, rather than a living animal that has somehow survived and gone undetected by humans.

But sightings of Bigfoot like creatures are not confined to one specific area of the Americas, other creatures similar in descriptions are alleged to inhabit regions elsewhere on the American continent, such as the Ts’emekwes in North West America and the Skunk ape of the South-Eastern United States;  there have been many reports of sightings throughout the world, such as the Almas, Yeti, and Yeren  both associated with Asia; and the Australian Yowie; all of which, like Bigfoot, are engrained in the cultures of their respective regions. 

I suppose the stories of the Sasquatch can be to some degree compared with that of the legends surrounding the werewolf, there is authentication of sorts but there is also other evidence that maybe is more acceptable to the authorities and out-weights the so-called hoax documentation. Like the werewolf and other supposedly mythical creatures Bigfoot has been the subject of numerous movies and documentaries and it is a selection of these that I now move onto and whilst doing so discuss their respective musical scores.

Most movies focusing upon the Sasquatch, can be easily categorised within the horror genre, many depicting the creature as a bloodthirsty and ultra-violent missing link that rips off limbs and rampages through the countryside targeting poor innocent passers by that just happen to wander close the dark forests where it has resided for hundreds of years undisturbed. Which raises the question, if the creature has been hiding all these years why would it suddenly come out of its environment and attack a human? Because then it would be drawing attention to its existence and if the Sasquatch does indeed exist it surely has to be a reasonably intelligent creature to be so elusive for all these years. But there have been a handful films for both cinema and TV, that are well made and emphasise an intelligent viewpoint, that is backed up by convincing evidence that by the end of the film makes even the most doubting audience begin to think about whether the creature could exist.

But its not just Bigfoot that there have been sightings of, for example in the United Kingdom there have been many sightings of cat like creatures such as the beast of Bodmin, and other big cats in the South and North of the country, then there is the Chupacabra, or goat sucker, which is also said to be a cat like creature that sucks the blood out of livestock, it has links I suppose to vampires and werewolves being animal and also living on blood.

First sighted in the Southern regions of America in the mid 1990’s, there are varying descriptions of the creature with some describing it as more dog-like while others describe it as more lizard, amphibian- or even alien-like as in the early Hollywood image of Aliens, with big eyes and spikes down its back. Some have said it is a heavy creature the size of a small bear, with this row of spines reaching from the neck to the base of the tail. Eyewitness sightings have been claimed in Puerto Rico and have since been reported as far north as Maine and as far south as Chile, and even outside the Americas in countries like Russia and The Philippines. I am a strong believer that there are many unknowns in this world, and some are right under our noses, I also believe that man is a destructive force and one that has single handily managed to bring this earth to its knees, so why would there not be creatures out there that have gone out of their way to avoid us as a race? I think if I was a creature in the forest going about my business and I got to see a fraction of what mankind is doing to his own environment I would try and hideaway if I possibly could. It’s the same old story isn’t it, man discovers a new species, so what does man do straight away? They kill the new species to examine it to operate on it check its organs and its DNA etc. (did anyone check if there was more than one?). Similar scenario with all those 1950’s sci fi movies, aliens arrive on the planet “We come in peace” yep, “Ok let’s blast em to Kingdom come”.  Why? Well because we are stupid that’s why, or maybe because we fear the unknown and want to destroy it before it destroys us, when in reality creatures like the Bigfoot if they exist would probably just want to be left alone and would leave us alone.  Would a Sasquatch want to live in down-town New York or the suburbs of London, or would they want to stay in the wilds in the fresh clean air and carry on with their lives undisturbed, I think you know the answer to that question.

Bigfoot movies have encompassed a plethora of scenarios, there are the aforementioned blood thirsty Sasquatch’s, that would take chunks out of you or rip an arm out of its socket rather than look at you, the not so violent types, the friendly ones and also the comedic variety, which I think is my least favourite,  especially when given the Hollywood sickly syrupy treatment as in Harry and The Hendersons and also there seems to be a literal avalanche of animated films about our furry friend,(or friends) who is depicted as a cuddly and vulnerable individual, the vulnerable I get, but lets not get to carried away. So where to start concerning the movies and various filmic outings for Bigfoot?  I think go back to 1972 and look at a docudrama which caused a bit of a stir and more than a ripple of interest with audiences and critics alike.

The Legend of Boggy Creek is an American horror film about the “ Fouke Monster “, which is said to be a Bigfoot -type creature that reportedly has been seen in and around Fouke, Arkansas since the 1940s. The film mixes interviews with residents of Fouke who claim to have encountered the creature, along with re-enactments of some of these encounters. The movie was released on August 23rd, 1972, and had in its leading roles William Stump, Chuck Pierce jnr, and Willie E Smith, Produced and directed by Charles B. Pierce, this is probably one of the better movies focusing upon the legend of the Sasquatch.  

The film’s director and producer worked as an advertising salesman who convinced a local businessman to invest in the film and hired locals (mainly high school students) to help complete it. After Pierce’s daughter Pamula Pierce Barcelou acquired the rights to The Legend of Boggy Creek, a remastered version of the film premiered in 2019. The film had an effective and atmospheric score by Bolivian born composer Jaime Mendoza Nava, who is a composer that worked on over ninety movies and TV shows.  It’s surprising considering the composers quite prolific output in film music and other genres that many soundtrack collectors have not heard off him, and it also a great shame that there are hardly any of his filmic works to listen to on recordings. On searching I found one release of his film and piano works which is available digitally. It is an interesting compilation of music with the composer introducing each film score cue explaining the scene it was written for. Nava was very adaptable and scored numerous movies of varying subject matter and on each occasion tailored his musical style to these at times writing lush and romantic music, jazz influenced themes and dramatic and affecting compositions to suit and compliment every scenario and mood. The album which is available on Spotify and Apple music displays the composer’s flexibility to write for the screen and for the concert hall, showing two very different faces of the Maestro stylistically. One half of the album being dedicated to his film music and the other his piano compositions. There is good news however concerning his score for The Legend of Boggy Creek, the soundtrack release is coming soon and is one to look out for, it will be we are told available on compact disc, vinyl, and digital download. In many ways the music is evocative of the vintage horror film scores of the 1950’s and 1960’s. Fully symphonic for the most part and containing a handful of songs which are vital to the musical enhancement of the film giving it authenticity.

You can take a listen to samples here.

The Legend of Boggy Creek – Soundtrack

The composer worked on many horror movies and in the early to mid-1970’s his career was dominated scoring this genre of film, with examples being The Grave of the Vampire, Vampire Hookers,  House of Terror, Brotherhood of Satan and The Shadow of Chikara, most of the movies the composer scored were made on fairly-low budgets, but this was something that never effected the quality of Nava’s music, the composer producing scores that were integral to each plot and fully supportive of the movies. The Legend of Boggy Creek spawned a few other movies and TV movies dealing with the subject, in 1976 for example The Creature from the Black Lake was released it starred veteran actor Jack Elam and was also scored by Jaime Mendoza Nava.

The movie opens with fishermen who are attacked in the Louisiana swamps. When the word gets out of a mysterious Bigfoot-type creature, two researchers come to a small town to study and hopefully discover what the beast is. Their research indicates that they may soon be facing a violent and murderous creature which could be the missing link.

A more contemporary version of the tale is seen in the form of Boggy Creek which was released in 2010, was another more recent Bigfoot outing. Following the death of her father in a terrible accident, sweet, yet perplexed Jennifer and her friends decide to check out her dad’s cabin that’s located in the deep woods of Boggy Creek, Texas. While staying at said cabin for a week, which they are advised not to do by locals, Jennifer and company run into an evil and vicious monster of local legend that kills men and abducts women. (You know you should really listen to the locals after all they live there). This is not a good movie, in fact its one of those films that one gets a quarter of the way through, and you begin to channel hop, in the feint hope that when you return the movie would have finished and the annoying and untalented cast have all been massacred by the monster. Unconvincing performances fill this picture, and a rather shaky script does not help either. The musical score is by Brandon Bentli, and it looks like his only film score outing as far as I can see whilst researching him.

Then we have The Boggy Creek Monster a documentary, which was directed by Seth Breedlove, and released in 2016. The film was produced by an army of people, which is rather odd as the film although informative offers up no new facts or anything fresh regarding the monster. It is basically a string of interviews with supposed locals of the area, but there is nothing ground-breaking whatsoever in it,.

The score for the documentary is by Brandon Dalo and is available on digital platforms. It’s a rather down beat and soundscape led affair in places, the composer employing drone like sounds which are not musical just atmospherics, but they underline the few dramatic moments that the film offers with a moody but at times irritating sound.

One of the most recent films to focus upon Bigfoot is entitled American Bigfoot which is due for release in October this year (2021). It is an action thriller directed by Lance Polland. Starring Laura Stetman, Hans Hernke, Vernon Wells, Kelci C. Magel, and Vito Trabucco, and focuses upon a film maker named Matt Scott and his film crew who leave the comforts of Los Angeles to embark on a road trip to the Northern California mountains of Trinity County to film a documentary on the legendary creature known as Bigfoot.

Two days later the film crew hike into the forest to find evidence of the creature and that’s when the real fun begins. So, the interest in Bigfoot is still strong, and new movies and documentaries seem to be being made every year.

But none have any fresh takes on the subject, and then we have examples such as Sasquatch, which follows investigative journalist David Holthouse as he attempts to solve a bizarre twenty-five-year-old triple homicide that was said to be the work of a mythical creature. A rather different approach on this one though with the TV mini-series produced by Hulu being screened for the first time on April 20th in the United States, it does I have to say throw up some interesting points. But this is not all about Bigfoot, its also about the Bigfoot hunters and the reasoning behind their obsessions with the creature. Its probably the best of the bunch of recent documentaries and films and well worth checking out.

Then we have a film entitled Shriek of the Mutilated, also known as Mutilated and Scream of the Snowbeast, which is a 1974 American horror film directed by Michael Findlay. Now this is not a good film, but its entertaining at times simply because it is so bad, if you know what I mean? There is no composer credited and I am certain that most of the music is either classical or taken from music libraries, which is a practise that goes back as far as the 1930’s with horror and sci fi movies, the original Dracula for example that starred Bela Lugosi had a musical score that was classical excerpts tracked onto the soundtrack, and it was not until The Bride of Frankenstein that the horror film got a score specifically written for it which was the work of Franz Waxman. The rather outlandish and chaotic plot of Shriek of the Mutilated, focuses on a field trip by Professor Ernst Prell to investigate Yeti sightings along with four graduate students: Keith Henshaw, Karen Hunter, Tom Nash, and Lynn Kelly. The night before the trip, the professor invites Keith to dinner at a restaurant. The rest of Prell’s students attend an off-campus party where they run into a former student of the professor’s, turned alcoholic a groundskeeper named Spencer St. Clair, who is there with his wife April. St. Clair in his drunken state tells everyone about Prell’s last Yeti-seeking field trip, which only he and the professor survived. After the party, St Clair continues to drink, and upon returning home argues and violently fights with and beats his wife cutting her throat with an electric carving knife. Afterwards, he climbs into the bathtub fully clothed but is killed by his not yet dead wife who manages somehow to drag a toaster into the bathroom and dumps it into the bath, electrocuting him (shocking). The next day the professor and his group of students travel to see a friend of Prell’s a Dr. Werner who lives on an island where it is said the Yeti creature has been sighted.  The theory being that the creature has been trapped on the island by melting winter ice.

When they arrive at the island, they are introduced to a mute Native American who is the manservant of Werner whose name is Laughing Cow. The Professor and his students are made to feel welcome, and dinner is served which just happens to be the same meal that the professor and Keith had the night before in the restaurant which is something called Gin Sung. The party turn in for the night and the next morning set out on their search for the Yeti. Tom one of the students decides to go off hunting on his own and is attacked and killed by the creature.  

The group search for Tom the next morning but it is only his rifle and his severed leg that one of them discovers. Meanwhile, one of the female students Lynn is startled by something that she sees and runs off into the woods were she too is killed by the Yeti. I won’t go any further, I don’t want to spoil it for you. Shriek of the Mutilated is an off kilter rather disjointed, low budget horror, which probably has more negatives than positives, but it’s all good clean gory fun and passes an hour and a half on a wet and miserable Saturday evening.  

From gore and horror to something that is sugary and tame, Harry and the Henderson’s is not one of my favourite Bigfoot movies, in fact I think the only saving grace is the musical score by composer Bruce Broughton and even that is certainly not one of the composers best.

BRUCE BROUGHTON.

Broughton was catapulted into the public gaze after scoring the western Silverado and the thriller Young Sherlock Holmes in 1985, a year later the composer worked on The Boy Who Could Fly. In the same year that he scored Harry and the Henderson’s the composer also worked on The Monster Squad, Cross my Heart, and Big Shots.  

Directed by William Dear and released in 1987, the film opens with a family returning from a hunting trip in the forest, the Henderson’s car hits an animal. Initially they think it is a man, but when they examine the body, they find it’s a bigfoot. They then panic a little but decide to take the body home as maybe they can make some money out of proving the existence of the Bigfoot.  But, and yes there is always a but, they discover that the creature is not dead but unconscious. They also find out that far from being a violent and bloodthirsty animal as the reports say the Bigfoot or Harry as they call him is a mild mannered and friendly giant. In their attempts to keep Harry a secret, the Henderson’s hide him from the authorities and a man, who has made it his goal in life, to catch a “bigfoot”. Ok it’s an entertaining romp mostly, but sometimes it’s a little cheesy, cringeworthy and cliched. The cast is ok, with John Lithgow taking the lead and actor Kevin Peter Hall as Harry. A family movie, but one that sometimes just does not hit the mark.

Let’s head away from the Hollywood-ization of the big hairy guy and go back to lower budget movies and docu-dramas and informative if not slightly oddball documentaries. Tinsel town were not exactly falling over them selves to produce movies that at least were slightly credible about Bigfoot so it fell to independent filmmakers to try and bring the legend of the Sasquatch to the attention of TV viewers and cinema audiences. Some of these examples have been good others not so good, many have been scary with others garnering chuckles and laughter from watching audiences.

Despite many critics and members of the public praising Primal Rage(sometimes called Primal Rage: Bigfoot Reborn, or Primal Rage: The Legend of Konga) for its gory effects, most from both the pro and negative camps would have to agree that the movie had its fair share of problems. The film which was released in 2018 portrays the Bigfoot as a warrior figure who is hell bent on guarding and protecting his race, the movie also throws into the mix Native American religion and mystical elements, and hints that maybe Bigfoot is more magical and otherworldly than just a giant ape in the forest.

Released four years earlier Exists  is considered by many fans of this horror sub-genre to be one of the better movies about the Sasquatch, Eduardo Sánchez, the creator of  The Blair Witch Project decided to create his own found footage Bigfoot film. Sánchez used his past ways of creating convincing footage techniques at the start of the movie, but midway through the film switches style and turns into an effective and full-on taught and no holds barred monster movie. Despite being criticized for weak characters the movie was praised for its excellent costuming. The movie tells the story of five friends who head off on a summer getaway which is a weekend of camping in the Texas Big Thicket. But thoughts of a relaxing and fun break soon evaporate with an accident on a dark and desolate country road.

After which they find themselves pursued and hunted by something that is not human a Bigfoot seeking murderous revenge for the death of its child. It’s a movie that I thought bult wonderfully on the tense situation adding more and more tense and nervous atmospheres as the story unfolded. The score was effective, but was used sparingly, which in a way was more impacting because the silences and pauses often created a greater sense of foreboding and urgency. The music was by composer Nima Fakhrara who is known for his work on Becky (2020), Detroit Become Human (2018) and The Signal (2014).

THE LEGEND IS REAL AND HUNGRY.

Is the tag line from the 2017movie Valley of the Sasquatch or Hunting Grounds. Which is an effective horror romp directed by John Portanova. After losing their home following a devastating tragedy, a father and son are forced to move to an old family cabin. Neither reacts well to being thrown into this new and for them uncomfortable world. The son’s attempts to relate to his father are complicated and become even more so when two old friends arrive for a weekend of hunting. This trip into the forest will unearth not only feelings of guilt that have been concealed but also a tribe of Sasquatch that are determined to protect their land. The musical score is the work of Jon Bash, who was born in Redwood City, CA and spent most of his childhood in Sequim, WA, learning to play guitar and percussion from the age of eleven. At the age of eighteen he moved to Bellingham, WA to initially study music education at Western Washington University, but soon found his calling in composing music. During his time there he received numerous awards and began working with local filmmakers and video game developers, he teaches at the Bellingham university while continuing to compose for larger and larger projects.  He was nominated for the Best Score award at the 2015 Horrible Imaginings Film Festival in San Diego, CA for his work on Valley of the Sasquatch.  

Released in 2013 Willow Creek, is another well-known and well-regarded found footage movie about Bigfoot, Jim and his girlfriend Kelly are visiting the infamous Willow Creek, the alleged home of the original Bigfoot legend. It was there that in 1967, the legendary beast was captured on film and has terrified and mystified generations since. Keen to explore more than fifty years of truth, folklore, misidentifications and hoaxes, Kelly goes along for the ride to keep Jim happy, whilst he is determined to prove the story is real by capturing the beast on camera. Deep in the dark woods, isolated and hours from human contact, neither Kelly or Jim are prepared for what is hidden between the trees, and what happens when the cameras start rolling.

This is an effective drama and I would say one of the better examples of more recent movies dealing with the stories surrounding Sasquatch. That’s it for now I guess, there are so many more examples of Bigfoot movies, maybe try and check them out as a number of these are available on you tube and other such sites. Happy viewing.

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