Looking for Bigfoot
A cryptid-centric collection this month, with two new Sasquatch documentaries from Small Town Monsters and a chance to catch Channel 4’s The Bigfoot Files; plus, Ti West’s latest horror gem
Beyond the Trail: The Alaskan Coastal Sasquatch, Part One
Dir Aleksandar Petakov, US 2022 Small Town Monsters YouTube channel
Seth Breedlove’s Small Town Monsters series has created an impressive roster of documentary films tackling everything from Champ to Mothman and even UFOs; but it is relic hominins that seem to be their bread and butter. The STM films are distinguished by beautiful cinematography and a level-headed approach that avoids the sensationalism that mars many other offerings in the genre.
Aleksandar Petakov has featured in the fims several times, mounting expeditions, often on his own, into deep wilderness in search of Sasquatch. As a field cryptozoologist, I always admire those who get their boots dirty, physically searching for their quarry rather than just sitting in front of their computers and pontificating. Aleksandar is not one of the latter, as this film makes very clear.
He was contacted in 2021 by a man named Scott who had built a cabin in a very remote area of coastal Alaska. He and others working on the building heard weird vocalisations, experienced rocks being hurled at the cabin and found a massive, man-like track close by. The vocalisations included a loud, siren-like wail rising in volume, eerie noises like a baby crying, grunting and odd chattering that sounded like some kind of proto-language. They are, says Aleksandar, some of the most interesting he’s ever heard.
Aleksandar and two friends, Ron Reid and Eli Watson, join Scott at the cabin after a long journey. The location is the Kaini Peninsula, dubbed ‘Area A’ by the team, and the remoteness of the cabin means they have to get there by boat. The peninsula puts the vastness of Alaska on show – majestic, savage and truly the back of beyond. An hour from the nearest habitation, it is a land of deep forests, glaciers, fjords and towering mountains. If a population of relic hominins could live anywhere in North America, it would surely be here.
Exploring the area, Aleksandar and his team find an old abandoned cabin, locked up tight in the forest. At night they record odd sounds. At one point, they set out to explore a glacier, but eventually have to turn back due to the distance involved and the presence of bears (wildlife abounds here; one day a group of humpbacked whales swims into the fjord). Scott shows them a recording on a thermal camera that may be something lurking behind a tree and peering out. Attempts to recreate the film with one of the team hiding behind a tree fall somewhat short.
They try and attract the hominins with a mirror left in the forest. Thus far, the cameras have picked up nothing, but the film is only the first part of a two-volume set. The next part is teased, and the suggestion is that things will begin to get stranger.
This is well worth a look, not just for the great views of nature, but for the hard work of the people actively involved in trying to uncover Sasquatch evidence. I’m intrigued to see what unfolds in part two.
On the Trail of Bigfoot: Last Frontier
Dir Seth Breedlove, USA 2023 Available on dual format disc from www.smalltownmonsters.com/
With On the Trail of Bigfoot: Last Frontier, the latest instalment in the increasingly inaccurately named Small Town Monsters documentary series, prolific filmmaker Seth Breedlove trains his lens and army of drone cameras on the vast wilderness of Alaska.
Somewhat surprisingly, given its geographical proximity and similarity to another Bigfoot hot spot, the Pacific Northwest, yet also unsurprisingly, because of its size and overall remoteness, Alaska remains largely untapped as an area of serious Bigfoot research. Breedlove finds ample potential for Bigfoot to survive and thrive despite the inhospitable climate and geography that renders much of Alaska uninhabitable for most people and wildlife. Indeed, it is its sparse human population and therefore overall absence of potential witnesses that has led Alaska to be largely overlooked as a Bigfoot stomping ground, more so than its extreme environments. Breedlove and his team do their best to fill in the gaps with the usual evidence – the baby cries, howls, whoops, and tree knocks familiar to Bigfoot researchers – and obligatory eyewitness accounts, primarily from Indigenous peoples.
While some of the evidence presented in the documentary intrigues, there is an absence of drama that makes this instalment feel somewhat underwhelming. As you’d expect with Breedlove and crew, the footage they have assembled inspires awe and effectively provides the viewer with a sense
The vocalisations include a siren-like wail and noises like a baby crying
of the vast impenetrability and mystery of this mostly unexplored landscape and the impression that, given all of this space, surely there must be something unknown out there. Alaska has long held a mystique as the final outpost of the Age of Discovery, and the last vestige of the undiscovered. It is therefore as good a place as any for an unknown hominid to go undetected by the modern world.
Dir Ti West, USA 2022 On UK general release
With The House of the Devil,
Ti West showed that he has a knack for setting films in decades past and making them look like they come straight out of the era in question. This was also the case with X,
a subversive horror film set in late 1970s Texas, where a crew of adult filmmakers rent a building on a remote farm to shoot their next feature. When the trailer was released, many assumed the film would merely be another Texas Chainsaw Massacre rip-off; however, as those who have seen X will largely agree, it’s a fun and subversive horror romp with a solid mix of humour, gore and some original narrative twists. And this is where I should warn you to stop reading if you have yet to watch it, as I cannot discuss Pearl without spoiling X to some extent.
Still here? Let’s continue.
The eponymous film centres around the origins of the main antagonist of X, and where X
subverted horror tropes, Pearl
is a loopy Technicolor fantasy that tells the story of how a delusional and disturbed country girl with dreams of being a star turns into a serial killer as she gradually lets her dark side take over when her dreams are extinguished one by one.
Filmed in a manner that seeks to emulate the style of old Hollywood, the visuals are vibrant and bold, which in turn makes the rare but wellexecuted gore pop that much more as Pearl goes further and further off the rails. The underlying tone is unsettling, but the viewer is also invited to feel sympathy for Pearl, which may seem like a tall order, considering the joy she finds in killing, but the character is nonetheless compelling in her inherent sadness. This is in no small part thanks to Mia Goth being allowed to run wild with her stunning portrayal of Pearl and invite the audience to invest in the character. It’s clear that Goth and West have tapped into something special here, and the monologue towards the end of the film stands out in particular with its simultaneously tragic and disturbing insights into Pearl’s mind.
A third film has been announced, and it will be exciting to see if Goth and West can maintain the momentum from Pearl, as this origin story stands out as not only one of the best horror films of recent years, but as one of the best and most original recent films in any genre. Hopefully, Maxxxine will deliver a spectacular climax to cement Goth and West’s trilogy as a particularly memorable entry in the annals of horror movie history.
Leyla Mikkelsen ★★★★★