Americans have a fascination with Bigfoot. Especially in the 70s, when there was an unprecedented output of hairy monster movies and novels. He’s our Loch Ness Monster, after all. And just as cryptids are hard to find, so are great Sasquatch movies. Aside from The Legend of Boggy Creek and I guess Harry in Harry and the Hendersons, these films rarely reach the status of “iconic”. The latest, Hoax, likely won’t hit that mark, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good time…
…The debut feature from director Matt Allen, with a script from Allen and Scott Park, Hoax follows a small reality show crew that ventures into the Colorado wilderness with the goal of capturing Bigfoot on film. Most involved think the legend is a massive joke, but the crew soon learns that the myth is no…hoax. I understand if you want to stop reading now.
Oh, still here? Great. Hoax opens with a scene that many fans will recognize as a homage to the opening of Friday the 13th Part 2, in which a group of teens listen to a story about bigfoot roaming the woods, followed by a heart-pounding introduction to the creature that indeed, feels like a bloody slasher film with a sasquatch. Hoax is a loving tribute to the golden age of effects heavy horror, the 80s, and viewers will find a ton of tasty Easter eggs which Allen has hidden all throughout the film, including Aliens style tracking devices, random quotes from The Fog, and so many more. Hell, even Adrienne Barbeau has a bit role in the film as Wilma, named after her character in Creepshow. And no, that’s not speculation, I asked Allen himself!
Being a film that is so heavy on homages, it wouldn’t surprise me if audiences end up feeling split on their usage. This is a bigfoot film with a big personality in that Allen wanted to make a love letter to monster movies of the 80s, but whether or not he went too far is going to affect how some audiences view the film. I personally had a blast in looking for all of the horror nods (Allen himself says there are at least 30-40), but Hoax pays tribute so often to films of the past, sometimes with very similar dialogue, that I’d understand if the film starts to feel like an obsessed lover that can’t get over their ex. Allen actually reminds me a lot of Night of the Creeps director Fred Dekker, who gleefully fills his movies with horror references. If you’re not a fan of that kind of thing, Hoax probably isn’t for you.
Leading the charge into this genre lovefest is a cast of characters clearly inspired by badass teams such as the commandos from Predator, or tough heroines, like Ripley. Put together by a TV producer on his last lifeline from the studio, Rick (Ben Browder), the team consists of sasquatch myth believer, Peter (Schuyler Denham), take no shit medical professional, Ellen (Cheryl Texiera), and the always badass Brian Thompson as bodyguard, John, who some of you will probably know as the villain in the highly-underrated Stallone flick, Cobra, to name a few. Though I wouldn’t say everyone is all that well-rounded, the cast does a good job with the roles they’re given. Browder is so spot on in playing an asshole producer that I found myself recalling every jerk I’ve worked with on set screaming about not getting the soda they asked for, and Thompson, even though he’s about to turn 60, is perfect as an intimidating, hired gun who I would prefer to never have to fuck with.
It’s the sort of cast of characters that you’ll find pretty typical to old-school horror films, and that’s exactly what Hoax is. On its surface, Hoax is a simple creature feature with slasher sensibilities. It’s Friday the 13th meets Predator. Fans looking for a return to guy in a suit monster movies will find that with Hoax, with a suit created by William Munns, known for his work on Wes Craven’s Swamp Thing, Return of the Living Dead, and The Boogens. Unfortunately, as if to play into the cryptid myth, we don’t actually see the well-designed creature nearly as much as viewers would like. Still, this vicious creature feature has real teeth, with a creature that kills swiftly and angrily, leading to splashes of gore and intestines hung up like sausage links. When it comes to the violence, Hoax is a killer time.
While Hoax is an overall fun return to sasquatchian horror, the film does have some bigfoot-sized problems. Despite some logic issues, such as this reality show crew deciding to go hunt the monster instead of waiting to leave in the morning like they say they will and like any sensible person would do, the film lags a bit in-between the appearances of its monster, a lot of which is due to characters who aren’t really doing much other than bickering with Rick, to a point where you just wish someone would die already. As someone who has worked in reality TV, it’s a lot like those sets: hours of downtime with moments of roaring excitement.
What will really risk losing audiences though is a twist towards the end that you won’t see coming, and that’s not necessarily a good thing in this case. The last fifteen minutes or so of Hoax introduces a storyline that threatens to deflate the entire experience, simply because there is so little buildup to it, that some are going to feel cheated with a sub-plot that overcomplicates an otherwise simple story.
Hoax is a film that feels lost in the wilderness at times, but what ultimately makes this an enjoyable watch is Allen’s unquestionable love for genre. Allen’s film has a palpable love for horror that I had a great time with. A jaw-dropping creature and scenes of pulse-pounding terror doesn’t hurt, either.
Hoax is now out on VOD from Dread.
By Matt Konopka