Some things just go well together...
...Peanut butter and jelly. Lemon and lime. McChicken sauce and ketchup (trust me). One can imagine these pairings must have sounded strange when first dreamt up by whatever culinary renegades were responsible for them, but once they were brought together, well, the rest is history. Earlier today if you had floated to me the idea of marrying true crime with cryptozoology, I would have laughed in your face. But now that I’ve seen the first episode of Sasquatch, the latest offering from director Joshua Rofé (who helmed the 2019 docu-series Lorena), I can safely say that my appetite has been whetted. I have no idea if the series—which made its World Premiere this week at SXSW Film Festival—is actually going anywhere and its premise is admittedly preposterous, but as someone who grew up on generous helpings of Time-Life’s “Mysteries of the Unknown” book series and reruns of Forensic Files, it gave me enough weirdness to want to come back for seconds.
The series follows investigative journalist David Holthouse as he tries to piece together a mystery that’s been at the back of his mind for decades. In October of 1993, while working on a cannabis farm located in the famed Emerald Triangle region of California, he heard tell of three men being torn apart by a sasquatch that had supposedly been terrorizing the farm for weeks. Deciding to see whether or not those murders actually occurred and what the story behind them could possibly be, Holthouse interviews several cannabis farmers and “back-to-the-landers” who live in that area, picking their brains as to whether they remember hearing of such a crime occurring or if they themselves have ever seen the mythic bigfoot in the furry flesh.
Some fascinating sasquatch lore and regional history is unearthed, but no leads are found regarding the almost three decades old triple homicide. Just when Holthouse begins to question his own memory of those overheard happenings back in ‘93, a break in the case sends him racing to meet someone who may have the information he’s been searching for.
I’m not sure what to make of this introductory episode of a show that, it’s safe to say, isn’t your average true crime docu-series. On the surface it feels like flim-flam, but it’s of a variety that’s pretty entertaining (fun-flam?) and certainly has the potential to be binge- and cringe-worthy all at the same time. For those who haven’t encountered bigfoot hunters (aka “Squatchers”) before, it’ll be a fascinating look into a subculture that could have easily been ridiculed yet is handled here with respect. Some would be quick to dismiss these folks as crackpots, but Holthouse treats them like he would any other group of people he would normally come across in his journalism, and it lends a strange sense of legitimacy to the absurdity of it all.
Sasquatch also manages at times to do something I wasn’t expecting: it’s actually pretty damn spooky. It might not convert skeptics into full-fledged bigfoot believers, but it makes the idea of the beasts horrifying enough that you will probably second guess taking a stroll in the woods alone. One moment in particular, where a retired police officer recounts his alleged run-in with the gigantic creature, caused the hairs on my arm to stand on end.
As the man describes the sighting, he becomes visibly distressed. His hands shake, his voice quivers, and he almost breaks down in tears. It’s completely unlike any of the other accounts given in previous interviews where almost everyone spoke of their encounters in matter-of-fact, almost blasé tones. Whatever he saw out there (be it a misidentified animal, a delusion, or something else) still had the ability years later to reduce him to a quivering mess.
It’s moments like those that make Sasquatch so watchable, the times where the mystery of it pulls at your curiosity just enough to make you want to continue with its story, even if it does occasionally feel like it’s blowing smoke up your backside. Whether it will pay off is hard to tell (I have a feeling the series won’t be ending with Holthouse catching a murderous bigfoot and carting it back to the city à la King Kong) but the general weirdness of this first episode is enough to keep me on the show’s trail for at least one more installment.
Sasquatch premieres on Hulu on April 20th.
By Patrick Brennan
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