For anyone who doesn’t believe in ghosts and witches but wants a found footage horror film that can appeal to their curiosity or sense of fear, then Director Corey Grant’s Bigfoot: The Lost Coast Tapes is probably more your speed. Taking the same route as Steven Spielberg’s Jaws in the belief that showing less is more, The Lost Coast Tapes tells the story of four ambitious TV producers hoping to make a hit series out of an old man in northern California who claims to have a corpse of a young Bigfoot. For the most part, The Lost Coast Tapes succeeds in its use of mysterious howls, strange happenings, and brief glimpses of gigantic hairy beasts to create a thrilling mystery as to whether or not the whole thing is real or if the old man is just scamming them out of their money. Unfortunately, it loses its way midway through when it can’t decide what it wants the audience to believe, and ultimately squanders a decent cast of Drew Rausch, Rich McDonald, Ashley Wood, Noah Weisberg, and Frank Ashmore.
The four-man excursion into the Pacific Northwest is Sean’s (Rausch) big gamble: he’s sinking $100 grand on the hopes that Carl Drybeck (Ashmore), an old man living on a secluded forested compound surrounded by electrical fencing, actually has proof of Bigfoot’s existence like he claims. At the very least he hopes to get a reality TV series out of the trip by bringing along his videographer friend Darryl (McDonald), fellow producer and ex-girlfriend Robyn (Wood), and last-minute addition Kevin (Weisberg), as their sound guy. A number of ominous circumstances accompany their first meeting with Drybeck, and things only become more questionable when nightfall arrives and mysterious noises ring out, branches and trees fall as if pushed to hit people, and some force rocks the very cabin in which they stay. Is it a band of wild creatures out in the woods or just an elaborate ploy by Drybeck to get $75,000 for first air rights? Will they ever get to see his physical proof of Bigfoot’s existence?
Horror fans tired of found footage films where the supposedly paranormal element is explained away as some twist on something very commonplace will find some comfort in Bigfoot: The Lost Coast Tapes as it makes it pretty clear from early on that it’s not a question of if there’s some gigantic force out in the woods, but rather what is it. A theory about two forces at battle in the forest is thrown into the ring about halfway through the film and it seems that’s where we’re supposed to stay. The problem is, once that idea surfaces, the film never quite finds a way to meet those raised stakes. Had it stayed with the simpler but equally intriguing option that there may or may not be gigantic wood apes inhabiting the forest and that Drybeck might have severely pissed them off by taking one down as proof of their existence, it could have sufficed with the obscure but affirming evidence we’re shown onscreen.
Unfortunately, an attempt to layer something extra on the mix results in a very uncreative use of bright lights to signify some unknown terror, and for the last 20 minutes of the film that’s supposed to be as thrilling as the vastly superior moments shot in pitch black in the middle of the woods with vague shadows moving just in the peripheral limits or brief moments of glowing eyes. It sounds simple and amateurish on paper, but it’s the combination of those moments with the disorienting effect of a camera mounted on one of the subjects as she wanders through the woods that makes for the film’s best moments. By contrast, when the source of our fear is supposed to shift to these inexplicable bright lights, there’s just no weight behind it. They haven’t established what it might be in that bright light we should be afraid of beyond the very vague descriptor of something from another plane of existence.
It should go without saying that potentially existent, murderous giant apes capable of felling towering trees and ripping someone limb from limb is always more frightening than something we don’t know we’re supposed to be afraid of. Especially when it’s not been given any real shape or form. Fear of a brutal bludgeoning trumps a potentially dangerous bright light every time, and for that reason Bigfoot: The Lost Coast Tapes is about 60% of a solid scary film. It’s done well, better than most found footage films, but it got lost in the wilderness and its own ambition.
"Bigfoot: The Lost Coast Tapes" opens September 19, 2012 and is not rated. Horror, Mystery, Thriller. Directed by Corey Grant. Written by Bryan O'Cain, Brian Kelsey. Starring Drew Rausch, Rich Mcdonald, Ashley Wood, Noah Weisberg, Frank Ashmore.