Bigfoot is real? Well, you couldn’t make much of a case for that statement from the Documentaries or “Reality Investigation Show” -style offerings collected on this DVD set from Reality Films.
BIGFOOT IS REAL is not a single program, but rather a collection of five (or possibly four) films that have to do with Bigfoot or related ape or wildman sightings and legends in North America. (Not around the world, as the box copy reads — save for a sequence in which the NAMES of ape-like cryptids around the world are mentioned.)
I volunteered to review this DVD set out of a lingering fascination for folk tales and documentaries about crypto-zoology and the paranormal. Like many of my generation, I was brought up on THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK and “IN SEARCH OF…” Nothing on this collection rises to that level of entertainment and competence. You will not confuse these with professionally made documentaries or speculative shows.
However, let me say a few good things. The first disc features three documentaries by Jay Michael of Cryptovideography.Com. Michael , I would guess, would not call himself a professional filmmaker. These films are grass-roots home video documentaries, with a sprinkling of video FX.The technical qualities range from poor to at best serviceable —although the sound is actually pretty good.
The original recordings seem to have been made from around 2003 to 2007, and there is a real learning curve apparent as Jay Michael learns his craft and improves his technique, eventually getting some idea how to frame a shot in a pleasing way.
The first film is BIGFOOTING IN OKLAHOMA, which features Esther Schritter, a health care worker who investigates Bigfoot sightings in Oklahoma and the Northwest. A a child, she saw an ape-like face at a window, and a later viewing of THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK fueled her ambition to discover more about the creatures she believes are out there.
She’s not alone, as the largely hand-held footage she shot reveals others with similar experiences, along with an oddly moving look at the various Bigfoot gatherings. There’s a bit of footage in which she things she may have recorded a fletting glimpse of Bigfoot, but the video quality is so poor that it’s hard to say whether there’s anything at all in the clip. Schritter seems like a perfectly nice and sincere woman, concerned that the incursions of man may be endangering the last refuges of an species that may or may not exist.
In TALE OF THE HONEY ISLAND SWAMP MONSTER, Jay Michael displays a basic honesty, as he shows that he and an associate discovered in their researches that the footprints and plaster casts of the area’s alleged Swamp Monster are fakes. IN SEARCH OF dedicated an episode to the subject in the 1970’s.
To his own surprise, he learned that the hoax was well-known in the area, and is shown one of the `70’s-era shoes that had been simply, yet cleverly rigged up to leave the tracks. To demonstrate his rather charming lack of slickness, he simply holds up his snapshots of the shoe to the camera, rather than editing in a scanned or copy-stand shots of the photos. More revealing video footage is later shown. He mentions some ill feeling in the Bigfoot community towards his revealing this fact, though he still believes there might be a Swamp Ape in the area.
SWAMP APES is the third of his films, though this is more a lengthy dissertation of his ideas and speculations, some rather fantastic, about how apes or ape-like creatures might have arrived and survived in North America, rather than a documentary per se.
The second disc in this set does not bring out any positive feelings in me.
THE WILDMAN OF KENTUCKY / THE MYSTERY OF PANTHER ROCK, apparently came out in 2008. It follows the “Reality Investigations Team” into Kentucky and “the Frazier Land” with much better cameras and equipment than the previous offerings, but certainly not much more skill and none of the same home-spun charm.
It’s loud, abrasive, and largely poorly shot. Perhaps as an attempt to cover for these deficiencies, an enormous amount of post-production fiddling was done. Time is filled with poor quality CGI Sasquatches lumbering about, a hip-shaking American Indian animation, floating POVs of trees and CG structures, all repeated endlessly from various Dutch angles, and overlaid with every cheap video effect and Particle Illusion animation imaginable.
Even the interview footage is messed with, at one point showing the A and B rolls of the same witness in side to side frames simultaneously, as the cameramen zoom in and out while the subject is speaking. At times, music drowns out what people are saying. Scenes are repeated over and over again, sometimes in split screens, or with added effects filters, for no discernable reason, unless to pad out the running time. Narration and B&W clips from an old documentary (presumably about the settling of Kentucky) are repeated several times. Was this intended to be ironic?
Some of the presentation consists of the Investigation Team freaking each other out in the forest, in night-vision video that seems almost like a spoof of SyFy’s GHOST HUNTERS. One member of the group is supposed to be a skeptic, but seems every bit as imaginative and credulous as the others.
Strange black cats with big bellies are discussed, as are bipedal wolves, Daniel Boone’s Yahoo, and mysterious floating lights. We are shown something that looks like a point light source in the night vision scenes.
They do record the supposed call of the Wildman, which sounded to me like a small dog’s yelp. In any other actual documentary that acquired such material, you’d expect the next scene to be them having the audio analyzed by an expert, to rule out other animals. As far as I can tell, this never happens. They seem to simply accept hearing a sound in the night as sufficent proof of the existence of something beyond the mundane, and I would assume the audience is expected to as well.
These folks might be enthusiasts, but they show little sign of being serious documentarians or investigators.
To be honest, at this point I started watching the film in fast forward, something I have never done before in a film I intended to review. I can’t even be 100% sure that WILDMAN and PANTHER ROCK are two separate films, or just segments of a long presentation, since the DVD Menu seems to be broken into many chapters, but not two distinct features.
Since both my DVD player and computer had trouble with this disc, I can’t be more certain, and I have no desire to keep checking. There are encoding problems with Disc one, but noisy video and DVD algorithms are not the best bedfellows.
Sadly, I can’t recommend this collection for anyone but hard-core Bigfoot devotees. The Jay Michael films are interesting to a degree, at least from a social standpoint. But for the average viewer looking for entertainment or an intriguing mystery, BIGFOOT IS REAL has nothing of substance to offer.
BIGFOOT IS REAL (2010). With Jay Michael, Esther Schritter, Reality Entertainment Investigative Team. Directors: Jay Michael, O.H. Krill. Format: Color, DVD, Full Screen, NTSC Language: English Region: Region 1 Number of discs: 2 Rated: NR (Not Rated) Studio: Reality Entertainment. DVD Release Date: September 28, 2010. Run Time: 250 minutes