If there’s any major conflict in the lives of humans, it pales in comparison to the daily conflict of the Sasquatch. What to eat? Where to sleep? Is that a mountain lion? The biggest question hanging over David and Nathan Zellner’s odyssey is ‘Will they be discovered?’ which adds a throughline of tension to otherwise mundane scenes. Sasquatch Sunset expands on a short film David made with his brother Nathan, who again stars as the brooding alpha male bigfoot. The cast is rounded out by Jesse Eisenberg, Riley Keough, and Christophe Zajac-Denek, all unrecognizable under layers of makeup and prosthetics. The suits reportedly weighed 30-40 pounds each, which immediately puts the actors into character. Sasquatch enthusiasts will be more than pleased with the attention to detail, and animal lovers will delight in the forest’s fauna friends. However, what elevates the Zellner brothers’ latest hairy tale is the family dynamics, conjuring a mix of emotions as the Sasquatch pass through life with only each other to hold onto.
We open on lush landscapes of the redwood forests and mountainous ridges of the Pacific Northwest. The film was shot in Northern California, where the myth first originated. A family of four sasquatches proves to have quite the varied diet. They create makeshift lean-to-forts to sleep in overnight and take them apart in the morning. They bang sticks against tree trunks in unison, possibly trying to communicate with others out there. While at first they seem to be in as remote a location as can be, as they move across the woods, they encounter a road, a campsite, and even a museum.
It’s worth noting that Ari Aster is an executive producer on the film, and helped bring onboard visual effects artist Steve Newburn who also worked on Beau is Afraid. The artistry of the Sasquatch outfit is unmatched. The actors do a tremendous job of emoting through grunts and physical body language, saying a lot through their expressive eyes. Shooting entirely on location in Humboldt County provided ample natural production design. Props to the animal handler who brought in an array of tamed wildlife, including an extremely well-trained mountain lion.
The film is frequently hilarious, a recurring gag is that Eisenberg’s Sasquatch can’t count past three. A lot of the humor is derived from bodily fluids and parts being tossed about. Maybe leave grandma at home. There are also quite moving moments, such as a threatening wildfire that rages in the distance. We’re reminded of human deforestation by a large log in a lake with a red X on it, a warning to all who pass by. The Sasquatch clan shrinks and then grows, the unforgiving circle of life on full display. Though on the surface, Sasquatch Sunset may seem niche, it’s actually an epic universal story about a family’s existence on planet Earth. The Zellners, whose past films like Kumiko the Treasure Hunter I have admired greatly, here have made something transformative and a fitting grand culmination of their career’s work.
– Matthew Delman (@ItsTheRealDel)
2024 Sundance Film Festival; David and Nathan Zellner; Sasquatch Sunset