by Lisa Nystrom

Year:  2024

Director:  Nathan Zellner, David Zellner

Release:  9 and 10 July 2024

Running time: 99 minutes

Worth: $15.50
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Revelation Perth International Film Festival

Jesse Eisenberg, Riley Keough, Christophe Zajac-Denek. Nathan Zellner

… bizarre and beautiful …

The Zellners offer up another wacky taste of genre-defying, offbeat fare after their success with previous black comedies Damsel and Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter. Their very specific brand of humour is evident even in a film with zero dialogue, and from the opening scene audiences are made aware that goofy prosthetics aside, this epic Bigfoot fantasy is no family friendly Harry and the Hendersons.

Following a family of what appears to be a highly endangered species and possibly the last of sasquatch kind, the film covers one year in the life of alpha Nathan Zellner and his pack: mate Riley Keough, beta Jesse Eisenberg, and child Christophe Zajac-Denek, What begins as an excuse for four actors to play dress up and live out their most outrageous improv dreams, soon becomes something far more emotional and poignant than anyone could have expected.

There are echoes of Animal Planet with the way the camera seems to follow these beings as they move throughout their environment, with the kind of pacing that pushes the limits of forbearance. And yet, between the gross-out humour and a script that relies entirely on grunts, huffs, and the clacking of sticks, the expressiveness that the actors manage to convey while covered head to toe in fur is so deeply human and emotionally articulate, that they quickly lure us in and makes us genuinely care about the well-being of these dim-witted, bodily-fluid-loving cryptids.

There are no months’ worth of ape movements being studied at animal sanctuaries in preparation for these roles. Jesse Eisenberg, for example, moves with the exact nervous posture and social awkwardness that you’d expect from any of his characters. However, what begins as an absurd Halloween-costumed parody takes a sharp turn into an oddly sweet and timely commentary on the fleeting nature of life and the ever-increasing danger in which humans are placing the natural world.

Cinematographer Mike Gioulakis makes the most of the natural vistas, with spectacular imagery worthy of any epic, setting the scene for slow steadicam shots and wide-angle lenses that allow the action to unfold in the unhurried manner of a true nature documentary.

It’s not all stunning views and pathos; this is first and foremost a Zellner production, so there’s more than a fair share of sex, shrooms, and 1990s electropop, but if anything, that just makes this bizarre and beautiful film all the more captivating in its depiction of these mythical creatures facing off against humankind, natural predators, and basic Darwinism.


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