Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Hoax: The Fur is Out There

Honestly, the one-minute Patterson-Gimlin film supposedly capturing Bigfoot out for a stroll ought to be in the National Film Registry, even though it is undoubtedly bogus. The salient point is how influential it has been. Decades later, it is still the best thing going for Sasquatch hunters, but a disgraced reality TV producer hopes to score a more conclusive scoop. Of course, he has no qualms about exploiting the mysterious disappearance of a group of horny teens in Matt Allen’s Hoax, which releases today on VOD.

Seriously, as soon as you start camping in the woods, horror movie rules immediately apply, so wandering off for a quick hook-up will get you killed every time. Unfortunately, the more responsible Alex Barnes vanished along with her randy friends, but her rugged outdoorsman father Cooper hasn’t given up looking for her. However, his resources are limited, so he accepts an offer to join the cast of Rick Paxton’s Bigfooting hunting series.

Primate vet Dr. Ellen Freese is also a little embarrassed to be part of the team, but she needed the money. John Singer is literally there for mercenary reasons, having been hired to protect the shows airhead host (and fiancée of the network president’s son), Bridgette Powers. As the party settles in, it becomes clear Cooper, Singer, and Freese are the three we have confidence in, whereas Paxton is absolute pond scum. They start to suspect the dirtbag producer is faking the weirdness in the woods, but we saw the opening prologue, so we know the danger is real.

The awkward truth is Bigfoot/Sasquatch movies are very much a hot-or-miss deal. The best of the lot approach the hairy beast in a decidedly idiosyncratic manner, like The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot and Stomping Ground, whereas more straight forward horror takes, such as Exists are rather mediocre. This is a case in point.

For the most part, Hoax is bland and unremarkable, but it has one thing going for it: considerable screen time for genre character actor Brian Thompson (who you might recognize as the head cultist in Cobra and the Alien Bounty Hunter on The X-Files). He is terrific as the steely, hardnosed Singer. Fans will also enjoy seeing Adrienne Barbeau pop up as Dr. Freese’s medical technician Wilma, even though it is a completely inconsequential role.

It is worth noting there is not much gore in first and second acts, but there is a sudden deluge in the last twenty minutes or so. Arguably, that is sign the film’s balance is off. Hoax earns some goodwill by reminding us of what a genre stalwart Thompson has been over the years, but then fritters it away with an ending that appears to be designed to incorporate as many unsatisfying horror clichés as was humanly possible. Not recommended, Hoax releases today on VOD.