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By Brad Slager | April 5, 2003

Given the paucity of ideas that Hollywood is often accused of suffering from, you have to wonder why more avenues of terror are not being explored. We have seen just about every configuration of vampirism, and lycanthropes have been staged everywhere from London to Paris and beyond. Just in recent years I can conjure at least four titles featuring overly aggressive serpentine predators to go along with all the inanimate objects that have been inhabited with evil. So why the reticence to tackle this vaunted American legend?
As one of the characters points out in “Sasquatch”, there are almost as many variations on this man/beast theme as there are of the above examples. They have been called everything from abominable snowmen, yetis, Big Foot, and from my spot on the atlas, skunk apes. This varied selection could be enough grist for numerous cinematic efforts, but sadly I doubt Jonas Quastel’s take will provoke a widening of anthropologic predator features. This is not Quastel’s fault as he did an admirable job of delivering an enjoyable product.
Basically, he was saddled with a subject of limited possibilities as well as a leading man whose acting has a range that is shorter than that of a homemade slingshot. Our hero is played by Lance Henrikson, whose clenched jaw and erosion-carved features make for a classic action player, but his abbreviated performance skills seem to have peaked with the Brian Bosworth tour-de-force, “Stone Cold.” Here, Henrikson plays self-made billionaire Harlan Knowles, a man on a quest to recover the body of his daughter, lost in a crash in the Pacific Northwest, along with other employees aboard his corporate jet.
As head of Bio-Comp he is frustrated by authorities unable to help, telling him the plane went down in an inaccessible region so, in that captain of industry “can-do” spirit, he decides to collocate a group of subordinates with no hope of working together. His posse includes one local tracker, a writer of field guide books, a computer techie unfamiliar with breathing unfiltered air, a woman referred to as some type of natural-ologist, and a comely insurance adjuster named Andrea.
Stepping off a boat and into the woods to ostensibly search for the fated passengers it quickly becomes apparent there are ulterior motives involved for many on this trip. (Not to tip the hand too much, but why would a survival trip need the assistance of an insurance actuary?) The author Winston is trying to hide the fact that he survives better on page than on foot, Andrea has hidden her intent to get her hooks into the billionaire—but at least the computer expert Plazz doesn’t hide his adoration for Andrea’s assets.
During the trek, Andrea lets it be known that she has eyes for Harlan, oblivious to the lack of tact this shows for the reason behind expedition. Meanwhile, their tracker Clayton has issues with Winston being the head of the trip, mostly stemming from Winston’s inability to read a map, but I give the brash writer credit–he manages to stay rather heavily intoxicated for three days with just a six ounce hip flask.
That evening as they retire, we watch Andrea strip down to her hiking negligee in her tent before getting set upon by an unseen animal. Plazz was able to prove he was in his tent at the time and therefore the consensus within the group is it was a bear, with Clayton speculating that Andrea’s menstrual cycle may have provoked the attack. This leads to sparkling dialogue the next day as she comments on the ripeness of Clayton’s aroma and he responds with, “Better I smell like a dead yak than have some grizz think I got steak tar-tar in my jeans.”
Andrea is no shrinking violet herself, as the next night at the campfire she is not in a panic but rather shows up in a towel, asking Harlan to escort her to the hot spring. Now you may think this was cause for a superfluous nude scene but truthfully, after hiking through the taiga for a few days and being tracked by some creature renown for its pungent redolence, that is hardly gratuitous–more likely it was necessary. It is during her dip in the fetid spring that she comes to realize that Harlan has another reason for the trip and takes the moment to extort a sizeable settlement from the man.
Finally, at the crash site it is found that the wreckage had been moved a sizeable distance and clues come together that something is after them, possibly because the crash killed another Sasquatch. We also find out that the plane carried a prototype of a high-tech genetic analysis machine worth mega-millions that Harlan needs to keep his company afloat. Eventually he also gets around to confronting the evidence that his daughter in fact died in the woods, and if you watch closely you may actually see Lance Henrikson do something that comes awfully close to emoting. It may require you to replay the scene a few times.
With the device in tow and Bigfoot in pursuit, the troupe tries to flee in peace, but not without some trimming down of the cast before wrapping things up. Soon they come to the conclusion that the Sasquatch knows what the ultra-secret machine can do and wants it destroyed to preserve its own mystery. Harlan gets his toy back and this leads to a confrontation with what appears to be a different beast.
The reason for this was explained in a very entertaining commentary track where it was explained that the original creature designer died before the end of production and they had to whip up a new costume for the conclusion. You will also enjoy the moment when the director, producer, and two actors are in discussion when it becomes clear to all for the first time that the title of the film had been changed from the vague “The Untold” to the more straightforward label. Most amazing was to hear that this rather clean and professional production came off not just on the cheap but also on the quick, with only a twelve day shooting schedule. Imagine how much more impressive this could have been if Lance was able to summon some genuine feelings for the camera!

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