Sasquatch Sunset Review | Um… It’s Unique

by Andrew Parker

Sasquatch Sunset, the latest film from the Zellner Brothers, is a patently unreviewable film, but I am going to try to cobble something together, anyway. It’s honestly a pretty bad movie, but I certainly can’t suggest that it’s compromised or an unrealized vision. It’s more performance art than cinema, although it’s a handsome looking production with gorgeous, vivid shots of stunning natural landscapes. It’s as dull as watching paint dry, but curious in the same way as an Applebees parking lot can appear on a weekend night. It’s restrained, but also didactic in its own weird way. Sasquatch Sunset might be a mess of contradictions wrapped up in a plethora of dialogue-free pee, poop, and fart gags, but it’s assuredly a visionary motion picture, whatever the heck that even means.

It’s easy to describe the style and substance of Sasquatch Sunset, and just as easy to parse what it all could mean. It’s an observational, surrealist, wordless look at four Sasquatches living out their changing lives over the course of a calendar year. They’re played – unrecognizably under elaborate, well rendered make-up and costumes – by Riley Keough, Jesse Eisenberg, Christophe Zajac-Denek, and co-director Nathan Zellner. These nomadic, humanoid, mythical creatures wander the woods of North America. Along the way they bicker, love, get jealous of each other, share in joys and pains, and do a lot of gross things for the sake of making the audience laugh. They look like wise and ancient creatures, but they act naive around things one would assume they’ve seen many times before.

And that’s pretty much it, which means the success of Nathan and David Zellner’s project rests entirely on visuals and performance. And the viewer’s enjoyment of Sasquatch Sunset relies heavily on how they feel about watching 85 minutes of mime and jokes about scat, breast milk, and boners. Mime is an acquired taste, as is toilet humour, but it’s not unheard of for these streams to cross. If you find these sort of things funny (or you find the concept to be somehow so-bad-it’s-funny), you’ll probably get something out of Sasquatch Sunset. It’s all performance based, and the cast gives their all for the cause, especially Keough, but their efforts will only appeal to those who can fully commit to the Zellners’ unique wavelength.

Whenever the humour dies down, Sasquatch Sunset tries, and ultimately fails, to talk about topics such a loss, generational responsibilities, the circle of life, and humankind’s encroaching on natural spaces. While the Zellners (Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter) might not have more than the clicks and grunts of their performers to fall back on, they’re assuredly leaning on the “these creatures are just like us” button a bit too hard, meaning their weird, idiosyncratic film comes with a leadenly obvious message about our place in the world. There are moments of genuine tragedy, malice, and trauma within Sasquatch Sunset, but it’s impossible to take most of them seriously because everything else in the project is filmed in almost the exact same fashion and pitched at the same verite observant level as the silly gross out gags.

Unless you can take things seriously when the Zellners ask you to and laugh at the bits that are supposed to be funny, Sasquatch Sunset will be a boring slog that uses avant-garde techniques to tell an obvious parable. It’s a film that demands A LOT of the audience, and while I would argue that it’s asking too much of the viewer, that’s part of what makes this misfire mildly interesting. Also, no matter how insufferable and overbearing I found it, I can safely say that I have never seen a film like Sasquatch Sunset before, nor will I probably ever see something like this again. Win or lose, that’s no small feat, and I have no doubt that this turned out close to what the Zellners intended. Even films that aren’t good can hit their marks, and that’s more than a lot of other mainstream safe bets can achieve on a good day. I can’t stand the film, but I certainly respect it, and not on a begrudging level.

Sasquatch Sunset opens in select Canadian theatres, including TIFF Lightbox in Toronto on Friday, April 19, 2024. 

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