Comfortable and Furious

Sasquatch Sunset (2024)

The wordless opening sequence of Stanley Kubrick’s seminal sci-fi classic 2001: A Space Odyssey is one of the most memorable and influential of all time, but let’s be honest: it could have used more piss, shit, vomit, and fucking. These facts of life are on full display in Sasquatch Sunset, the wonderfully unique, funny, and surprisingly moving new picture from David and Nathan Zellner. Many audience members reportedly walked out on early screenings of the movie due to its excessive grossness, but its depiction of the daily lives of a family of cryptids on the outskirts of human society is endlessly fascinating, and the harsh, gross reality of it all only makes the film’s missing link creatures all the more human and relatable. 

Completely devoid of human characters or dialogue and eschewing traditional three-act plot structure in favor of a four-part one based on the shifting seasons, Sasquatch Sunset strikes its humorously engaging balance right from the start, with the breathtaking natural beauty of the forests of Northern California giving way to a grunting rutting session between the alpha male (Nathan Zellner) and the the female sasquatch (Riley Keough), as another male (Jesse Eisenberg) and child (Christophe Zajac-Denek) look on from a short distance away. 

Though this and many other moments are obviously played for comic effect, there is also an undeniable sincerity to the whole project. The cast is utterly committed and, while completely unrecognizable under all the heavy prosthetic makeup, capable of conveying genuine emotional depth. Keough in particular shines as the matriarch of the shaggy little clan, and its most intelligent member by a mile. While the alpha, intoxicated on fermented berries, destroys their makeshift shelter when his rampaging libido urges him to fuck a load-bearing piece of the structure (there has to be a metaphor in there somewhere), she is the one to self-diagnose her pregnancy, and she shows a rudimentary understanding of physics and a quick learning ability throughout. 

With their isolation from the human world and grunting, animalistic self-expression, it is at times easy to forget that the movie takes place in modern times. Evidence of this is jarring to us as the audience, and downright terrifying to the sasquatch family; perhaps the funniest scene in the movie occurs when they react to a paved road in the midst of their familiar wilderness. On a more somber note, the sunset of the title may refer to the end they face as humans build further and further into the land they call home. 

While it is unclear whether they have ever been spotted by us, their interactions with humans in the film are limited to the remnants of our civilization: the aforementioned paved roads, abandoned campsites, and most upsetting and dangerous of all, the rapidly encroaching deforestation of their habitat. When they come upon a tree marked with a spray-painted red “X,” we are once again reminded of 2001, as the apes that will evolve into Man cautiously approach the monolith, a mysterious thing they cannot understand but instinctively fear. 

There is a loneliness, a melancholy, to the hairy band of humanoids, as they seem to recognize that their time is almost done. They are already marginalized and seemingly alone in the wilderness, the child “talking” with and feeding an imaginary friend fashioned from his own hand (reminiscent of another Kubrick classic), and now the tides of civilization are coming in, threatening to wash them away forever. This unexpected poignancy will perhaps not be so unexpected to anyone who saw the Zellners’ Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter, another film of prankish origins but surprising depth and beauty. 

So is it all a big prank, or a genuine work of art? The Zellners boldly and brilliantly answer that question with one of their own: why can’t it be both? Unabashedly scatological and willing to go for the gross-out as well as the big, silly laugh, Sasquatch Sunset is decidedly not for everyone, and that is a huge part of its charm. There’s never been a movie quite like this one, and I could have watched hours more of it.

Also check out Finding Bigfoot



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