SXSW 2024: Sasquatch Sunset -a peculiar yet visually captivating entry to filmmaking

Photo by Laurie Coker

In the densely wooded realm of creature cinema, ‘Sasquatch Sunset’ emerges as a peculiar yet visually captivating entry to filmmaking. Co-directed by David Zellner and Nathan Zellner, this unique cryptid comedy embarks on a whimsical journey with a nomadic sasquatch family, potentially the last of their kind. While the film boasts a fiercely committed cast, who remain unrecognizable under head-to-toe prosthetics, its reliance on potty humor somewhat tarnishes its potential.

Led by Riley Keough, Jesse Eisenberg, Christophe Zajac-Denek, and Nathan Zellner, the hairy protagonists of ‘Sasquatch Sunset’ traverse the North American wilderness, driven by primal instincts and familial bonds. Amidst encounters with cuddly critters and occasional peril, the sasquatches engage in a series of comical antics, from drunken escapades to awkward mating rituals. The Zellners ingeniously convey this narrative through grunts and gestures, evoking a retro nature documentary vibe accentuated by wide-sweeping shots of picturesque landscapes.

Despite the impressive creature design and practical makeup effects, distinguishing between family members proves challenging, with subtle behavioral cues serving as the only distinguishing features. While Keough’s portrayal stands out amidst the fur and prosthetics, the continued focus on bodily functions and gross-out gags detract from the film’s potential for greater emotional depth and social commentary. Meant as comic relief, the sex and potty humor and the odd hyperrealism of beastly behaviors undermine the familial story the filmmakers attempt to passionately depict.

Yet, beneath the layers of prosthetics lies a surprisingly poignant exploration of environmentalism and the human condition. As the sasquatches navigate a world increasingly marred by human encroachment, the film offers subtle commentary on deforestation and the loss of natural habitats. However, these themes often take a backseat to the relentless barrage of toilet humor, overshadowing the film’s underlying messages.

Despite its shortcomings, ‘Sasquatch Sunset’ remains a visually arresting and audaciously surreal cinematic experience. With wordless performances and meticulous attention to detail, the film immerses audiences in a world where mythical creatures roam free, blurring the line between reality and fantasy. Whether it’s the absurdity of the premise or the commitment of its cast and crew, “Sasquatch Sunset” is undeniably a one-of-a-kind film that defies expectations and invites audiences to embrace the bizarre.

Additionally, the directing brothers, Jesse Eisenberg and Christophe Zajac-Denek, attended the screening during SXSW 2024, adding to the film’s allure. Their participation in an entertaining and revealing Q&A session provided further insight into making this strange and weirdly engaging comedy, offering audiences a deeper appreciation for the creative process behind the film.

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