Cryptozoology has always intrigued me. I grew up watching television shows like So Weird, The X-Files, and Lost Tapes and I can remember picking out every Bigfoot film I could find in those DVD grab bins at my local Wal-Mart or Best Buy. Bumble, The Abominable Snowmonster of the North from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was the sole reason I watched my home-recorded VHS tape of the Rankin/Bass Christmas special on repeat every holiday season and I am always on the lookout for content that might tickle my Sasquatch. In other words, it doesn't take a whole lot of convincing to get me to watch the latest exploration of the creepy world of cryptozoology and Justin Lee's debut film BIG LEGEND does not disappoint.
BIG LEGEND, a Papa Octopus Production, written and directed by newcomer Justin Lee, sounds like it might be just another Bigfoot movie, but it's actually one of my favorite entries in this obscure genre and I'm really looking forward to what Lee has in store next. The film begins with a couple embarking on a camping trip together in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest at Mount St. Helends, but their would-be romantic getaway comes to an end shortly after it begins. Tyler (Kevin Makely), an ex-Army Ranger had planned to take his girlfriend, Natalie (Summer Spiro) for a romantic getaway in the woods and come back with a fiance, but instead he returns with more than just war-PTSD. Something took Natalie and after loads of psychiatric treatment and a year later, Tyler decides to return to the woods in search of some answers.
For a freshman film, BIG LEGEND is rather impressive, visually and artistically. The cinematography from Adrian M. Pruett is quaint, but promising, and surprised me a couple of times with some rather handsome shots of our protagonists exploring the woods. Equally as impressive, is the utilization of sound and dialogue throughout the film. The more film I consume, the more I learn about the importance of sound design and I've become more aware of how it can change a film for better or for worse. In this case, the utilization of score by Jared Forman, the dialogue, and sound (or in some instances, lack thereof), was perfectly applied; moments of complete stillness or white noise of the woods helped to build tension and I noticed myself holding my breath in fear of what or who might be lurking in the trees. It's a bold move to practice such a limited use of sound or dialogue in a film and it's often not done very well. In some cases though, like John Krasinski's A Quiet Place or Lynne Ramsey's You Were Never Really Here - both top tier films, in my opinion - it heightens the experience in a really interesting and unique way and I think Justin Lee also achieves that with BIG LEGEND. To add one more thing to the list of wins for this film: I loved the use of practical effects by Angela Bulmer, as practical is always my preference over CGI. I just love the nostalgia imbued in seeing a practical, tangible monster and BIG LEGEND delivered on that front as well.
BIG LEGEND is one part cryptid mythology, one part revenge film, and one part artsy adventure film, all tied together with an ending that had me saying, "YAAASSSS!". Justin Lee doesn't plan to stop with BIG LEGEND either, he's got multiple film ideas in the bag, so it sounds like the adventures will continue and I am so here for all of it.
BIG LEGEND will be released on VOD July 3rd. Stay out of the woods; monsters are real...