Have you ever watched a Christopher Guest mockumentary, like For Your Consideration, loved it, but said, ‘Well, there are no real life people that stupid.’ You would be wrong, because in director Jay Delaney’s 63 minute long, 2009 documentary, Not Your Typical Bigfoot Movie, that’s exactly what the viewer is seeing. The film follows two middle aged Portsmouth, Ohio friends and losers named Dallas Gilbert and Wayne Burton. The former is a small, clearly psychotic, but harmless, individual with bad dentition who believes he has a gift to call out to Bigfoots (or Bigfeet?) that he and Wayne track down in local forested areas. He has a Gabby Hayes jaw movement, and, in a 10 minute film that follows the main film, on Netflix, he states that he and his wife have never been able to afford a vacation. His buddy, Wayne, is a hulking behemoth of a man who is slightly more grounded in reality, but dumb as a log. He rambles on about all manners of topics, such as hating Republicans and Liberals both, then seems grievous when it appears Dallas has dropped him as a friend because a famed Bigfoot hunter from California has suckered Wayne into accidentally telling a lie on a national paranormal radio show. Wayne provides even more moments of commiseration for a viewer than Dallas when he shows scars on his arms from self-inflicted wounds, we learn his wife’s house is being repossessed, and see his pained looks when he is left behind, by Dallas, who is invited to a Bigfoot conference and honored, while he is not.
The two idiots met and bonded over Bigfoot because, well, they had nothing else in their miserable lives, portrayed as the typical stereotypes of working class, blue collar morons. Both hope to get rich by getting evidence of the beasts. Yet the so called evidence the idiots obtain, via photographs, are laughable, as any dark area in a wooded shot is instantly seized upon as evidence of multiple man-apes in the photo. Dallas’s insistence on this is both bizarre and sad as he is clearly deranged. Wayne, though, seems to have a primordial sense of how ridiculous it all is, including his life, and several times he looks in to the camera and admonishes others to not become a loser like he is. This would depress the hell out of most people, especially given the current sad economic state of affairs has likely made the two idiots’ lives even worse (the film was made in 2005-2006, when economic times were better), save for one fact: the duo are SO incredibly dense and clueless, especially when tracking down the man-apes (in Ohio, a thousand miles from the Bigfoot stronghold of the Rocky Mountains)- and by ‘tracking’ I mean, getting in a van, drinking, then hollering like fools so that Dallas can whip out a camera and claim that he has a half dozen of the critters in sight- that they are HILARIOUS!
Seriously, these guys are funnier than Laurel and Hardy or Abbott and Costello, and that’s what makes Not Your Typical Bigfoot Movie live up to its title. I mean, I recall all the In Search Of… type tv shows, and bad pseudo-documentary films from the 1970s, about the subject and nothing has really changed since then, save the public’s waning fascination. This film’s core is about the lives of these two worthless but oddly endearing losers. You want to root for them. You wish that they had more inside of them because all of their failings seem to be totally of their own making. Deluded Dallas is, in some ways, the more unfortunate of the duo, since he believes he is a healing crystals Master, has sheep DNA embedded in his skull, and understands the Bigfoot lingo. An especially touching (or disturbing) sequence occurs when Wayne’s nephew is mauled by a Great Dane and he calls Dallas to pray for the boy, because of his special powers. To watch this big hulk of a man near tears, not for the boy’s plight, but because he fears Dallas has rejected him for the radio fraud fiasco that got them labeled as Internet hoaxers, is a moment that has to move a viewer. Wayne’s relief that Dallas will pray for the boy ripples through his body, and, wisely, Delaney cuts the moment off, to allow Wayne some privacy. Another moment that makes the film work is the whole sequence of the duo’s enthrallment to the big time Bigfoot researcher from California, named Tom. He uses and discards the duo in a few days, and then abruptly leaves. The film rightly portrays him as a villain, but his abuse of the simpletons recapitulates what all rich and powerful folk in a field do to their lesser lights: they use them until the lesser are husks, and by film’s end the two idiots we’ve grown to care about are in even worse shape than at film’s start. The actual ending shows the dummies carrying on, walking aimlessly in to the woods.
Not Your Typical Bigfoot Movie is not a great film nor documentary. It is not particularly deep on the plight of the downtrodden and disenfranchised (both examples being white, middle aged males, no less), and it certainly has little to do with Sasquatch research. But it has something. In fact, it has two things that many films that are leagues above it in all qualitative ways do not have: that is empathy and hilarity. Think of films that have one of those qualities. They almost always lack the other- be they documentaries or fictions. Most comedies nowadays tend to be hip, snide, superior, whilst most films that show compassion seem to be relentlessly dry, PC, and ‘serious’ (emphasis on the quotation marks about serious). Think of any film in the last 20 years that is great in one of these categories and, again, it will almost always lack the other, in spades. But this film does not. Just when you want to cry and feel sick over how idiotic and gullible these men are, Wayne will start sucking on a rotten apple, comment on it, then suck it some more. Or Dallas will start pointing to a dark spot in a photo and insist that he sees a head or arm or something Bigfootian. So, the fact the film has loads of these two qualities makes it not great, but exceedingly likable. And, upon further review, also quite a good documentary. One may not be so moved to get to know the two idiots any better, but the chances are you will not regret having watched this film. I don’t.