In 2008, a deer hunter was taken by something in the Alabama woods. Only his rifle, blood and a 16″ footprint were left behind… Five years later, his son seeks revenge.
After having just watched a found footage film centered on the legend of Bigfoot (Willow Creek), I hardly expected (or needed) to see another one. But I can’t say I was necessarily surprised to open my mailbox the other day and find a copy of something called Hunting The Legend waiting for me either. I daresay that there’ll be a couple more films arriving here soon that touch upon the exact same subject. The big question: Is it any good?
Written, produced, directed by (& featuring) Justin Steeley, Hunting The Legend is indeed all about one young man’s hunt for revenge, revenge against the entity that he believes snatched up his father five years prior. The fact that he believes the entity is Bigfoot doesn’t make him afraid and he manages to enlist a few of his friends (Including his girlfriend) to assist him on his mission. But first, they have to travel to where his dad was stolen away from him. Ostensibly, he describes his mission as a “Documentary” in order to prove that Bigfoot does indeed exist, but (in what might be a first for found footage films) the group takes the time to purchase weapons & rent a guard dog in order to protect themselves. I cannot think of a film in the found footage genre where the characters arm themselves before setting out into the wilderness (Or wherever they end up going) to find whatever it is they’re looking for, so I gotta give props to Mr. Steeley for thinking about that.
The big problem is that after that fascinating little bit of forward thinking, Steeley’s script is content to just fall back on nearly every trope of the found footage genre and hope that his audience (Who, if they’re watching this, is already well aware of what they’ve gotten themselves into) sticks around for the ride. After a segment in which our Bigfoot hunters interview various people about their interactions with the creature, they set out into the wilderness to lend some credence to their documentary and hopefully – find Bigfoot. But in the interim, Steeley allows his characters to laugh, cry & bicker as they traipse along in someone’s backyard. Over & over & over again.
Its not that the trio of young actors he features aren’t any good that killed the majority of the film for me, not at all – In fact, they’re rather good! Christopher Copeland, Hannah Wallace & Jeff Causey (All playing themselves), actually bring a lot of verve/panache to their one dimensional roles. There’s a very natural give & take that the three of them share that doesn’t feel forced (Or necessarily scripted) at all. I actually began to wonder exactly how much of the script Steeley actually wrote since a lot of the banter felt ad libbed to me. A lot of it felt like one of those “Experimental” films that John Cassavettes used to direct in the 60’s/70’s in which he’d present his actors with a framework for what he wanted his film to be about and then let them suss it out between themselves by improvising most of the film.
While all of this might sound interesting to some of you, I found it very staid & dull since literally NOTHING goes on for much of the film’s running time. The group walks around, takes some photos, finds a footprint every now & again, argue, laugh and repeat. The only thing that saved me from falling into a comatose state was my sincere interest in how the whole thing was gonna end. I liked the performances so much that I forced myself out the state of ennui that I was fast approaching to see if Steeley had a surprise in store for me. Sadly, his surprise reminded me a lot of a film I watched last year called “The Frankenstein Theory” and it fails for many of the same reasons that that film did. They both made the fatal mistake of thinking their narrative would carry their films to the end where they’d pull a rabbit out of their collective hats and offer a big BOO! to their audience. In the case of The Frankenstein Theory, the beautiful vistas on display didn’t hide the fact that every single character in the film was about a stupid as a bag of hammers. In the case of Hunting The Legend, the characters are a smidgen smarter but they do little more than walk, talk & argue for nearly the entire film.
And all I got for hanging around till the end was an (At best) ambiguous & vague finale that featured no visible yeti’s but a lot of audible ones. The editing becomes extremely slapdash & hyper for the last 5 minutes of the film, doing nothing but confusing the already vacuous narrative to the point where I almost got angry. I understand the idea of trying to make your audience imagine what’s going on without having them actually see much of anything, good sound design & a strong story can really work wonders when there isn’t a lot of money to spend. But Hunting The Legend has neither good sound design or a strong story, so all of the effort made to add some vague scares at the end of the film adds up to naught.
They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions, if this is so then Steeley & company are well on their way to a swim in the lake of fire. It’s not that there isn’t the kernel of a good idea going on here, there actually is. But this production just doesn’t have the budget to make any of this very compelling, you can’t just film your friends cavorting in the woods for 90 minutes and call it a horror film…
Oh…wait a minute. They just did!
Hunting The Legend – 1 out of 5 shrouds.