HomeReviewsSundance Review / Sasquatch Sunset: Beasts in the Wild

Sundance Review / Sasquatch Sunset: Beasts in the Wild

There are ways to tell stories that aren’t strictly straightforward and require creative thinking to turn into a reality. Not all ideas are good ideas, and certainly may not appeal broadly. If someone is open to a fresh take on filmmaking and a new kind of experience, experimental cinema may be just what they love. The Zellner Brothers, already known for their unconventional approach to the movies they make, return to the Sundance Film Festival with a film fully committed to its wild premise: the story of four sasquatches living through four seasons.

An unrecognizable Jesse Eisenberg and Riley Keough star alongside Christophe Zajac-Denek and Nathan Zellner himself as four hairy creatures living in a forest. They walk around each day grunting noises and testing trees and foods, and spend most of their time discovering their own sexual organs. While they do encounter some unexpected entities, like a predatory animal they don’t see for the threat it is and poisonous mushrooms that prompt almost immediate vomit, their journey is mostly about learning what they can do – and still aren’t able to do – with their surroundings. 

Watching Sasquatch Sunset is an ordeal, one that select audiences may want to volunteer for but others will be perfectly happy to steer clear of without giving it a shot. There is no intelligible dialogue throughout the film’s painfully slow ninety minutes, and many of the scenes feature the sasquatches realizing something they can do and then doing it over and over and over again. Those moments then repeat later on in the film at the same glacial pace. While this is surely meant to symbolize the way in which evolution might be slow and humanity also had to try many things hundreds of times before truly understanding both their functions and meanings, it’s quite tedious to watch the rate at which these sasquatches are able to deduce seemingly obvious conclusions.

Sasquatch Sunset
Nathan Zellner, director of Sasquatch Sunset, an official selection of the Premieres Program at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Sasquatch Sunset was acquired back in December ahead of its Sundance debut, and is already set to screen at other film festivals ahead of its planned spring theatrical release by Bleecker Street. Seeing it with an audience may well be its only saving grace, since the sound of others howling with laughter throughout the film may prove unintentionally infectious. But it can also be grating, since not finding everything nearly as funny as the rest of the crowd doesn’t necessarily have the power to change minds and instead can only underline how much something just isn’t working for a particular viewer.

While the product may not be for everyone – and certainly was not for this reviewer – there is a coherent story in place within it. Without the ability to communicate effectively, these saquatches must rely on simple experiments and repetition to get by, and that’s what this film showcases. It also does feel as if these are four non-human beings, covered in prosthetics and hair that hold up especially well in unpleasant scenes that find the saquatches unable to keep what they’ve been eating down since there’s just so much scruff within which it can be caught. From a technical standpoint, this film is an impressive accomplishment.

Ultimately, the experience of this film comes down to a tolerance for a blend of stupidity and monotony. These saquatches clearly are not bright, and, as such, much of the humor is rather infantile in nature. Similarly, the story is far from sophisticated and rather simplistic. It’s easy to become annoyed with how little is happening and, more importantly, just how much that has already happened is happening again. The best word of caution is to advise any potential viewers that this film’s title is one hundred percent literal, which should tell them as much as they need to know to decide if it’s truly for them. 

Grade: D

Check out more of Abe Friedtanzer’s articles.

Sasquatch Sunset makes its world premiere in the Premieres section at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival and will be released this year by Bleecker Street.

Abe Friedtanzer
Abe Friedtanzerhttps://www.cinemadailyus.com
Abe Friedtanzer is a film and TV enthusiast who spent most of the past fifteen years in New York City. He has been the editor of MoviesWithAbe.com and TVwithAbe.com since 2007, and has been predicting the Oscars, Emmys, Golden Globes, and SAG Awards since he was allowed to stay up late enough to watch them. He has attended numerous film festivals including Sundance, Tribeca, and SXSW, and is a contributing writer for The Film Experience, Awards Radar, and AwardsWatch.

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