Sasquatch Sunset (2024)

Riley Keough, Jesse Eisenberg and Christophe Zajac-Denek live in the wild in “Sasquatch Sunset.”

Weird ‘Sasquatch’ plants a big foot on convention

It’s hard to get progressively more peculiar than “Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter” and “Damsel,” but leave it to the wildly imaginative Zellner brothers, David and Nathan, to out-strange themselves. This time the sibs take on nothing less than the Bigfoot legend with “Sasquatch Sunset,” a zany, ultimately poignant, embedment with the mythical creatures during a year-long odyssey that touches on everything from their mating habits to how they hunt and gather.

It’s an obvious send-up on Jane Goodall’s tireless observations of chimps in the wild. But Jane, who turned 90 earlier this month, never was as hilariously sophomoric as David and Nathan Zellner, who take enormous pride in grossing us out via the effluence of an array of bodily fluids, some of them fluorescent green. Hygiene is deficient, as is decorum, particularly when it comes to sex. And, yes, these hirsute humanoids are all anatomically correct, hence the MPAA’s ridiculous caution of “full-frontal nudity.”

You’re tempted to hate yourself for laughing, but the Zellners are masters at mining humor from the absurd. They also know how to inject plenty of heart as the tone gradually shifts from comical to impactful once man and other beasts infringe upon paradise, introducing various dangers and destroying habitat. And when the Sasquatch die, you feel it in the pit of your stomach.

There’s no mistaking the environmental message delivered amid the gorgeous redwoods of Northern California. But an even richer existential reckoning is in how we’re encouraged to see ourselves as the Sasquatch see us. It’s not very flattering; closer to shameful.

Never has a human campsite appeared so menacing. You might even grow a bit envious of the unity on display amid a family dynamic in which collectivism trumps individualism at nearly every turn. Materialism? Forget about it.

Such harmony is admirable, but it also makes it difficult to tell the four characters apart. It’s even more challenging for the actors buried under layers of prosthetics and stuffed inside oppressive costumes robbing them of their ability to act with their voices and facial expressions. We do see their eyes, but that’s not always enough. But Jesse Eisenberg, Riley Keough, Christophe Zajac-Denek and Nathan Zellner are extraordinary at communicating exactly what their characters are thinking.

Naturally, it’s Keough who suffers most of the indignities as the lone female in the cast. The Zellners put her through a gauntlet of humiliations that initially reduce her character to a sex object and source of sustenance for her oversized “baby,” played by Zajac-Denek, a little person with a big ability to break through the latex and deeply resonate. But when it comes time for the film’s profoundly ironic finale, you’re in awe of the lady Sasquatch and her capacity to withstand enormous physical and mental anguish.

She also exhibits substantial forbearance. But you might need to exceed that tolerance in accepting the challenge of a film as unorthodox as “Sasquatch Summer.” Like “Civil War,” it’s a divisive movie that may test the expectations of its audience. You either go with it or you don’t.

It helps if you’ve seen the brothers’ previous two films, “Kumiko” and “Damsel.” Like the Sasquatch, they speak a special language not easily interpreted. Those folks with an aptitude to do so will surely be blown away. To all others, it may play like a feature-length, R-rated GEICO cavemen commercial that leaves you irretrievably lost in the woods.

Movie review

Sasquatch Sunset

Rated: R for bloody images, some sexual content and full nudity

Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Riley Keough, Nathan Zellner and Christophe Zajac-Denek

Directors: David and Nathan Zellner

Writer: David Zellner

Runtime: 88 minutes

Where: In theaters now, going wide April 19

Grade: B

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