Ape Canyon, directed by Joshua Land, is a comedy that is about Bigfoot, but only on its surface — in actuality, it is an attempt at producing a heartfelt movie that brings its protagonist full circle in a coming-of-quarter-life-age adventure. Though everything about this movie screams B-movie — from its crypto-based premise, to its cast, to its direction — Ape Canyon was an easy watch and is a unique, new entry into the catalog of Bigfoot films.
Ape Canyon follows Cal (Jackson Trent), a long-time Bigfoot enthusiast who hears about a vacation expedition into Ape Canyon, a gorge in an area of Oregon known as a hotbed for apemen sightings. After successfully guilt-tripping his big sister Sam (Anna Fagan) into coming along, they leave their families behind and join a small group of fellow hunters and hikers as they set out to find the elusive creature. After they become lost in the woods, Cal must decide what is more important — to leave the woods and save his own life, or, continue in his search to finally see Bigfoot.
Ape Canyon employs a relatively small crew of characters who are written with just the right amount of quirkiness before stumbling into a realm of over-the-top silliness, which a film like this easily could have stumbled into. The character that I most wanted to see, Bigfoot, only makes a brief appearance in cartoon form, which may speak to the film’s low budget and inability to produce a live-action Bigfoot encounter with the practical effects and suitmation that would be needed.
Though I thought the direction was mediocre as far as production quality and any artistic stamps on the film to make it memorable or interesting, I did appreciate how the movie was edited to build up its protagonist as being on some Moby Dick-like chase; the pursuit did begin verge on unbelievable as the film progressed, but it was later revealed to be the outward manifestation of the character’s inner turmoil. Because of this, Ape Canyon side-stepped writing itself into the typical Bigfoot-movie tropes of being either overly silly and ridiculous, or, overly serious, and instead found a healthy mix of family drama and cryptozoological fun.
Overall, there are far better Bigfoot movies, even ones that also belong to the horror-comedy subgenre that are funnier than Ape Canyon. I personally did not connect to any of the film’s awkwardly written surface characters, not even the supposedly emotionally wrapped protagonist. Ape Canyon was not horrible and far from unwatchable, but it is woefully lacking in acting quality to deliver the poignancy it was trying to achieve towards the end.
5.75 out of 10