HUNTING THE LEGEND (2014)
Written and directed by Justin Steeley
After his father is killed by a mysterious beast during a hunting trip, Chris Copeland decides that one day he will find out exactly what happened to his father. Five years after the incident, Chris sets off into the woods with his girlfriend Hannah and his best friend Jeff, along with a camera crew and a trained protection dog, to document his mission of revenge against the Bigfoot he suspects reponsible.
Presented as a found footage movie, HUNTING THE LEGEND mimics the most successful film of this genre, The Blair Witch Project, whilst throwing in elements of other indie movies such as The Bigfoot Tapes. After establishing that they’re going to document Bigfoot and attempt to get actual proof of its existance, the group head into the woodland which is where the film enters Blair Witch territory. Instead of a tight knit horror though we get a poor imitation. Much like Blair Witch, the film begins with interviews with local residents who discuss their own Bigfoot stories and experiences. One such interview leads the group to a recluse living in the woods who seems to know more about Bigfoot than anyone else and warns the kids away. Refusing to take his advise, the teenagers soldier on to find their proof but all that results is rustling trees, snarling groans and the odd flicker of a silhouette creeping through the woodland.
Though the film does its best to create a frightening, intense scenario set in the eerie woodlands, the lack of charisma from the characters and the fact we as horror fans have seen it all before, makes for an awkward, plodding experience. The cliched ending and the lack of actual visuals of Bigfoot does no favours for the film either. The problem with HUNTING THE LEGEND is that it doesn’t bring anything new to the genre and the film it’s trying to mimic is better structured and executed. Simply filming a bunch of teens wandering around woodland all day, occasionally finding skinned rabbits hanging from the trees and hearing banging on the trees during the night, isn’t going to cut it.
Whilst the viewer is given a motive for the Bigfoot hunt and a backstory to the characters, it’s very hard to connect with them. They feel like strangers the entire time. Only the trained dog, an Alsation/German Shephard named Scout, summons empathy from the viewer. The character of Chris, the leader of the group, becomes increasingly selfish and obnoxious as time goes on, frustrated at the lack of Bigfoot evidence to show and prove to others. Despite reading lots of books and saving newspaper clippings about alleged sightings, his preperation for the hunt, or lack of, isn’t enough to keep his buddies safe and even the hired film and audio technicians aren’t keen on sticking around either. Chris isn’t much of a likable character from the start and by the end, you couldn’t really care less what happens to him or his buddies who are stupid enough to stick by him.
Found footage movies are ten a penny nowadays and for this genre to continue and succeed, there needs to be fresh ideas with solid execution to grip and engage the viewer. Unfortunately, HUNTING THE LEGEND isn’t one of them.