Released in the same year as The Lost Coast Tapes, this features a similar premise, namely a found-footage style horror film with a documentary about bigfoot as the premise for why the protagonists go into the woods. It also follows path laid down by The Blair Witch Project with the early sections interviewing townsfolk to set up the plot, then the expedition into the woods, an expedition which goes predictably wrong.
Unfortunately, The Bigfoot Tapes isn’t as good and the The Blair Witch Project, or even The Lost Coast Tapes, it has all the downsides of a found footage film (horrific, nausea-inducing camera-work being the worst offender), and fails to grasp the strengths of the format (the connection to the characters and feeling of authenticity).
The films opens with the familiar Patterson-Gimlin bigfoot footage (is it a law that all Bigfoot films have this footage in them?), before using the released audio of a 911 call made in Kitsap Peninsula, Washington State, in the 1990’s (This audio has popped up in TV shows investigating bigfoot before). Explaining that the call came from Siskiyou County,
California, Stephon Lancaster (Stephon Stewart) gets his brother Davee (Davee Youngblood) and Davee’s girlfriend Shy Driskell (Shy Pilgreen) to come with him to Siskiyou to find the caller and make a documentary about Bigfoot.
Upon arriving in Siskiyou county, and interviewing a few colourful locals (teeth are optional in Siskiyou apparently), and falling afoul of red-neck thugs, our documentarians are pointed to Travis (Sam Ayers), a strange local who offer to guide them into the woods. As is the usual, things do not go according to plan, people go missing and they continue to film everything because… well there isn’t much convincing internal motivation, but we wouldn’t have a film otherwise.
Just like the The Blair Witch Project, there is very little actually seen in this film, mostly unusual noises at night and lots of camera wobble as people run around with a camcorder. In the case of the Bigfoot tapes, the blame for the film’s failing falls pretty squarely on the acting. The characters are not particularly likeable, meaning you have very little empathy for what happens to them. As things become more desperate, the believability of the performances plummet and it all feels very forced. This makes it had to care what happens, and given the unpleasant camera-work it makes watching the film a chore.
The ending is particularly weak, I understand the intention and think it’s a good idea, but the execution is poor. Unexpected plot elements are suddenly thrown in and while the twist ending is an old trope, there is an art to making it work, rather than just pulling the rug out from under the audience. Directed, written by and starring Stephon Stewart, this is very low-budget film-making, and I applaud the effort to actually get the film made, but unfortunately it is not worth watching.