Big Legend, written and directed by Justin Lee and released by Papa Octopus Productions, is a survival film that features Bigfoot. The lead character, former Army Ranger Tyler (Kevin Makely), takes his girlfriend Natalie (Summer Spiro) on a camping trip in an effort to bag a fiancé. Unfortunately, Natalie gets bagged by Bigfoot, and she’s dragged away screaming into the night. One year later, Tyler is ready to head back out into dangerous territory and finally discover what happened to Natalie, with a little help from hunter Eli (Todd A. Robinson).
Big Legend is a strange beast. It’s a film with talented actors, beautiful scenery, adept cinematography, mostly strong editing, a serviceable score, and fantastic creature design. But it is plagued by one major problem that becomes more and more apparent as the nightmarish hike for answers turns into an unimpressive journey: The script.
The actors do a great job of working with the less than effective script. Tyler is suitably angsty and persistent throughout the film, Natalie comes off as real and relatable, and Eli is interesting and fun. The relationship between Tyler and Natalie at the start of the film comes across as genuine, and Tyler and Eli work together as a strong team when hunting down the big monster. It’s always nice to see the legendary Adrienne Barbeau, even if her role only serves to establish a bit of character development.
The setting is beautiful. Lush trees and wild forest dominate the screen, and key locations, such as Eli’s camp, are well crafted. The cinematography is impressive, guided by a keen eye not only for framing and scenery, but also for tension. The editing does a mostly admirable job of putting together tense scenes, skillfully cutting away when necessary to show the franticness of running through the woods and the stillness of the moon at key moments. There was one section of editing that felt a little out of place, but overall, the editing does a great job of showcasing the footage. The score doesn’t really stand out, but it serves its purpose.
The film has a few strong elements, but the best part of Big Legend is Bigfoot. The design that went into the creation of the creature, as well as some of the choices regarding filming the creature, are immensely impressive. Bigfoot mostly exists on the periphery, shrouded in fog and shadow, which makes sense considering the legend’s elusive nature, but even when the creature is front and center, you never get a clear look at it. This was a strong choice that serves to make Bigfoot mysterious and intimidating. In one close up near the end of the film, Bigfoot’s face is mostly obscured by his long, wild hair, with the exception of his unnerving mouth and monstrous teeth. This moment was one of the strongest of the film.
All of these positive aspects show that Justin Lee is well suited to direct, but all of the direction in the world can’t save Big Legend from itself.
The script is weak and mostly uninspired, with odd and slow pacing that plagues the film, throughout. Considering that this is a feature that revolves around hunting down Bigfoot, it makes sense that there are several scenes that feature characters exploring through the woods, but these scenes are not met with an appropriate amount of action, leaving the film feeling unbalanced and, at times, rather boring.
A plot point regarding broken ancient seals that confined the creature to a limited area of forest is briefly touched on, but mostly abandoned. It would have been nice to see the flick explore this plot point a bit more. Big Legend leaves you wondering if the majority of the plot regarding these ancient seals was left on the cutting room floor.
Character development is mostly missing. We get a bit of development near the beginning, when Tyler talks with his mother, but other than explaining that Tyler is a former Army Ranger that, even as a child, always demanded to find answers, the script doesn’t do much more to develop him. The same can be said for Eli, as his character development is barely explored. Natalie’s character development, though she doesn’t get much screen time, seems to be missing entirely. The actors did a good job of bringing their flat characters to life, but with a better script, these performers could have accomplished something much more impressive.
For a film about Bigfoot, the creature is very rarely involved, which is a shame considering that the creature is one of the strongest parts of the picture. In Jaws, the technique of hiding the monster through the majority of the feature’s runtime worked exceptionally well, but in Big Legend, the choice doesn’t work, because Bigfoot is never properly represented when the creature isn’t physically on screen.
The final confrontation comes off as rushed, lasting only minutes and ending in a manner that is less than satisfying. When Tyler utters his uninspired line right before getting the best of the creature, you can’t help but feel that Roy Scheider did it better the first time. The ending of the film, which takes place in a hospital room far removed from the woods, feels tacked on and out of place, and it only serves to act as a jumping off point for the sequel.
In many ways, Big Legend wants to be the Jaws of the woods, but where Jaws took a mediocre book and morphed it into a phenomenal script, Big Legend takes a flawed script and does the best it can to make up for the shortcomings. The result is especially frustrating since it leaves you with the feeling that the same cast and crew could have made a much better film if they were working with a better script. It’s impossible to view the film as anything but a bad script dressed up as pretty as possible, but even with a beautiful wig and a nice shade of lipstick, the script is still a pig, and a rather rough pig, at that.
Big Legend is not the worst film you’ll see this year, but the script keeps it from being anywhere close to the best. It is now available on VOD.
Director(s): Justin Lee
Writer(s): Justin Lee
Stars: Kevin Makely, Todd A. Robinson, Amanda Wyss, with Lance Henriksen, and Adrienne Barbeau
Release: July 3rd VOD
Studio/ Production Co: SPHE, Papa Octopus Productions