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Dan Webster reviews “Sasquatch Sunset”

Film still from Sasquatch Sunset (2024).
Sasquatch Sunset, Felix Culpa/Square Peg/The Space Program/ZBI/Bleecker Street, 2024.
Film still from Sasquatch Sunset (2024).


When it comes to making movies that attempt to carry a message, the famed producer Samuel Goldwyn had firm opinions. “If you've got a message,” he is reputed to have once said, “send a telegram.”

Like all such quips, Goldwyn’s statement smacks a bit too much of bumper-sticker philosophizing to feel much more than a self-serving press release. Moreover, as truth it fits only when the messaging in question is either too obvious to be clever or too clumsily conveyed to be easily understood.

Because of course plenty of good movies carry messages. Paths of Glory is ardently anti-war. Schindler’s List details the evils of the Holocaust. It’s a Wonderful Life tells us that throughout our lives we affect others in ways we might not remotely suspect.

It’s equally true that some movies have little sense of what they might be trying to say. Or if they do, they do so in a way that’s difficult, sometimes impossible, to grasp. Case in point: What the filmmaking brothers David and Nathan Zellner were trying to say with their strange little film Sasquatch Sunset.

Co-directed by both of them from a script written by David Zellner—who also acts in the film—Sasquatch Sunset plays out as if it were your standard Discovery Channel nature documentary. Imagine, though, that instead of meercats or lions the show focuses on a family group of the mythical, woodsy creatures that we’ve come to know as Sasquatch. Or, if you prefer, Bigfoot.

And now imagine a quartet of them traipsing across the terrain, through forests and up and down mountains, sustaining themselves as only a hybrid cross between animal and human could.

As animals, they forage, eating whatever they can find, bedding down wherever they are when day comes to its end. As humans, they form a community, one that by nature reproduces (they have energetic sex) while also seeking to connect with others of their kind (they periodically stop to rhythmically pound on trees as if they were giant drums, hoping to hear someone answer).

And they do all this without uttering a word of dialogue. Communicating with grunts and gestures, they seem as if they’ve stepped out of the early scenes of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Only the way they act is marginally funnier.

Why only marginally? Because for all the funny moments—which are the kinds of moments that typically make animal behavior seem cute—Sasquatch Sunset is also a cautionary tale, one that signals the potential dangers that lurk in the woods. And that the woods themselves are changing in ways the creatures can’t begin to understand.

Though the cast, especially Jesse Eisenberg and even Riley Keough, are familiar faces, they’re buried under so much makeup and costuming that it’s essentially impossible to recognize them. Yet they do manage, through gestures and their expressive eyes, not only to distinguish themselves as individuals but also to make clear what their intentions are—whether those intentions involve warnings about plants that should be avoided or, as happens, feelings of grief.

If only the Zellners had made their overall intentions as apparent. Instead, in an interview, Nathan Zellner said that what he hoped would bring people to the film was “the mystery of what's out there that isn't known yet, and the desire to have that sort of wonder and not have everything spelled out.”

Fair enough. But since this review began with a quote, maybe it’s appropriate that it should end with one. In this case the quote comes from a filmmaker whose best work is intrinsically tied to the messages underlying it.

“A movie is like a little question,” Francis Ford Coppola once said. “And when you make it, that’s when you get the answer.”

Sasquatch Sunset would argue otherwise. Through it, the Zellners pose a lot of questions, some of which are even intriguing. But they offer very little in the way of answers.

For Spokane Public Radio, I’m Dan Webster.


Movies 101 host Dan Webster is a senior film critic for Spokane Public Radio and a blogger for