Shooting Bigfoot does feature all of the usual ambiguous photographs, shaky video clips and uninspiring foot-moulds, but it quickly dispenses with stock footage during an informative and entertaining prelude which also features a completely disarming animation — immediately setting the tone for what is to come. Witty, frenetic and completely unexpected, the cartoon depicts what is quite clearly a wild goose chase as various figures clamber up trees and race around with unwieldy camera equipment.
As with all the best documentaries, Shooting Bigfoot is as notable for its contributors as it is for the prime subject matter, and indeed the title references the search as well as the intended outcome, while on another level hinting at the force these people are willing to use to achieve it. Following this introduction, the film splits its screen-time between three very different sets of Bigfoot hunters, cutting expertly between them as filmmaker Morgan Matthews sees fit.
And so it is that we meet Rick Dyer, a relatively young hunter with a clearly uninterested assistant apparently hired for her eye-colour alone; Dallas and Wayne, unemployed rednecks who wander the country shouting “Answer me, Bigfoot” and munching on anything on special offer; and perhaps the most infamous of the three, Tom Biscardi, a minor celebrity with four DVDs to his name, including Bigfoot Lives 1 and Bigfoot Lives 2.
While many previous explorations of the Bigfoot myth have painted its practitioners as delusional morons, Shooting Bigfoot has a little more to say on the matter. Matthews has put together a very funny film — largely thanks to Biscardi, who spends entire minutes in hysterics when his accomplice falls into a river — but he has also shown the world of Bigfoot hunting to be lonely, compulsive and — in perhaps its biggest achievement — legitimately scary.
As the film builds to its utterly mind-boggling climax, the various threads each reach crisis point as things get frighteningly real and genuinely dangerous. The film contains car accidents, armed weaponry and even physical violence. Matthews makes his own comparison to The Blair Witch Project, but the film has more in common with the likes of Troll Hunter, particularly in the absurdly matter-of-fact tone the hunters discuss their perceived destiny. Except this is no mockumentary.
What happens in the final minutes may make you question everything you’ve seen, but the build-up is so compelling that whether Bigfoot exists or not seems entirely beside the point. By film’s end you won’t know what you’ve just witnessed, just that you can’t wait to watch it again.