Posted by: Lesley Cox on March 25th, 2014
The documentary was aired on British television channel BBC 4 last night. By now the contents of the programme are fairly widely known, with many people reviewing it from various different standpoints.
Morgan Matthews has chosen four main characters to represent the Bigfoot community by which he does it very few favours. The only hint of credibility comes at the beginning of the film where Doctor Jeff Meldrum is mentioned as a Bigfoot researcher but he isn’t credited with any of this scientific titles and is only quoted as saying that the ‘search for Bigfoot will go on’ whilst looking intently at a Bigfoot footprint cast. The title credits are accompanied by some jaunty banjo music.
Matthews has chosen Dallas Gilbert, Wayne Burton, Tom Biscardi and Rick Dyer as representatives of the Bigfoot community. He arranges to go on three Bigfoot hunts, each one of which is described in vignettes throughout the ninety minute programme.
The programme opens with Morgan Matthews discussing his ‘history’ of Bigfoot. He says that the “Cult of Bigfoot is still very much alive.” He sets out to see if he can rekindle his childhood love of Bigfoot. I think it’s fair to say that he does not do so, ending the programme in far from pristine condition.
Dallas Gilbert and Wayne Burton come across as amiable characters who seem genuinely to believe in what they’re doing. Their contribution to the programme is largely comedic and benign. They conduct their expeditions in Ohio with little or no equipment. They play music and shout out with what Dallas describes as Shaman language. They put out some mackerel to entice the Bigfoots. They say that they’ve never hoaxed and, says Dallas, “You better not say I hoaxed or I’ll come and get you”. Dallas says he has a sheep bone in his skull and, therefore, has mixed DNA which is why Bigfoot is drawn to him. “You need to be chosen”, he says.
Next he interviews Tom Biscardi who says he’s been hunting Bigfoot for 37 years. Biscardi talks about a movie he’s made ‘Anatomy of a Bigfoot Hoax’. He says he was a victim of the hoax. Dyer disagrees and says it was Biscardi’s idea to make money from it. Biscardi gets very angry and denies that, demanding that the cameras are turned off until he calms down. He says that most of the Bigfoot world don’t know what they’re talking about. He decides to take Matthews on a Bigfoot hunt to prove himself. He spends a lot of time talking about the films he’s made. Biscardi is portrayed as pretentious and a little ridiculous. At one point he interviews a Bigfoot witness who says he shot a Bigfoot. The witness is supposed to be anonymous but Biscardi mentions the man’s real Christian name several times, although he denies that. He shows himself to be impatient and bad tempered with an unfortunate tendency to laugh uproariously when other people fall down or make mistakes. His expeditions are conducted with a great deal of expensive equipment and, for the purposes of the film, are fruitless despite that.
The sections of the programme dedicated to Rick Dyer open in Portsmouth, Ohio. Matthews describes the San Antonio, Texas 911 call. Rick Dyer is tracking the subject of the phone call. Matthews talks about the 2008 hoax and says he’s going to find Dyer difficult to believe. The film goes into the hoax and explains how the hoax was broken.
The film then cuts to Dyer in his truck saying that he’ll have to kill the Bigfoot in order to redeem himself for the 2008 hoax. He says that if the sighting was someone in a costume he’d shoot them too.
Dyer puts out some ribs as bait which look raw. All through the night-time sections of the film he wanders about with his gun at the ready. On several occasions Dyer gets angry with Matthews. For example, Matthews find a set of ribs in his tent and accuses Dyer of doing it. It becomes very tense between the two men at times. Matthews says that he feels that Rick is trying deliberately to ‘freak him out’ and he can’t tell when Rick is telling the truth.
The part of the film that has caused the most contention is the ending.
The scene begins with Matthews hearing noises and by something crashing into the side of his tent. Dyer is outside with his gun when he sees something and runs towards it. Matthews shouts that he shouldn’t shoot it and that it sounds like a person. You see a hair covered figure off into the woods. There is a gunshot. Matthews shouts at Dyer to stop shooting. More shots are heard in the distance. Morgan calls for Dyer to come back and says that he’s heading back to the camp. He is then attacked by a figure. You see the head and hand for a second. It’s not clear and happens very quickly. Then Matthews is lying on the ground. Dyer comes back and helps him up and back to the camp. Dyer demands to see the tape. They argue. And eventually Dyer throws Matthews out of the camp.
The film then goes on to show the ‘tent’ footage and talks about Dyers later claims that he’s killed the Bigfoot. It describes Dyer’s current dead Bigfoot tour, the money that is being made and shows several clips from that, including some shots of ‘Hank’, going on to describe some of the subsequent public backlash.
On the whole, the film shows Bigfoot research in a poor light. Indicating that the Bigfoot community is comedic, obsessed, and slightly ridiculous. The more credible and serious research currently taking place in America is never mentioned, nor alluded to.
Matthews has never denied that Dyer killed a real Bigfoot, but neither has he confirmed it. He seemed to be genuinely shaken by the incident at the end of the film and sustained some visible injuries to his face. However, he has chosen, for whatever reason, not to reveal what really happened that night and continues to allow the viewers of the film to draw their own conclusions.
Knows little, wonders a lot. When I was a child, I was lucky enough to have an inspirational teacher. One of her passions was science, and, in particular, pre-history. One of the lessons she taught us involved us children putting our heads down onto our arms on our tables while she described an ancient world of aracucariad forest, with its warm swamps, from 200 million years ago. She described a world of unimaginable creatures and the sort of lives she thought they must have led. It was that, simple though it was, that inspired me to take an interest in prehistory, and in strange and unusual creatures of all kinds. A lifelong interest in Cryptozoology was born. One of the other things she inspired in me was a desire to emulate her and become a teacher with a special responsibility for science. Teaching is a demanding job, and that, combined with my marriage and children, pushed Cryptozoology to take a back seat. However, in recent times, my time is more my own, and I am more able to pursue my interest. From there, of course, it was a small leap for me to discover more modern stories of dinosaurs still encountered in remote areas today, such as mokele-mbembe. Now I have discovered the intriguing world of sasquatch, and, closer to home for me in the UK, our lake cryptids, our ancient folklore of little people, and the potential for alien big cats which might be inhabiting our wild and beautiful moorland and ancient forests.