Big Legend (2018)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joseph Perry writes for the film websites Gruesome Magazine, The Scariest Things, Horror Fuel and Diabolique Magazine; for the film magazines Phantom of the Movies’ VideoScope and Drive-In Asylum; and for the pop culture websites When It Was Cool and Uphill Both Ways. He is also one of the hosts of When It Was Cool’s exclusive Uphill Both Ways podcast and can occasionally be heard as a cohost on Gruesome Magazine’s Decades of Horror: The Classic Era podcast.

Bigfoot movies have had something of a renaissance in recent times, and writer/director Justin Lee’s Big Legend is an exciting, welcome addition to Sasquatch cinema. The movie, which had its world premiere on opening night of the Portland Horror Film Festival on June 13, 2018, deftly balances human drama with plenty of monster mayhem, making for a highly satisfying creature feature.

Kevin Makely (Jumper, Stranglehold) stars as Tyler Laird, a military veteran who takes his girlfriend Natalie (Summer Spiro of the Westworld TV series and Oceans Rising) on a camping trip to the Oregon forest where, unbeknownst to her, he plans to propose. Lee does a wonderful job of letting viewers get to know these two characters and invest in them emotionally, and Makely and Spiro have definite on-screen chemistry together, so when a series of tree knocks and other sounds send Tyler investigating, and Natalie is dragged off in her tent by an unseen force, we are fully behind Tyler on his quest to find out what happened that night.

After spending a year in residential psychiatric care supervised by Dr. Wheeler (Amanda Wyss of A Nightmare on Elm Street, Freddy vs. Jason, and The Hatred), Tyler is released. Encouraged by his mother Rita (genre film legend Adrienne Barbeau), he sets out to find out what happened to Natalie, whose body was never found. Deep in the woods, he encounters Eli Verunde (Todd A. Robinson of Deep Dark and All Hell Breaks Loose), a mysterious loner who is there because he wants to see “the big man.” Tyler responds that he doesn’t believe in fairy tales — but he and Eli will soon learn that some myths are based in fact.

The cast is impressive throughout, with Makely and Robinson making a terrific dramatic duo fighting for survival in the wild. Barbeau and fellow genre-film icon Lance Henriksen both give solid turns, as would be expected.

Lee adeptly gives equal importance to dramatic weight and suspense building, putting Big Legend several notches above the typical creature feature. Adrian M. Pruett’s cinematography is stunning, with Oregon wilderness serving as a beautiful canvas from which to work. Jared Forman’s score, rich with pulsating synthesizer and tension-causing strings, is wonderful.

The creature design is terrific, and Lee is not shy about showing it off after some initial classic teasing shots. This Bigfoot is not a timid one, so discerning monster-movie aficionados can expect lots of aggressive behavior from the titular beast.

With Big Legend, Lee has crafted a winning creature feature that delivers plenty of action and tension, but not at the expense of character development. The film has an engaging story peopled with believable characters portrayed by talented actors. Monster movie fans, Big Legend is an entry into the genre that is not to be missed.

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