Hoax, the newest entry in the Bigfoot horror subgenre is also one of its weakest… and that’s saying something.
Writer-director Matt Allen’s first feature-length film, Hoax, follows a documentary team as they hunt for the likely cause of the disappearances of hikers (who all bite the dust at the beginning of the film). The ambitious, driven filmmaker, Rick Paxton (Ben Browder), is determined to find proof of Bigfoot’s existence to put himself on the map and reignite his smoldering career. So, he recruits a team of wholly inept people to join him on this fool’s errand. Brian Thompson, Scream Queen Adrienne Barbeau (in a 2-minute cameo), Cheryl Texiera, Shoshana Bush, Anthony Ray Parker, and Hutch Dano co-star, lackadaisically.
This premise sounds like a great found footage movie, a suspenseful thriller, or a solid horror-comedy. It should be any of those things. Unfortunately, it’s none of them. Tonally, the film shifts dazedly from teen sex-filled slasher to creature feature to (should be) found footage to horror-comedy. It swings wildly and misses each and every mark. To make matters worse, the acting is a wholesale mess from top to bottom. And, to cap it all off, the script lacks any semblance of emotion, wit, relatable characters, or believable dialogue. “We’re going to need a bigger… banana,” is a real line said in this film. Maybe I’ve lost my sense of humor.
They go out on a hiking expedition with not a single backpack, or hiking shoes, bottles of water, or provisions. Reporter Bridgette Powers (Shoshana Powers) wears Uggs and carries her high heels as they hike (yes, I know, she’s supposed to be a ditsy idiot, but they couldn’t even fake preparedness?). Peter, the cryptozoologist who’s supposed to be the brains of the operation, talks about needing to use natural fibers so as not to scare off the animals in the area, “goes off to smoke some dope” (another real line in this film). Every single character (even the one we’re supposed to care about) is a complete, insufferable idiot at best – and an active asshat at worst. Everyone deserves the grisly death they face.
The few things worth the time (and effort) it takes to sit through this film are the visuals and the score; these two things gave this review its single star. Director Matt Allen demonstrates himself a strong visual filmmaker, with some breathtaking landscape scenes and decent practical effects. Truly, we’re living in a great time period for indie filmmakers doing location shooting – drones are cheap and instantly bolster production values. I truly do think that Allan has a good eye for scenic shots; he just needs a stronger base with which to work. The other excellent aspect of Hoax is Alan Howarth’s score. It’s atmospheric, suspenseful, moody – all right to expect from the great John Carpenter collaborator. This was a boon for Matt Allen, and both it and his cinematography elevated Hoax from the bottom of the barrel.
Matt Allen’s Hoax has some good ideas buried deep within, but it just cannot break free of its low-budget fetters and stand out from the small corner of the Bigfoot horror subgenre. It should be funnier or more suspenseful; it should be found footage (it’s about a documentary film crew!); it should be stronger than it is. I hope to see more – and better – from this first time director. Bring us a stronger script and better actors to go with your great idea and cinematographical chops.