Sometimes in life, we must find something to give us an anchor in this chaotic existence. And what we’ll do to protect that something can be drastic and extreme. In The Bigfoot Trap writer/director Aaron Mirtes takes a seemingly simple premise and uses it to examine how someone will react when what they believe is the foundation of their life is threatened.
The Bigfoot Trap is the story of Josh McMahon, a Knoxville reporter who specializes in interviewing (read: mocking and belittling) people who believe they’ve had paranormal encounters or who hold unorthodox beliefs outside the mainstream beliefs. He’s the classic annoying skeptic: in his introduction we see him cruelly belittling a Flat Earth believer merely for clicks. He comes off as the kind of guy who think they’re smarter than everyone else because they’ve read Richard Dawkins. He receives an assignment to interview Red, a mountain man who lives out in the country and has built a Bigfoot trap. Josh drives out and talks with Red and soon finds himself in a life-or-death situation in which he himself is trapped in the bigfoot trap.
Now, all of this sounds…par for the course. But trust me what Mirtes does with this ho hum been there done that premise is remarkable. What could very easily could be a backwoods horror film about a man escaping from Bigfoot instead becomes a character study on the outcast, the outsider, the person who doesn’t belong. It’s a story about a life so messed up that something seemingly ridiculous is the only thing giving that life meaning. It’s an examination on how traditional masculinity can actually be quite detrimental to the mental and emotional health of men, in that oftentimes when a man should be asking for help due to the feelings they’re having they don’t, because vulnerability is seen as deeply non-masculine. It’s a surprisingly sweet film that goes to a lot of unexpected but welcome places.
Tyler Weisenauer and Zach Hoffman portray Josh and Red respectively, are the emotional core of the film. What’s interesting is that both see the other as the stereotype of their opposite: Josh sees Red as a mouth breathing inbred good old boy, whereas Red sees Josh as little more than a pampered city boy out to make a buck at the expense of a couple of yokels. Red immediately begins to exhibit traits that are very non-redneck-y: at one point when they’re out of earshot from the others he admits he has a discomfort with guns, and later in the film in a rather heartfelt monologue reveals there’s much more than his rough and tumble exterior. Josh, to his credit, does act like the archetypical city boy but ultimately proves he’s not the smirking cynical skeptic he is when the film starts.
The concept of belief and the malleable nature of it is another central feature of this film. Whereas believers in the paranormal are often seen willing to leap through mental hoops to justify their experiences, for much of the film it is Josh, the skeptic, who is playing mental acrobatics to rationalize what is right in front of his face. Red spends much of the first act frustrated with Josh’s inability to simply accept that maybe he was wrong in not believing in Bigfoot. However, Red’s belief in Bigfoot is not without its shortcomings. Something occurs in the movie that embodies the concept of “I know in my heart Bigfoot is real, I just need to get other people to understand that it’s real by any means necessary” that leads to the real emotional heart of the film.
The Bigfoot Trap is a film that could’ve rest on the laurels of the premise most people assumed it had and just told a satisfying and fun backwoods horror story. Instead, it chose to give us a movie that ruminates on the nature of belief, the nature of masculinity, and even the good old-fashioned concept of not judging a book by its cover. It’s got its shortcomings, sure, but it excels at telling an unexpected story that is far deeper and more profound than anything you’d expect from a film with this title and artwork. And if you’re worried that maybe this one of those movies where Bigfoot is simply an unseen McGuffin that we don’t see, relax…there’s plenty of Bigfoot action.