“Hunting the Legend” is a found footage horror film released in 2014 and written and directed by Justin Steeley. The film follows the son of a deer hunter who is seeking revenge on the creature that killed his father five years earlier.
The film opens with a montage of 911 calls and old footage of interviews with individuals describing Bigfoot sightings. Next an onscreen message displays, “For centuries, there have been reports of an alleged bipedal ape-like creature inhabiting the forests of our planet. . . There have been a few documented cases where a violent encounter with these mysterious creatures have taken place. This is footage from some of those encounters.”
From here, we are introduced to the main protagonist, Chris Copland (as himself), who is filming a hunting trip with his father. While the two are separated, Chris hears gunshots, screams, and loud growls. Chris runs to his father’s hunting position only to find his gun, very large footprints, and splatters of blood. Later that evening, a police car camera captures footage of a police officer inspecting the location of the disappearance, calling in his radio “there’s a massive footprint out here and it’s not a bear.”
Rather than jumping right into the “hunt,” a significant portion of the film is devoted to the planning of the trip, which is time well spent – allowing for interesting encounters with the local community and character development among the main protagonists.
Next, the film transitions to a mockumentary format, where Chris is interviewed by a documentary crew and describes the footage recovered from the horrific hunting trip five years earlier. Chris goes on to say that his girlfriend Hanna Wallace (as herself) and best friend Jeff Causey (as himself) are planning a trip to exact revenge on whatever killed his father. The trio head out to gather supplies, including guns, ammunition, and a tracking dog. During their supply run, Chris interviews locals in the same county where his father was killed to document some Bigfoot sighting stories. With supplies on hand, the trio and documentary crew head out on their ill-fated adventure.
Hunting the Legend takes a rather unique approach when compared to other like-minded found footage films. Rather than jumping right into the “hunt,” a significant portion of the film is devoted to the planning of the trip, which is time well spent – allowing for interesting encounters with the local community and character development among the main protagonists.
Generally speaking Hunting the Legend has many of the tropes that one would expect from a Bigfoot film, such as interviews with locals and many other elements that make the film highly entertaining.The montage of Bigfoot sighting interviews at the beginning of the film lends a nice touch, adding levity to the film before the protagonists’ adventure kicks into high gear. These interviews also set the stage for what the protagonists stumble upon later in the film.
At one point in the film, the group seek out the “man in the cabin” (played by Stan Copeland) to learn more about Bigfoot. This encounter creates a great opportunity to educate the group on the realities of what they are about to get themselves into, and also serves to smooth the transition from the comforts and safety of the town they just left, to the stark vulnerability of the forest.
Part of the mystique of the Bigfoot legend is the fact that no one has come forth with a clear image of what this creature actually looks like. Having the found footage in Hunting the Legend presented the way it is feeds into that mythos.
The acting in Hunting the Legend is very good. The three main protagonists (Chris Copland, Hanna Wallace, and Jeff Causey) have great chemistry and Chris Copland does a good job conveying the emotions and resentment of his loss five years earlier. Stan Copeland, as the man in the cabin, also performs admirably, providing great contrast against the rest of the cast. The supporting cast members playing the gun dealer, kennel proprietor, and guitar store owner perform convincingly in their respective roles as do all the Bigfoot sighting interviewees.
Although the acting in Hunting the Legend is good, it’s far from perfect. The film has an excessive degree of arguing and whining amongst the three main protagonists towards the latter part of the film – almost to the point where I found myself hoping a Bigfoot would kill one of them just to put an end to the bickering. Even taking this key point into consideration, the acting in Hunting the Legend is still above average, but could have been so much more had these elements been toned down or removed from the film.
Found Footage Cinematography
Overall, the found footage cinematography employed in Hunting the Legend is well done. I appreciate the fact that the Bigfoot is not visible front-and-center onscreen, but is only visible in the shadows, through blurry images, and in poorly lit still photographs. Part of the mystique of the Bigfoot legend is the fact that no one has come forth with a clear image of what this creature actually looks like. Having the found footage in Hunting the Legend presented the way it is feeds into that mythos.
Hunting the Legend does use some background music, which is acceptable considering that the film presents itself as a polished mockumentary derived from found footage.
The filming reason in Hunting the Legend is well thought-out. The film is structured around a mockumentary format comprised of historic 911 footage and interviews; footage of Chris’s hunting trip, and film captured by the documentary crew that follows Chris on his trip to find proof of (and kill) Bigfoot.