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Ape Canyon (2019) Review

The latest film from directors Joshua Land and Victor Fink (Bad Witch)  Ape Canyon is, like Sasquatch itself, an odd beast. It’s a comedy, but it deals with very serious matters. It also deals with Bigfoot, but he’s nowhere to be seen. Instead, Land, Fink and writer Harrison Demchick give us a mostly lighthearted look at some heavyweight issues.

As a teen, Cal (Jackson Trent, I Like Me) was obsessed with Sasquatch. Since his mother’s death, the now adult Cal has become obsessed once again. So much so that he turns up at the school his sister Samantha (Anna Fagan, A Comedy of Horrors, Volume 1) teaches, telling her they’re going on an expedition to find the elusive beast. He’s already bought the tickets, with her credit card.

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Instead of calling the cops, she goes along with him. Things immediately take a turn for the worst when their first night in the woods, their guide (Skip Schwink, Minari) drugs them and makes off with their valuables, leaving them to die. Cal insists on pressing on rather than finding a way back to civilization. Being rescued by the Park’s Rangers only makes matters worse. Hitchhiking, waking up in a hospital and being forced to steal a car are mere inconveniences for a man on a mission.

When Cal first turns up at his sister’s classroom, there’s a poster for Melville’s Moby Dick on the wall behind her. And that sums Ape Canyon up nicely, both are tales of an obsessive quest for a mythical beast. And Cal is as obsessed as Ahab, it’s just the scope of his tale is a bit smaller. And, he’s a bit more likeable.

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As played by Trent, Cal is likeable despite his obsession, and that’s the problem. His sister wants to indulge him when she should be putting her foot down and telling him no. Or having him committed for his own good. Instead, his girlfriend leaves him and Samantha keeps arguing with him but accompanying him anyway. Even when it strains the plot’s credibility to the breaking point.

The back and forth between them is the film’s strongest point and manages to keep the film’s mood cheerful even as Cal’s obsession arguably crosses the line into madness. It’s only near the film’s end that its tone starts to darken.

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Ape Canyon does let us see Bigfoot in a couple of animations, including one showing how Ape Canyon got its name. And there’s an intentionally ratty looking Sasquatch in a dream sequence. But the film isn’t about the creature, it’s about the trip to his home and the eventual self-realization that comes with it.

A low-key but enjoyable film, Ape Canyon is available on various streaming platforms, from Indie Rights. You can check the film’s Facebook page for details.

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