SASQUATCH SUNSET Review: Sometimes Comical, Sometimes Profound, Sometimes Meaningful

Riley Keough and Jesse Eisenberg star in a new film by directors David and Nathan Zellner.

Lead Critic; San Francisco, California
SASQUATCH SUNSET Review: Sometimes Comical, Sometimes Profound, Sometimes Meaningful

Co-directed by Ausin residents David and Nathan Zellner (Damsel, Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter, Kid-Thing), written by David, and co-starring Nathan in prosthetic make-up and a matted fur suit, Sasquatch Sunset, billed somewhat generically as a “year in the life of a singular family,” falls into one of two, mutually exclusive categories.

It’s either an intentional provocation, created solely to generate audience disinterest, irritation, and apathy or an absurdist comedy-drama, meant to elicit pathos, empathy, and the occasional gasp for patient moviegoers.

Whether you belong in one camp or another depends on how much the central premise involving a mini-clan or mini-tribe of four humanoid Sasquatch across a semi-eventful year intrigues your adventurous film-seeking side. Besides Nathan Zellner as the equivalent of a beta Sasquatch, Sasquatch Sunset’s furry foursome includes actor-filmmaker Jesse Eisenberg (The Real Pain, Zombieland, The Social Network) as the alpha, Riley Keough (Zola, The Lodge, Under the Silver Lake) as the lone female, and Christophe Zajac-Denek as the youngest, a preteen still relatively new to the pristine, forest-covered world they call their own.

They crudely communicate with each other through a combination of grunts, growls, and wild gesticulations. Sometimes that communication includes the use of bodily fluids and solids and the flinging thereof.   

Across an incident-rich, 90-minute running time, Sasquatch Sunset follows the foursome as they forage for food, eat said food, and forage again, usually for leaves and berries of one kind or another. When they’re not quietly enjoying a meal provided by the forest, they’re ambling purposelessly between foraging sites.

At least once the alpha and the female engage in a protracted bout of sexual intercourse as the others watch in disinterest or boredom. Crudely, rudely pre-modern, the ape-human hybrids are also still learning to count (three max for one, four for another), suggesting their limited brainpower could lead to their eventual extinction by smarter, less hairy bipedal competitors.

Such as it is, the loose, shaggy plot turns on the foursome encountering and overcoming a variety of obstacles, from berries with hallucinogenic properties to natural predators eager to gorge on a Sasquatch-sized meal, and the female Sasquatch’s impending pregnancy and its immediate messy aftermath. By then, the sheer accumulation of detail and incident has turned the audience — assuming they’ve decided to stay through the end credits — from passive watchers to active participants in the respective fates of Sasquatch Sunset’s non-human foursome.

Throughout Sasquatch Sunset, the Zellner brothers deftly emphasize the foursome’s sometimes comical, sometimes profound, sometimes meaningful daily rituals and routines that resemble our own. Two rituals, in particular, stand out, one involving a form of rudimentary prayer, the other involving a combination of synchronized grunts and rhythmic pounding on trees, suggest the first stirrings of culture (the former) and their desire for companionship from others of their kind (the latter). Given the vastness and unknowability of the green world around them, it’s easy to understand both impulses as human or near-human.

Review originally published during the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. The film is now playing in limited U.S. engagements and will expand nationwide on April 19, via Bleecker Street. Visit the official site for more information.

Sasquatch Sunset

  • David Zellner
  • Nathan Zellner
  • David Zellner
  • Jesse Eisenberg
  • Riley Keough
  • Christophe Zajac-Denek
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David ZellnerJesse EisenbergNathan ZellnerRiley KeoughChristophe Zajac-DenekActionAdventureComedy

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