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Hulu's Sasquatch is a refreshing change of pace in the true-crime docuseries genre

  • Josh Rofé's three-part docuseries focusing on a sasquatch story investigative journalist David Holthouse overheard at the age of 23 "is a refreshing change of pace that inverts the traditional true crime narrative and consequently, sidesteps some of the genre's crasser tendencies," says Amanda Foreman. "Instead of drawing viewers in with gruesome descriptions of real-world violence and personal tragedy, Sasquatch baits its audience with the promise of mystery and whodunnit satisfaction you'll constantly wonder if Holthouse can deliver. Interviews with regional Sasquatch truthers and some well-placed chuckles from Holthouse underscore the absurdity of the task at hand with a kind of knowing warmth. One exchange between life partners and true believers, Wayne and Georges, is a particular standout in the trailer and really delivers in the full series as the two bicker about whether 'squatches' can or can't teleport. But this isn't just a fun and freaky romp in the woods. Holthouse's straightforwardly entertaining undertaking gives way to a thoughtful look at an array of related topics, from the ongoing consequences of the Clinton administration's war on drugs and racism in the Pacific Northwest to the anthropological value of folklore creation and the emotional power of monster making."


    • Sasquatch takes on the guise of so many other hoaxsters: "It’s hard to blame a director, or group of producers, for having their interest piqued when tantalized with an interesting or bizarre synopsis for a prospective docuseries," says Jim Vorel. "Who among us, hearing something like 'an investigation into a grisly triple murder rumored to have been committed by Bigfoot,' doesn’t want to hear a bit more about such a ludicrous premise? Compelling stories have been fashioned out of far less salacious, far less interesting leads than 'killer sasquatch on the loose.' But at the end of the day, a documentary often must be judged by what kind of story it’s able to uncover via reporting and investigation. And that, sadly, is where Hulu’s new docuseries Sasquatch completely fails to fill the footprints of its mythical title character. Simultaneously an exploitative quasi-doc on cryptozoology and a lukewarm true crime investigation into murders it can’t actually prove ever occurred, Sasquatch takes on the guise of so many other hoaxsters: A man in a costume, trying to convince you something extraordinary has occurred."
    • By the end, Sasquatch is about a furry mountain beast only in title: "But it shares one quality with the protean figure of lore: It is a shape-shifter," says Daniel D'Addario. "Intrepid both in its pursuit of truth and its readiness to interrogate why that truth is interesting to us, Sasquatch is an impressive, propulsive piece of work. And for all that the genuine strangeness of an environment new to many viewers is riveting in the moment, it’s the elemental, fairly simple emotions that stick: A survivor of a dead man, weeping in grief and in fright; Holthouse’s own curiosity and sense of self-loathing; the fear crackling through texts he receives, urging him to leave well enough alone. On that last point, it’s the viewer’s good fortune that Holthouse didn’t listen."
    • Sasquatch is not entirely satisfying, but it will leave you wanting more: "In basketball parlance, the term 'tweener' has been used to describe a player who didn't quite fit into one of the five established on-court positions, somebody too small to thrive close to the basket, but maybe not quite fast or dexterous enough to handle the ball and spread the offense," says Daniel Fienberg. "Formerly a pejorative, in today's NBA, where a higher premium is put on versatility, a tweener has value. Today's streaming TV landscape has given value to nonfiction tweeners. Productions that a decade ago would have been told either 'Trim down to 100 minutes' or 'Get more footage to become eight or 10 episodes' can now find homes at three or four or five episodes — regardless of whether 'contract or expand' would still have been good advice. TV's latest enticing documentary tweener is Hulu's Sasquatch, which hails from director Joshua Rofé, whose 2019 Amazon four-parter on Lorena Bobbitt definitely could have been beneficially cut to feature-length. Sasquatch goes the other way. A three-episode 'series,' with two episodes running under 45 minutes, Sasquatch is three or four different stories told halfway and then a rushed, over-explained attempt to unify them. The stories are all interesting and several have the potential for real gravity, leaving me wanting more in the end — which I guess is better than wanting less?"
    • Following David Holthouse through the various breaks in the case turns out to be both a blessing and a curse: "Through some stretches, there’s the immediacy of seeing someone confronted with a real, unexpected threat as he gets closer to one particular version of the truth," says Steve Greene. “Sasquatch also features more than one individual being forced to confront the slipperiness of their own perception and memory. But in showing what becomes a switchback path to an enigmatic endpoint, there are plenty of repetitive recaps and dead ends along the way. It’s hard to make the case that the resulting mesh of cliffhangers and accusations is more compelling than if Holthouse would have been just another of the series’ collection of contributors. Presenting his ultimate findings in the same manner that those in the Patterson-Gimlin saga do may well have contributed the same amount to the series’ overall thematic conclusions."
    • How director Joshua Rofé went from a Lorena Bobbitt docuseries to Sasquatch: “I was feeling so relieved that we were getting so much amazing archival footage (on Lorena), which is a gamechanger when you’re making a doc and you know you’ll be able to represent it visually and capture a time and a place," he says. "My weird thought was, what if next time you had a story that you couldn’t even Google. What would that be like? That scared the s*it out of me and got me really excited – if I found a story that I wanted to tell that you couldn’t google, as hard as that would be, I know I’d be on to something."
    • Rofé on concerns for him and his crew's safety filming in the dangerous Mendocino area: "All of the credit for that goes to David Holthouse," he says. "That’s his work, that’s his reporting, that’s his skillful and relentless development of sources, and frankly, putting himself in really dangerous situations when there was no camera present. There’d be moments where we would be up there in Northern California, and maybe the next day was an interview with a Squatcher. Certainly, not somebody in the criminal underworld. (The crew) leaves the hotel, 8:00 AM, to get to somebody’s place. David, that night before, was going to meet a potential source, very much from that underworld and say, 'Here’s where I’m going to be. If you don’t hear from me by this time, that’s bad.' I remember just sitting, wide awake till two, three in the morning, just waiting for that text message, 'I’m out. I’m safe. I’m heading back to the hotel. I’m good.' So there was a lot of that, and then there was a lot of, when we were in the places that we were, sort of being overcome with this feeling of, “We better not overstay our welcome, because we’re not welcome here to begin with essentially.” And so, that was a new experience."
    • What was the most challenging part of making Sasquatch?: "The most challenging part was trying to find people in that sort of cannabis underworld who would be willing to speak to us," says Rofé. "That took months. In fact, that was so difficult that there were times where I wondered if we were even going to be able to make the show. And so, I always say that I give the credit for the breakthroughs in that area to David. In many ways, while we're all making this together, we are documenting his journey with this investigation. And it was David's tenacity and really his skillset that he'd developed over the last 25-plus years as an investigative journalist that really allowed for and led to those eventual breakthroughs. And then it's like dominoes with these things, where things start to break open for you in bunches. And then all of a sudden, you're cold again and you got nothing. And then you just don't give up. You just keep pounding the pavement, and now there's another breakthrough. And oh, that one breakthrough just led to five different pathways. None of them seem connected, but we're going to go down all of them and see what happens. And then you find out, oh wow, there's an overlap with a couple of these things. So it was a lot of that. I mean, it was hard. This was definitely a hard one to make."

    TOPICS: Sasquatch, Hulu, David Holthouse, Joshua Rofé, Documentaries