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“How are they like us and how are they not?” — The Zellner Brothers Talk Sasquatch Sunset

4 min read
The cast of Sasquatch Sunset

If there’s one movie you’ve yet to see this year but have probably heard something unbelievable about, it’s Sasquatch Sunset. Starring Riley Keough and Jesse Eisenberg as two of four Sasquatches surviving in the wilderness, the film is something that has to be seen to be believed.

But how on earth do two people know how these never-before-seen (well, not really) creatures would behave? FILMHOUNDS sat down with directors David and Nathan Zellner to talk all things Bigfoot and the power of myths. 

I think out of all of the films I saw at the festival this one had the wildest reaction. How did you decide that cinema needed more Sasquatches?

I don’t know if we agree to giving people exactly what they’re asking for, but hopefully it’s what they’ll appreciate. We’ve been fans of and just obsessed with Bigfoot and mythology in general since we were kids. Then as we were adults, I think we’re interested in how they represent like kind of a conduit between humans and the natural world. Then also the way there’s the grey area between human and animal behaviour. There’s something interesting about that as well as the sightings that you’d see online. It’s always the same thing of a Bigfoot walking. We started as a joke initially, just like “What else is it? What else is doing? Things like other animals, the whole spectrum of existence with birth and death and everything in between?” And so that led us to build the story from there.


One of the key things I loved is when the end credits roll, and everyone in the audience goes “That was WHO?” Did you want to keep your casting as a surprise?

A little bit. From a story standpoint, we wanted you to be really immersed in these creatures. Consciously there’s no humans, there’s no narration, there’s no subtitles, because any — in our opinion — would really pull you out of this immersive experience. It’s fine on posters, we know that they’re in the movie and that they’re playing Sasquatches but in the film we left the credits to the end because we wanted people to take this family in, experience them at that level. It’s been fun talking to people who’ve had a second viewing and how even story-wise there’s little details that they’ll pick up but then they’ll be like, “Oh, yeah, I see.” I’m very familiar with Jesse and his mannerisms in other films and now I see him inside the Sasquatch.


As you say, there’s no subtitles, there’s no dialogue. But there’s such a language. You absolutely know exactly what they would be saying. Did you develop a language of how things would need to sound? 

In making it almost felt like a silent film in some ways. Even though it’s got rich sound design and scoring, in terms of just from an exposition standpoint we realised that in so many places where you wouldn’t be conveying information through dialogue, we’re doing it through other means. Whether it’s the physicality or just the subtlest of facial expressions, things like that are propelling the story. I had that in mind while writing it and then we knew there’d be a clarity of what the story was. It’s just relatable as a living creature, the whole spectrum of their existence they go through. So much of it was just about basic needs, so the intentions are relatable and clear. 


How would you describe your directorial sense of humour? It’s incredibly distinct.

It’s very intuitive. It’s never forced, it kind of presents itself. We’re dealing with this grey area between human-animal behaviour and the sort of things where if you saw your dog or cat or child doing some of this, you would think nothing of it. But when you’re having these adult creatures with human-like qualities doing it, suddenly becomes uncomfortable and we knew there’d be certain levels of humour and relatability through that. But it was of equal importance to get into the interior lives and really get a sense of the poignant moments as well. I think in writing, it was just approaching it from a level of sincerity. The humour came through that and when it did, we embraced it wholeheartedly in the same way that we embrace the darker moments. 


Do you think Saquatches are real? Do you think somewhere there’s a little family eating poisonous mushrooms?

I mean, it would be fascinating if they were. In some ways it’s more interesting that you would never find out if they’re real. I think that’s one of the appealing aspects of mythology. It’s a sense of mystery and wonder, but it’s in the modern era. Could there be something out there? What’s equally interesting is our fascination with it and the fact that you would want to watch a movie about that and see what the possibility of a family could look like. Sparking questions like this. If they if they were real, how would they react in these situations? If one dies, would there be some sort of funeral or eulogy? How are they like us but how are they not?


We need myths. We’ve always had them from the beginning of human existence, in different ways. I think it’s, important to have these kinds of movies to help explain things that are mysterious.


Sasquatch Sunset heads to UK cinemas from June 14.