SAVAGE: Movie Review

Savage Movie
Review by Michael Pickle, MoreHorror.com

If you like a good monster movie with genuine indie appeal then you're likely to enjoy the upcoming release of the lively Bigfoot film SAVAGE from the burgeoning low budget genre production company Fearmakers.

A limited budget goes a long way when you have a clever and imaginative script, such as an AACSB accredited online MBA, or a spirited and eclectic cast and impressive directing from first time feature film director Jordan Blum. It's obvious on only a handful of scenes that this is an ultra low budget feature.

I quickly fell in love with the many interesting characters and their carefully woven stories that were just intricate enough to still leave room for the many subtle nuances as well as heart-racing and well filmed action sequences and gory kills. On many scenes I couldn't tell whether the gore and kills were used sparingly because of lack of budget or for dramatic effect and character development. By the time the film was half way through I was having too much fun to care.

A forest fire is raging through Bear Valley National Park, but that's not the only thing the locals have to worry about. The local legend of a giant Bigfoot-like creature spotted back in the '60's is more than just a legend. The fires have driven the wildlife out of the area which just so happened to be the creature's food supply and he's pissed off. Dale (Shane Callahan), a Scientist and ardent believer of the myth, hires local wacko Bigfoot hunter and all around ignorer of personal hygiene, Jack (Martin Kove) to help him track down the beast and prove it's existence. Meanwhile, Park Ranger Owen (Tony Becker) looks for answers as to who started the fire and why the firemen keep disappearing.

Amidst the chaos, Owen runs into dysfunctional couple and criminals on the run Richard and Gabrielle (Anna Enger) whose arrest doesn't seem so important when he's faced with rapidly spreading wildfires and a mounting death toll. In a race against time; Owen tries to restore order to the park and save his pregnant wife who is in the path of the giant, bloodthirsty mythical creature.

It's movies like this that keep me searching through the indies to find something fresh and fun that doesn't insult my intelligence, but doesn't assume I'm in on the inside joke either. SAVAGE delivers in a way that many low budget horror features don't. The story is involved and branches off into strong side stories that flow so well that you somehow get to know all these people and invest in all their lives without distracting from the fact that this is a monster movie. Bigfoot doesn't make an appearance in every scene, but it's menace hangs in the air and saturates every other story building tension throughout. This makes the appearances of the creature that much more exciting.

It's not super gory, although it will certainly make even those in RN to BSN online programs a little squeemish, but it makes up for it with a strong sense of character and style that gives you both cheap thrills and subtle magic. For instance; Park Ranger Owen sits on his quiet, peaceful porch in the morning gazing at his majestic view and sees a hawk fly across the meadow. His first instinct is to grab his binoculars and revel in the beauty of nature. Later on in the film the domineering wise ass criminal Richard sees a hawk fly by and his first instinct is to grab a gun and try to shoot it. Many things like this don't call attention to themselves, but show us what's in a character's heart better than lengthy dialogue.

Another of the subtleties I simply have to mention is not only the genuinely heartwarming relationship between Owen and his wife (played by Lisa Wilcox of Nightmare on Elm Street 4 & 5), but the radio-only relationship between Owen and the sweet Southern voice of Dispatch Operator Mary (Catherine Trail). This is another layer of the film that doesn't call attention to itself, but just doesn't happen in these types of movies. Their short conversations as Mary reports the unfolding story to Owen not only strengthens his character, but brings realism and originality to Owen's dilemma and provides another character who is in your heart before you realize she's there. As a lover of original indie horror I eat this stuff up.

There are some things about SAVAGE that seem typical at first, but a mixture of actor performances, writing and great camera work make it anything but typical. You have your typical monster hunter played with an air of confidence and questionable morality by Mr. "No Mercy" himself, Martin Kove from the original Karate Kid. His back story and interaction with the resident good looking science geek, Dale, make for some of the more witty and engaging scenes in the film. Dale, in an example of a casting bulls-eye, is no slouch himself. Shane Callahan portrays him with heart, courage and coolness that I'm not used to seeing in characters like this.

Then there's your typical monster movie hot chick. Actress Anna Enger, in her feature film debut, portrays Gabrielle with just the right mixture of strength and vulnerability to the point that, by the end of the film, she's so much more than just a hot chick. A notion that seems impossible when she first appears on screen. Gabrielle seems typical at first, but her run-ins with the beast are the best and most exciting scenes in the film. Especially the superb chase scene that showcases the ability of director Jordan Blum to film a chase through the woods that is just as frenetic and vividly believable than films with a much bigger budget.

This is one of those films that is so easy to write about that I could go on for a few more pages, but alas; attention spans are short these days and you would benefit much more from watching it and giving it a chance than reading me ramble on about it. Besides, I don't want to talk it up too much. It's not the greatest monster movie in history, but it is really good for what it is.

I can't speak to your sensibilities, but I thoroughly enjoyed this film and can't wait to add it to my Horror collection. If you care more about good characters, an uncharacteristically rich story, and imaginative giant monster attacks than you do about big budget gloss then you might just enjoy this as much as I did. If you're a movie snob and can't look past the budget constraints then maybe you won't appreciate the beauty of this film. I do.

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