Cryptozoology never fails to fascinate. Whether it’s the Loch Ness Monster or the Chupacabra, everyone has a favorite creature that may – or may not – exist. Possibly the most famous cryptid is Sasquatch, a bipedal ape-like creature which dwells in the forests of North America. Sasquatch, or Bigfoot as it is more commonly known, has been the subject of numerous investigations over the years. While hard evidence of Bigfoot’s existence is yet to be found, the subject is still fascinating to research and explore.
Dan Wayne’s documentary, Big Fur – released in October 2019 and digitally streamed on August 11th, 2020 – attempts to make this mysterious creature a reality, albeit through a unique medium. Wayne’s documentary focuses on the work of Ken Walker Jr., an eccentric taxidermist based in Alberta, Canada, who undertakes the task of recreating a life-sized Bigfoot from scratch. As he slowly creates the creature limb-by-limb, he learns more about what brings nature and humanity together.
Right off, this makes for an interesting premise – a taxidermist trying to recreate Bigfoot with bare minimal evidence to work with. Even with this subject, unfortunately, the final product is a dull watch.
The ultimate focus of this film is Ken Walker Jr. There’s nothing wrong with this. He is an individual attempting to re-create an animal of which may or may not exist. Walker is most definitely a master at his craft, and it could only take a master to recreate North America’s favorite cryptid.
However, Wayne spends way too much time on Walker’s life outside of his project. The Bigfoot subject appears 15 minutes in via the famous Patterson-Gimlin film, which Walker uses for inspiration. Five minutes later, we learn about Walker’s taste for karaoke and how he’s comparable to Roy Orbison in his singing style. We also learn about the taxidermy process, how to judge the work of other taxidermists, why industrialization is terrible for the environment, and how taxidermy can get in the way of one’s personal life.
The list goes on until Bigfoot becomes secondary.
Dan Wayne spares us his direct opinion, as he should as a documentarian. Yet, these side-trips give the impression that he didn’t know what he wanted to accomplish with this film. Certainly, it portrays Ken Walker as both a talented and flawed individual. He devotes himself so much to his work that he alienates himself from his wife. Obviously, the idea here is how taxing the life of a taxidermist can be. What seems like a relatively mundane profession can easily consume one’s life to where he or she overlooks their loved ones. Nevertheless, this all becomes a complete distraction from his quest to bring a mythical creature to life. Big Fur is full of these moments which hurt the overall message that Wayne is trying to get across with his film.
Is recreating Bigfoot a monumental task? Yes. Is Ken Walker quirky and talented enough to pull it off? Yes. Do we need to know what Walker does on the weekends at karaoke bars? Not at all.
This needed more of an in-depth investigation of the Bigfoot phenomena. The film mentions that there have been approximately 3,000 Bigfoot sightings from 1919-2013 across America. Walker does mention people he’s spoken with about the subject, but without their direct testimony, Walker’s journey – and the film – loses its power. In the absence of this primary subject, the film comes off as a documentary about a day in the life of a taxidermist – nothing more or less.
If anything, taxidermists and lovers of the rural Canadian wilderness may find a guilty pleasure with Big Fur. The film’s setting in the Canadian outback allows for pleasant moments away from the taxidermist’s studio. Plus, the film gives audiences a decent look into the process of taking a deceased – or non-existent – animal and freezing it in time.
As for Bigfoot, there are plenty of great documentaries out there to check out. This is not one of them.
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Big Fur attempts to portray an artist trying to recreate a mythical creature through pure interpretation. Unfortunately, it spends too much time on the individual’s day-to-day life rather than focusing on what's important.
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