‘Suburban Sasquatch’ and The Joy of Disaster Darlings

Eliott Edge
6 min readNov 17, 2022

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Picture this:

You are walking in a spottily wooded area just within sight of a neighbor’s backyard porch. It is a bright, completely unthreatening day when you hear a bizarre sound like a man pantomiming what a monster’s growl should sound like, but it’s recorded too close to a cheap microphone. The odd sound loops, cutting in on itself as if it was mixed on a single audio reel. You look and see not a horrible beast, but what is clearly a man in a homemade bigfoot costume — one that sports large paper mache breasts with tea dish-sized collapsed areolas. It approaches, then fades out like an effect that a middle school student discovered on their laptop’s built-in video editing software. It reappears before you and effortlessly tears out your own arm from your shirt sleeve — which turns out to be a Halloween store prop. Digital blood sprays unnaturally — not from where the wound should be, but from somewhere around your chest area. The man in the monster costume then pretends to beat you with the prop arm as you act as dead as you can for the excited director just off camera.

This is the glory that is Dave Wascavage’s 2004 cult hit Suburban Sasquatch.

It is a movie complete with abrupt edits that inspire jags of unplanned humor, an unmiked cast of nonactors, day-for-night shooting, a Latina as a Native American huntress, and CG that is as painfully fake as the monster costume itself. These are just a few of its absolute delights. The film has everything it takes to be a strong addition to that rare, exalted annal of cinematic history where a film magically bends backwards onto itself like an ouroboros and becomes so bad it’s good.

The story follows a supernatural bigfoot as it dismembers suburbanite after suburbanite due to humanity’s encroachment into nature. A cub reporter Rick Harlan, played by Bill Usher (who has one of the best IMDB profile pics I’ve ever seen) is on the beat, trying to uncover the mystery of these mutilations in aim of writing a Pulitzer Prize winning story, but the chief of the local police department (also wearing a homemade costume) stops him at every turn. Eventually he teams up with Talia (Sue Lynn Sanchez) who has been charged by her grandfather (we assume) to kill the beast with a magical bow that fires slow-moving CG arrows. She also occasionally hurls CG battle axes.

But it is not the story that matters here. It is the execution that makes it a beloved monstrosity. The film reminds us that there are good films, bad films, and then there are disaster darlings.

A disaster darling is separated by other kinds of otherwise great bad movies like Brain Damage or Nightmare on Elm Street 2 in that involves four key features: (1) Widespread technical, narrative, and/or acting incompetency. (2) Unintentional hilarity. (3) Absolute sincerity. (4) An utterly joyful viewing experience.

In the nineties and early aughts the curators of disaster darlings were the wit-snark masters of the ironically titled Best Brains Inc. and their masterpiece of television Mystery Science Theater 3000. Through their keen eye for the unskilled, hundreds of disaster darlings came into public consciousness. Manos: The Hands of Fate, Danger Death Ray, Samson Versus the Vampire Women, and Mitchell would likely never be seen by more than a relatively few people if it wasn’t for them. These dustbin films are now icons of underground entertainment.

Following in MST3k’s tradition, the new connoisseurs of cinematic pan gristle can be found at Red Letter Media and their staple program The Best of the Worst, where Suburban Sasquatch found wide attention and appreciation. As Jay Bauman described it, “It’s so bad, so stupid, and so charming.” Even Rifftrax, hosted by Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett from MST3k gave Suburban Sasquatch a much deserved once over.

Mike Stoklasa of Red Letter Media explains, “The magical thing about it and the very, very important thing that makes Suburban Sasquatch work is that it’s a movie that they took seriously making. It comes off like a movie you’d intentionally make a bad movie” [sic].

That’s the key referent for when it comes to whether or not a film qualifies as a disaster darling: the filmmakers must take their project absolutely seriously. This is the takeaway of films like The Room and Birdemic, or the movies of Neil Breen, Ed Wood, and A.J. Cross. To make a picture like this the filmmakers nor the actors can not be “in on” just how awful the film they are making is.

A self-shot, self-conducted 2003 interview Making of Suburban Sasquatch with the director Dave Wascavage displays his total conviction that what he’s produced is a serious picture, “I’d like this to have a little bit of a statement about life and humanity pressing onward into nature.” Wascavage goes on to say that his goal was to make a “commercial oriented product.” Nearly twenty years since its original release, it has been successful in that regard (it was just rereleased as a blu ray from Visual Vengeance.) Although not at all successful in the way he originally intended.

Wascavage, in an interview recorded this year, reflects on this saying, “The intention was never to create a cult movie and get it out there. It was a fully formed big concept.”

Like Tommy Wissaeu and James Nguyen, Wascavage has embraced Suburban Sasquatch’s disaster darling status, citing Red Letter Media for its spike in popularity and stating in an interview, “It was all intended to be this operatic large story.” Sasquatch is about as far from operatic or large as a movie can get. It’s as small as a tin can and as operatic as various beeps a car makes when you turn the engine on. “If it ends up being somewhat humorous then that’s okay!”

It is that kind of level-headedness that makes Wascavage a far more welcome filmmaker than more assured to the point of unsettling directors of disaster darlings like Neil Breen (although, lovers of these kinds of movies should certainly take a look at Breen’s work. Breen may be the modern master of this subgenre.)

This makes a disaster darling different from more self-conscious, intentional camp disasters like Troll 2, Demons at the Door, or Sharknado. They cannot be aped. A filmmaker is more hard pressed to make a disaster darling than they are to make a good or decent movie.

Suburban Sasquatch is joyful, and I do mean it. Suburban Sasquatch is a laugh a minute. The computer generated imagery in Suburban Sasquatch are, like the rest of the film, endlessly hysterical. Wascavage has discussed in his Making of documentary that he went to great efforts to make the CG trees and thunderbirds appear more lifelike, when they look stiff, and comically unnatural. “When I did Fungicide there were billions of mistakes. And I would think to move to the next level and do Sasquatch, I have to move that down to just millions of mistakes.”

Suburban Sasquatch has nothing but mistakes from the first frame to the last — but that’s what makes it a gut-bustingly wonderful time. It is a collection of errors. Little makes sense, but it doesn’t have to and you never expect it will.

Suburban Sasquatch is a joyride — not like a rollercoaster — but like a car that’s blown a tire as it speeds through the aisles of a department store that caters exclusively to deaf clowns in training.

Wascavage reminds us that the only thing better than a good movie is a really fun bad movie.

To the curious, I suggest eschewing any clips of Wascavage’s disaster darling masterpiece and see it for yourself at Nitehawk on November 17th.

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Eliott Edge

Author of '3 Essays on Virtual Reality', global speaker, artist, humorist, futurist, netizen, critic & psychonaut Patreon.com/OddEdges EliottEdge.com IEET.org