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B-Movie of the Week: Abominable

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Poor Matt McCoy. The man has tried several times to deliver a decent Bigfoot-themed motion picture over the past decade or so, one that wouldn't find its way onto the pathetic little television station I used to work for. His first effort, 1994's Bigfoot: The Unforgettable Encounter, found the handsome actor working alongside such formidable talent as Zachery Ty Bryan and Clint Howard. As you can imagine, it wasn't worth much more than a discarded food stamp in a steaming pile of partially-digested nachos. No offense to Clint or Matt, of course.

Three years later, McCoy would find himself in yet another sasquatch vehicle, namely the Art Camacho confection Little Bigfoot. Needless to say, Matt's apparent love of ginormous furry mammals has proved somewhat fruitless in terms of cinematic quality and success. So sad, really. Thankfully, his losing streak in this department has finally come to an end, thanks to Ryan Schifrin's feature length debut Abominable. Not only is it a charming, fast-paced, straightforward genre picture, it also features a strong performance from Matt McCoy himself. The man should pat himself on the back for this one. After two abysmal efforts, this underrated actor has finally found a Bigfoot flick that actually works.

Hoorah!

Abominable stars McCoy as Preston Rogers, a veteran mountain climber whose tumble down the side of a cliff left him without the use of his legs, among other things. Upon orders from his doctor, Preston is forced to return to his cozy home in this mountainous region so he can face his fears head-on, a process which may be more troublesome than he originally anticipated. Along for the ride is Otis, the man responsible for making sure our hero makes it through these trying three days without losing his mind. Rogers' hope for peace and quiet is instantly dashed when five obnoxious girls decide to spend the weekend in the cabin next door to celebrate their friend's engagement.

Since Preston is essentially bound to his wheelchair, there's really not much for the guy to do other than stare out the window at his tree-choked surroundings. Of course, it doesn't take too long for things to get bloody. While talking to her fiancee on her cell phone, one of the girls is snatched by something big and hairy that emerged suddenly from the woods. Preston isn't sure what he saw, but he knows it isn't good. As it goes in situations of this nature, his buddy Otis isn't buying his story, the police think he's just causing trouble, and the girls next door think he's a peeping tom.

What's a cripple to do? Can Preston save his neighbors from the comfort of his wheelchair, or will he have to overcome his physical and emotional limitations in order to prevent others from being dragged against their will into the forest?

I generally hate sasquatch movies. Most are uninspired wannabe creature features that appear to have been shot over the weekend by a collection of hacks, failures, and the mentally challenged. Director Ryan Schifrin, on the other hand, actually approaches this concept with intelligence, giving us an instantly likable hero with many flaws and personal hang-ups, as well as several supporting characters who handle this unbelievable situation in a realistic fashion. Comparisons to Rear Window are sound and just; Preston IS L.B. Jefferies, helplessly watching these unfortunate events unfold before his very eyes. It's a great concept for a monster movie, I think. Simple and effective, without too much clutter to get in the way of the brisk pacing.

Schifrin also keeps the nonsense to a bare minimum. No heroic sasquatch hunters with high-tech garb to aide them in their search. No last-second rescue by anyone from the armed forces. Just lots of normal people doing normal things while an extraordinary beast wreaks havoc on those around them. The entire package is handled brilliantly, making Abominable the FIRST sasquatch movie I have genuinely enjoyed. That's an amazing feat in and of itself.

Thank God McCoy landed this role. He's certainly in top form here, giving a remarkably striking performance as Preston Rogers, a man who has more to face than just some hairy forest-dwelling freak. I've always enjoyed McCoy's work, stemming from my childhood obsession with the Police Academy movies and the actors who populate them. He was the logical successor to Steve Guttenberg after his departure from the series: A good-looking, wise-cracking pretty boy who stopped the bad guys with little to no effort on his part. Classy.

Haley Joel and the sizzling Tiffany Shepis are also noteworthy, though their roles are rather limited until the final 45 minutes or so. Fans of cult cinema will no doubt enjoy seeing Jeffrey Combs, Lance Henriksen, Dee Wallace Stone, and the late Paul Gleason in supporting roles. Schifrin seemingly went out of his way to bring quality talent to this project. Given the film's low budget, I'm surprised he was as successful as he was. Then again, the script is solid and smart, so perhaps I shouldn't be that surprised. A good story is a good story, regardless of its proposed budget.

One final thing worth mentioning is the creature design, which is probably one of the most original sasquatch concepts I've ever seen. The beast is quite frightening, those wide-set eyes and gaping maw causing this seasoned horror vet to shiver on more than one occasion. It's also exceptionally realized; there was never a point where I thought to myself, "Oh, that's just a guy in a suit." Never happened. There's also some decent gore on display, most of which is shown on-screen in all its juicy glory. One character's death in particular left me slack jawed and gasping, and I actually had to play the scene twice just to drink it all in. Amazing stuff.

Abominable is great fun. Please don't let its debut on the Sci-Fi Channel influence your decision to investigate this title for yourself. It's top-notch all the way around. The film comes complete with a great script, a wonderful, well-rounded cast, a nice score, and a smashing creature design. Ryan Schifrin is definitely a talent to keep your eye on. I for one am truly excited to see what the guy does next. Here's hoping Abominable launches this guy into the stratosphere, because he truly deserves a shot to prove himself in the Big Leagues.

Matt McCoy, meanwhile, should be truly proud of his performance here. It's the Bigfoot movie to end all Bigfoot movies, and nobody should know that more than him. In fact, he should probably end his sasquatch career RIGHT HERE. Unless, of course, we get the sequel promised by the film's amazing final scene.

That means you should probably say NO! to Little Bigfoot 3, Mr. McCoy.

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