This horror-in-the-woods picture belongs to three or four sub-genres, but isn’t an especially distinguished entry in any of them. In its willingness to pile all sorts of other gory business on the basic In Search of Bigfoot forest trek, it’s reminiscent of Shriek of the Mutilated or Death Curse of Tartu – but it lacks their truly demented moments even if it mostly avoids the long tedious stretches of nature footage associated with cryptid cinema.
A prologue has a bunch of horny teens making out by night in the woods – with a peeping tom using a drone to snatch humping footage – and attacked ‘80s slasher movie style by something big, hairy and bent on murder. Then, unethical documentarian Rick Paxton (Ben Browder) puts together a team to shoot the ultimate bigfoot show – dragooning a short-of-funds primatologist (Cheryl Texiera), a military veteran (Brian Thomspon), a blonde diva presenter (Shoshana Bush), the father of a missing girl (Max Decker), a hippieish cryptozoologist (Schuyler Denham), and a couple of expendables.
In a longish slow middle, the gang squabble, shrug off a few weird happenings (including disappearances no-one cares about), get fed up with Paxton’s streak of ruthlessness, and start wondering whether there really is something out there intent on hunting them. In the end, it’s a film with three separate menaces – the director who’ll let his crew suffer and die for ratings, a possible actual bigfoot, and some degenerate local cannibals in tricked-up gorilla suits. The finale gives Texiera a Texas Chain Saw workout as she’s tied up in a shack by loons who cackle at her, carving slices off another victim to be tossed in the frying pan, seemingly intent co-opting her for breeding (one of my least favourite recent horror tropes). It’s about the thousandth film to play an inappropriate pop record at variable speed (‘We Belong Together’ by Robert and Johnny, as heard in Christine) over a gruesome torture sequence.
Performances are solid enough – Adrienne Barbeau is in for a one-scene bit and it’s always fun seeing direct-to-video superstar Brian Thompson as a grizzled hardnut – and a couple of okay horror effects scenes deliver squirms, but Hoax isn’t as memorable a visit to this much-tramped patch of the woods as, say, Abominable, Exists or Willow Creek. It boasts a score by John Carpenter’s old synth guy Alan Howarth and a decent monster suit by veteran William Munns. Written by Scott Park and director Matt Allen.