Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Sasquatch Sighting

Harry and the Hendersons
Director: William Dear
Cast: John Lithgow, Melinda Dillon, Don Ameche, Lainie Kazan, David Suchet
Released: June 5, 1987

Oscar nominations:
Best Make-up (won)

My knowledge of Bigfoot/Sasquatch stems from this movie and an episode of The X-Files, so that means pretty much none. I know there are (were?) shows about tracking down Bigfoot, but I don't watch those. That has to be a boring show because you know they're never going to find him! I am not a Bigfoot believer. You should go to the Bigfoot Wikipedia page and read the paragraphs under "hoaxes" - it's very interesting. I also thought "Bigfoot" was two words, but it appears to be one.

This is a movie I've only seen once, maybe twice, before so I really don't have any sentimental attachment to it. The Hendersons, a family who live in the Seattle suburbs, go camping and on their way home, the patriarch, George Henderson (John Lithgow), stops suddenly when he sees something big and hairy in the road and hits it and it tumbles to the side of the road. His wife, Nancy (Melinda Dillon aka the mom from A Christmas Story) tells him he needs to check on the animal to make sure it's not suffering if it's still alive. To them it just looks like a giant ball of fur and they can't tell what it is. George gets his rifle from the back of the station wagon (understandable) and goes closer to the animal. Nancy thinks it might be a gorilla, but George tells her that gorillas don't "usually get this big around here." Huh, I had no idea gorillas could be found in the Pacific Northwest! That's an unusual habitat for them! 

While George is inspecting the dead (so he thinks) animal, his young son, Ernie, screams out the window, "SHOOT IT!" to which his dad tells him that it's already dead and Ernie screams, "SHOOT IT AGAIN!" Here is a good time to tell you how much I hate the kids in this movie. First of all, their son, who is about ten years old, is a little blood thirsty. He just wants to kill and shoot things! It's a little disturbing. He tones down his bloodlust as the movie progresses so he's just a normal kid, however, his older sister, Sarah, oh my God, she is THE WORST! Ugh, I couldn't stand her! She is your typical sullen teenager and she is that way throughout the entire movie. 

When George sees the large ape-like paw, he realizes they must have stumbled across Bigfoot and that a museum will want him, so they need to take him home. Um, why doesn't he just call somebody? Why does he need to take this (seemingly) dead animal home with him? But he has his family help hoist the Bigfoot on top of the station wagon and they begin driving again until a few moments later, the creature, who is clearly very not dead, surprises them by peeking down at the windshield. George slams on his breaks and sends the creature hurtling off the car. Again, he checks on the animal and determines that this time, it is indeed dead. As he tells his wife, "Nancy, I'm no doctor, but it has no pulse, it's not breathing, and it's cold as a popsicle." Bigfoot must have some kind of ability to appear dead when it's really not...because he's not dead here either! They continue to take him home and it's really funny when they pull into their driveway and you see these two huge feet sticking out of the tarp that covers the rest of the Bigfoot's body. 

While all this is going on, we see a Bigfoot trekker named Jacques LaFleur (David Suchet) who finds the bent license plate that fell off when the Hendersons hit the Bigfoot and hairs he cannot identify (and licks them for some reason...gross). 

At 5:30 in the morning George hears something and goes out to the garage where he notices there's not a big lump under the tarp on the top of his car anymore. He hears crashing coming from his house and in his kitchen he sees Bigfoot drinking milk out of the fridge which he has knocked over. Bigfoot growls at him and comes toward George who shields himself with a table, then a chair, but Bigfoot only knocks him it out of the way. I liked the shots from Bigfoot's perspective when he's looking down at George so you can see just how much taller he is than George (and at 6'4", John Lithgow is very tall! The actor who was in the Harry costume (and how hot did that have to be, wearing that costume?), Kevin Peter Hall, was 7'2" and also played the predator in...wait for it...Predator).  It isn't until George starts screaming for help that his family wakes up. Did they not hear all the racket when tables and chairs were being thrown across the room or what about when the fridge tipped over on its side?

It was funny when Ernie, who comes down first, says, "All right! I knew you weren't dead!" and his dad replies, "Not yet, I'm not," and his son says, "Not you, him!" Nancy is able to lead the creature away by spaying a bottle of Glade and they are all able to get away from him, except for the daughter who is a complete moron. When she sees Bigfoot eating her 15th birthday corsage (who gets a corsage for their birthday? I have never heard of that), the one she saved for 6 months, she gets all indignant and starts reprimanding him like a dog. ("That was a bad thing you did! Do you hear me?") Girl, what the hell are you doing? Look, we all know this is a family movie and Bigfoot will turn into a friend of the Hendersons named Harry and they'll all come to love him, but right now...they don't know that! Let's not anger this huge creature that could squash you like a bug! Not a good idea, Sarah!

The Hendersons go outside and watch as their new visitor wreck havoc on their house because of his sheer size. We soon learn where Ernie got his bloodlust from because there are a lot of dead animal heads mounted on the walls. Harry sees one of a deer and punches through the wall to try to find the rest of the body. They see him go outside to bury Helen's mother's mink stole. George quickly realizes he has to hide all his taxidermy animal heads in a closet and this is when we see just how many kills he's done in the past. There is a moment when George climbs up to the second floor with his rifle and has a chance to shoot Harry, but he sees humanity in the creature's eyes and can't go through with it. Instead, he calls the police who don't believe him and just start laughing at him.

Their nosy neighbor, Irene (Lainie Kazan), who has been watching their dog while they were away, comes over to return him. They know that if Irene finds out that a Bigfoot is at their house, then the whole world will know. They shut curtains as Irene walks across the yard, trying to peer in and Ernie takes Harry down the basement. He tells him he'll like it because it's like a cave. As Harry descends down the stairs, the first step he takes, the entire staircase crumbles.

It is established that Harry stinks to high heaven, so when they answer the door, Irene takes a big whiff (why? In fact, she keeps sniffing! Don't sniff if the smell is so bad!) and asks what that smell is. George, Nancy, and Sarah are all blocking her, but she can still peer around them and see all the carnage from the mess Harry made. When asked about the tipped over fridge, Nancy replies, "We decided to defrost the fridge", which you would have to be an idiot to buy that line. I'm beginning to think Irene is one because George starts moving up because Harry's head has lifted the floor where he's standing and Irene doesn't even look down to notice that something is coming out of the floor and believes George when he tells her he's exercising. And right when she's about to leave, she sees a huge paw come through the laundry chute, but doesn't even question it. The Hendersons tells her it's Ernie's new pet for a science experiment; that it's like a gerbil, "only bigger!" (Yeah, much, much, MUCH bigger!) I feel like if I were Irene in this scenario, I would have a lot more questions!

There's a cute moment where Harry lifts Ernie up to the main floor and smiles at George. He and Ernie want to keep Harry and charge people to see him so they can get rich, but Nancy is against that idea. She thinks Harry might be some kind of human as he has many human characteristics which include sitting on lazy-boys and laughing during a sitcom while dipping plant leaves in dip. She mentions that they don't even know if it's a male or female and Sarah says, "It's definitely male". Nancy asks, "How can you tell...don't answer that." They don't show anything graphic, but you have to wonder....where does this thing go to the bathroom? You know what? Don't answer that! Maybe that's why their neighbor's pool gets the color it does (which is a murky brown).

There's a funny moment where George has taught Harry to sit by giving him a sugar cube and every time he sits down (and he takes a huge jump before he does), he breaks something - the couch, a table, a stool. He's ruining everything in their house and Nancy tells George that they can't keep him and they need to send him back to where he came from because it's the right thing to do for him and they can't be selfish and think of ways to get rich off of their new discovery.

Harry is a little reluctant to go (you think he'd want to return to his home since he has a Bigfoot family waiting for him!) and George tosses a fish sandwich (they know he's a pescatarian because he ate one of their goldfish), fries, and a chocolate shake (with the lid tightly on!) into the backseat of the car to entice Harry to get in. Oh, and while all this is going out, little Ernie is crying his eyes out, telling Harry how much he's going to miss him. And this is from the same kid who wanted his dad to shoot his new friend twice! Your crocodile tears don't fool me, kid! This is the moment when Harry gets his name. George tells Ernie that they should say goodbye to their "hairy friend" and Ernie says, "Harry? Since when does he have a name?" and his dad replies, "Since right now." When they go check on the car after hearing a loud noise, they see that Harry has escaped (do they think a locked car is going to stop him? All he has to do is rip off a door!) I'm not really sure why he escaped. Doesn't he want to go back to his family? Does he want to stay with the Hendersons? Not really sure what's going on here except to advance the plot.

I'm not sure how long Harry is gone from this moment until he's reunited with George, but there are suddenly an outpour of Bigfoot sightings in Seattle and George starts keeping tabs on the areas where people mention they've seen him. George works at a place called Shoot N Stuff (hilariously stupid name) that sells rifles and other hunting equipment. His father is the manager and he wants George, who we learn loves to sketch and has a talent for it, to create a Bigfoot cutout that they can display at the front of the store with a map of the area and keep track of all the places where people have spotted Harry. He wants him to draw the Bigfoot with long sharp teeth and claws and as scary as he possibly can, but as George tells his wife, it's like he's drawing a wanted poster of his best friend and ends up drawing the Bigfoot to look exactly like Harry: calm and gentle. When he sees the drawing, his father tells him it looks like "a giant gerbil".

Jacques LaFleur gets the Henderson's address by getting the DMV to run their license plate number (by the way, are they not aware they're missing a plate?) He tells the woman at the DMV that he saw an old army buddy from forty years ago and took down his license number because he couldn't remember his name. Something tells me that this kind of thing wouldn't fly in this day and age! He pays a visit to their home where he tells Nancy he's with the U.S. Forest Service and they're investigating about a large animal that was either maimed or killed. Nancy plays dumb and tells him it all happened so fast, they didn't see what kind of animal it was, but that it was okay because it "walked" back into the forest. LaFleur questions her choice of the word and she quickly chooses other words such as "crawled, scampered, scurried, waddled, and creeped." This woman is like a walking thesaurus!

He next goes to Shoot N Stuff where he buys "some pretty serious ammo", according to George. He asks LaFleur if he's going on safari, but LaFleur just replies he's only going hunting in "his own backyard" which concerns George greatly. George's father tells him that LaFleur always shows up when a Bigfoot sighting is reported and that he is the one who caught and killed "Claws" the huge taxidermy grizzly bear in their store. George checks out a bunch of books about Bigfoot at the library and when he and his family are at home reading them (well, except for Sarah who's on the phone), there's a photo of LaFleur and Nancy realized she was duped by him earlier. All the books make the Bigfoot creatures into man-eating killers except for one by a Dr. Wallace Wrightwood (Don Ameche) who is an expert on Bigfoot and works at the North American Museum of Anthropology (which is just a rundown shack in the middle of nowhere) where George pays him a visit.

Meanwhile, we see Harry looking forlornly across eight lanes of traffic at the mountains where his home and family is. There's also a weird scene where Harry is looking into the window (and not even attempting to hide himself at all) of a home where he sees a woman put a whole raw chicken into a pot of boiling water. While this is going on, he also sees a couple getting into a hot tub, also bubbling. This concerns him because I guess he thinks the people are cooking themselves. It's hilarious, but a little dark!

With the last known location of Harry, George is able to find him in the one part of Seattle that doesn't have any traffic or people. (I know, I know, it was a movie lot with a fuzzy Space Needle slapped into the background). He's in the bin of a garbage truck, but LaFleur finds him first and Harry jumps up and surprises him (and anyone watching, I'm sure!) and flings him into the bin with him. George hears all the growling and commotion and this is how he finds him. Some garbage man is getting fired the next day because George is able to drive the truck because somebody left the keys in the ignition. While George is driving the truck, LaFleur points a gun at Harry, but he knocks it out of his hand and proceeds to the point the gun at himself between the eyes. A bit intense for a family movie! LaFleur reaches to pull the trigger, but at that moment, George slams on the break to avoid hitting a homeless man and the bin goes flying, then skids across the street. And when I say flying, I mean flying. Nobody (or living thing!) would get out of that unscathed...but of course both Harry and LaFleur are perfectly fine. I laughed when Harry gets into George's car by tearing the other back door he hadn't torn off previously and getting in and George just shrugs. His head also stretches the roof of the car to accommodate his height.

LaFleur is arrested for being in possession of a firearm and there's a funny scene where he's locked in a jail cell with several other inmates and every time he paces, all the other inmates go on the opposite side since he reeks so bad from being in a trash bin and being in close proximity with the pungent Bigfoot. LaFleur does not smell like his surname!

When they return home, everyone is happy to see Harry, even a reluctant Sarah. Ernie accidentally opens the door to the closet where George had stored all his taxidermy animals and Harry is outraged. They bury all of them and have a funeral and this seems to appease Harry. They give him a bath and it must have completely extinguished all the odor because they invite Dr. Wrightwood over for dinner (and they all dress up as if the President of the United States were having dinner with them) and while they're eating dinner, Harry comes up right behind the anthropologist, but he seems to neither smell nor sense Harry until the very last second when he realizes something is behind him. Can I just say that Don Ameche is the most adorable old man? His sheer joy at seeing that a Bigfoot exists is wonderful, even though his "YAHOO!" cry is a bit corny. There's little time for celebration because LaFleur is out of jail and they need to get Harry to his home, pronto. They get stuck in Seattle traffic, but after seeing cars part way for a cop car to get through, Harry sticks his head out the window (which nobody apparently notices with all that traffic around them) and imitates the siren sound, thus letting their car get through all the traffic.

LaFleur is still on their tail and the family only has a short amount of time to say goodbye to Harry. To get him to leave, George tells him that he's not wanted anymore, to go back to where he came from, and slaps him (a bit harsh!), you know, the old troupe of trying to get an animal to leave for its own safety. Why don't they just tell him he needs to leave so he doesn't get killed? When they realize that LaFleur can easily just follow the footprints, the Hendersons and Dr. Wrightwood strap on fake Bigfoot feet (not sure where those came from or how he had enough for everybody) and scatter around to make footprints to confuse LaFleur.

In the end, LaFleur comes around and sees Harry as a human being as George did. When Harry is about to go back to his home, George tells him, "You take care of yourself now, okay?" and Harry replies, "Okay." This is when we see his Bigfoot family (including a little Bigfoot) who were hiding in plain sight all this time.

Like I said, this is the only movie I've seen which features Bigfoot, but I have a feeling it's the only one where they make him into a gentle giant. 

No comments:

Post a Comment