Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
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Sunday, December 24, 2017

Christmas 2017: December 24

It should be apparent by now that my Christmas movie marathon has gone totally off the rails. At some point, I had to make a decision between my holiday movie viewing and catching up with new releases. I decided the new stuff was more pertinent. As I've said, Film Thoughts' Christmas marathon is always something of a last-minute thing and success is never guaranteed. Better luck next year, I guess?

So I hope you had a nice December and will be enjoying yourself today. Merry Christmas, faithful readers.
Pottersville (2017)

Back in January, I rounded out my list of most anticipated films with “Pottersville.” I was sold on the movie, based on two factors. It had a great cast. Secondly, its premise – a man accidentally turning his small town into a mecca for Bigfoot enthusiasts, after a drunken rampage in a gorilla suit – seemed right up my alley. There wasn't much news following the announcement and I assumed it disappeared, as a lot of projects I get excited about tend to. Instead, a while ago, reviews of the film started rolling in. And they were extremely negative. Also, “Pottersville” is apparently a Christmas movie, with a subplot about the furry subculture. So somehow this movie became even weirder, meaning I absolutely had to check it out. Even if it was awful.

Pottersville is an idyllic, if economically depressed town, somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. Maynard, the man who runs the local shop, makes an upsetting discovery. His wife is having an affair with the town sheriff. Also, they're furries. He gets black-out drunk, puts on a gorilla suit, and drunkenly stumbles through town. This is mistaken for a sasquatch sighting. Overnight, Pottersville becomes the hot spot for Bigfoot hunters the world over. Maynard watches his hometown flourish but, as Christmas gets closer, he wonders how much longer he can go on with this lie.

Being a comedy starring Michael Shannon, I imagine “Pottersville” as being a particular type of comedy. Probably veering towards the sardonic, weird, or dark. This is not, it turns out, the tone “Pottersville” is going for. Instead, the movie is frequently pulled between a very cheesy type of sentimentality and rather crude streak of broad comedy. The film has compared to a Lifetime movie, which it resembles in visual design and tone. It has that kind of vaguely glossy but flat look of a television movie. This is ultimately a movie about community and the power of togetherness, especially when it comes to a homey small town, all themes common to cozy cable networks. Meanwhile, there's also jokes about people shitting in the woods, eating bugs off trees, long-winded Bigfoot songs, and Hollywood phonies. It creates a bizarre back-and-forth.

And then there's that furry business. That particular subplot was left out of the earlier plot descriptions of “Pottersville.” As usually happens in pop culture, the film depicts all furries as fur-suit enthusiast who are fairly kinky. At the same time, the furries are also shown to be harmless and there's no actual animal-suit-on-animal-suit humping in the movie. This still results in the film's most delirious sequence, when the Bigfoot hunters wander into a furry love-in in the middle of the forest. It's definitely not a moment you would expect in a Christmas movie, even one about Bigfoot. Even more hilariously, the furry subculture ends up affecting the main story in a very minor way.

Aside from the Sasquatch-adjacent story, what really attracted me to “Pottersville” was its cast. It's true that the film's cast is wildly overqualified. Michael Shannon's starring role, which cast the crazy-eyed actor against type as a humble everyman, can be explained. Shannon previously made a film with director Seth Henrikson, a short called “Zamboni Man.” But the rest of the cast? Christina Hendricks is stuck in another thankless role as a sexually vivacious but ultimately untrustworthy woman. Ron Perlman gets a few funny roles as a town sheriff perhaps too forthcoming about his kinks. Ian McShane also gets one or two funny moments as the overly serious big game hunter. Judy Greer's part, as Shannon's back-up love interest, could sadly be played by anyone. Tom Lennon's role, as the fallaciously accented Bigfoot hunter, has the performer embracing his more annoying tendencies.

“Pottersville,” being both a Bigfoot movie and a Christmas movie, could've made an interesting statement about the power of belief. Christmas is a mass delusion, of being nice to each other for twenty-five days, we all choose to believe. Bigfoot, similarly, is a big lie people buy into because it's nice. It's nice to believe in something mysterious and magical. “Pottersville” taps into this in a very superficial way, with an ending that is fairly easy to predict. But it could've done a lot more with this idea. Ultimately, this is more of a Bigfoot movie than a Christmas movie, the two aspects not crossing over much.

“Pottersville” isn't that good of a movie. Its tone is scattershot, its approach is mawkish, and its script is wildly uneven. Still, the film is way too weird not to be a little bit charming. I mean, shit, where else are you going to see a Christmas movie about Bigfoot and furries? Just based on the “can you believe this shit?” level, I have to sort of recommend this one. “Pottersville” is likely to grab a cult following due to this. If nothing else, this is certainly the oddest holiday movie to come out this year. I think that can be said with certainty. [6/10]

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