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Rape Isn’t Funny...Except When Bigfoot’s Doing It
Ape Canyon is guaranteed to be the funniest Bigfoot-rape comedy you’ll ever see. The fact that it is likely the only Bigfoot-rape comedy ever made shouldn’t dampen your enthusiasm. I hardly ever laugh out loud at movies, even when I find them funny, but Ape Canyon had me guffawing—literally, I was sitting around guffawing—even after repeated screenings. Although filmed with a hand-held camera on almost no budget, it features some of the best ensemble comedy acting I’ve ever seen. Within the first few seconds, the film’s infectious silliness overwhelmed me with the force of a sexual assault by Sasquatch.
Long before Hollywood revealed its first onscreen areola, rape scenes were staples in the most mainstream of movies. Although Ape Canyon is technically not a porno flick (except for some raped male buttocks near the film’s end, the cast reveals less skin than an Amish family in their Sunday-go-to-meetin’ clothes), the movie deals almost exclusively with sexual situations. And, however comically, it proposes ideas that even the most degraded hardcore pornographers are afraid to broach: Some men have no control over their female partners’ sexuality. Some women fantasize about being raped. Some women even have orgasms while being raped. These are not my opinions, kind reader. These are things that numerous women have stated publicly. And unless they were all lying—and I don’t know what would motivate them to lie about such a thing—it’s true, at least for some women.
In Ape Canyon, Bigfoot stands tall amid a spindly forest of inadequate white men, delivering the goods with each hairy thrust. He spends most of the film in his natural wooded habitat, raping white women: He rapes a girl camping alone; a girl walking in the woods with her boyfriend; a girl in a car parked on a highway shoulder; a girl tied to a tree; and a female nature photographer. He’s even less kind to men: he kills two male hikers using WWF Smackdown moves and rams an apparently homosexual male in the ass with a large tree branch. He also masturbates a lot, mostly to magazine images of Britney Spears.
The rape “victims”—all of them—protest for about five seconds, then decide they like it. A LOT. A bored waitress named Darcy (Clover Lutter), becomes romantically obsessed with Sasquatch. She draws schoolgirly pics of herself wrapped in his arms with all the gothic romanticism of an interspecies Wuthering Heights. She writes poetry about her romantic and sexual infatuation with the big hairy beast. Sometimes it rhymes:
When I lay in bed beside that cold, heartless, unendowed man/
I imagine my dark stranger, frolicking with me in the sand.
and sometimes it’s just a verbal jumble of fondly recalled encounters:
She dreams of one day moving to Miami with Bigfoot, where they’ll have Sasquatch babies and torture her ex-boyfriend daily. Said boyfriend, the woefully inadequate, smelly, bucktoothed Bill (Chris Henry) soon becomes aware of Darcy’s illicit forested trysts and sets out to kill the Sasquatch. In the end, love triumphs over all.
I interviewed Ape Canyon director Jon Olsen via e-mail.
JIM GOAD: Is it fair to say that Ape Canyon, if not the world's first Bigfoot-rape movie, is probably the world's first Bigfoot-rape comedy?
JON OLSEN: Definitely the first comedy, as far as I know, but not the first Bigfoot-rape movie. I have a bootleg copy of a movie called The Geek that a friend gave me after Ape Canyon was made. It's something else. The stoned nitwit playing Bigfoot can't get it up when he gets his chance to wax pale, human asses. He spends most of his precious humping time yanking his little wang in a vain attempt to get it stiff. All he succeeds in doing is smearing black shoe polish (used to give him a more Sasquatchy complexion) all over his dick and all over the woman's vagina. As it is, the woman falls asleep with her bare ass jutting up in the air, waiting for forcible ape-entry that never comes.
And this is ironic, since it would have been impossible to tell if he was actually penetrating her or not—you wouldn't be able to tell with that fur coat in the way.
Another notable Bigfoot-rape movie—probably the one that supplied the bulk of inspiration for Ape Canyon—is Night of the Demon. There's this inbred girl who's constantly being beaten and raped by her daddy, until Bigfoot lumbers out of the woods, kills daddy and rapes her but good. Then she has a stillborn Bigfoot-hybrid baby. In another scene, Bigfoot grabs a guy in a sleeping bag, twirls him around his head, and tosses him through the air, impaling him on a twig. I more or less ripped that scene off in my movie, but I feel the Ape Canyon version is an improvement on the original. By far the most memorable scene is one in which a motorcyclist stops to take a piss by the side of a lonely road. Bigfoot's hand lunges out of the bushes and rips the man's penis off! The poor guy moans in despair and drapes himself over his bike, bleeding to death on screen for a full ten minutes.
JG: To most people, rape is never funny. So why do you think the idea of Bigfoot raping white women…and the white women loving it…is so funny?
JO: I think it's funny in Ape Canyon just because it's so ridiculous. You would have to possess stupidity of unimaginable magnitude to take this movie seriously. I mean, these women even have all their clothes on. To be perfectly honest, had we our druthers, there would have been nudity or at least toplessness. But I'm just not one of those filmmakers with any sort of "show-me-your-tits" moxie. I possess neither the charm nor the sleaze required to convince actresses that they should disrobe on screen for no money. But in the end, I think that made the rape scenes all the more funny.
I personally find the concept of Bigfoot rape funny because—well, it's just...funny! How can I explain it? You are as aware as I am of the proliferation of Bigfoot-rape fantasy fiction out there. Many beliefs of more extreme Bigfoot-fanatics are obvious wish fulfillment. Bigfoot-rape fiction seems to be an extension of that. Maybe it has to do with a desire to encounter Bigfoot—and how! The Unforgettable Encounter.
Bigfoot aside, how many movies can you count in which a guy in an ape suit sweeps a shrieking woman off her feet? Remember the scene where King Kong tickles Fay Wray, then sniffs his fingers? In Ape Canyon, you have this theme taken a whole lot farther—taken to its obvious conclusion, I would say. And I won't stoop so low as to point out parallels between these movies and the famous women primatologists—Dian Fossey and her gorillas, Jane Goodall and the chimps, Birute Galdikas and the orangutans. But there is definitely a large streak of woman-with-ape fascination in our culture. Has been for a long, long time.
JG: How did you find girls willing to be "raped" by a "Sasquatch" on camera? How did you pitch the idea to them, and how much persuasion did it take? I'm sure you have some interesting anecdotes either about casting or filming the girls.
JO: Shit, it wasn't the easiest thing I've done. Convincing non-actors to appear on film is tough enough as it is. Clover has acted for me in the past, so it wasn't too hard to get her involved. She treats my projects with a professional attitude, which is really magnanimous of her since there's never any money and the work is almost always a big, exhausting pain in the ass. She also has a pretty good sick sense of humor, although even now I'm not entirely certain that she's 100% proud of this project. All the other actresses you see on screen are pretty much there because I approached them with a more-or less honest spiel ("You get raped by Bigfoot and you like it because it's the best sex you've EVER had") tempered with disclaimers that it's not offensive because it's completely absurd, and they raised one eyebrow and said, "Well...sure!"
There are less women onscreen than there are women who dissed us, happily going on with their lives off-screen. We envisioned Bigfoot getting it on with LOTS more women than the four-and-a-half to five that actually get raped in the final cut of the film. You know the solitary girl in the tent, camping all alone at the beginning of the movie? Originally we wanted an entire slumber party's worth of giggly teen girls for that scene. Trevor [Guthrie, the producer] set up a shooting day and committed two actresses for that scene. We were supposed to pick them up in Marin and all drive out to our location near Guerneville. But when we got to Marin, they weren't waiting for us. The silly bitches just backed out without telling us. Left us hanging, a whole day wasted. Boy, that made me mad! But in retrospect it turned out to be a good thing, because we discovered Anna. She gave an amazing performance. Just heartbreakingly cute. When Bigfoot dumps her, those sad, puppy-dog eyes of hers make you wanna just cry. Anna turned out to be a very talented non-actor. As a matter of fact, most of my talented players are non-actors. They just act for me, then return to their lives as non-acting persons. I've always had better results with non-actors. With few exceptions, the drama geeks that come clawing at my door anytime I announce a casting call are all talentless hacks, and often despicable individuals as well. Maybe this has something to do with my Northern California stomping grounds.
JG: Why no prosthetic penis on Bigfoot?
JO: Bigfoot's lack of a penis is one of the many small consequences of our "just shoot the damn thing!" attitude.…We contemplated purchasing the hugest dry salami money could buy and inserting it between Bigfoot's thighs, but that never happened. And with the benefit of hindsight, I can think of countless little things we could have easily done to make the rape scenes a bit more convincing. We could have gotten a spritzer bottle and sprayed a big wet spot onto the crotches of the actresses' pants for a little post-coital realism. We could have digitally blurred out Bigfoot's crotch to imply that there is a schlong, masked by the imaginary censors. Too late now. Maybe Bigfoot has a retractable organ. In one scene, he masturbates like a woman!
We worked hard to make up for our visual minimalism with the juiciest sounds we could muster. There's a lot of love in those wet, sloppy copulation sound effects. Chris Henry actually made most of those noises with his mouth. Other sounds were made with the artful auditory manipulation of condiments. We also were careful to include a violent cloth-ripping sound every time Bigfoot entered another woman. We wanted to imply that his penis was punching right through the fabric of the pants, straight through to the vagina. Pow!
JG: Rape fantasies seem to be a universal element of fiction written by Bigfoot aficionados. What do you make of that?
JO: Again, I think maybe being raped by a Sasquatch is The Ultimate Encounter. A bear could maul you just as easily as a Sasquatch—but would a bear rape you? Bears don't swing that way, but Sasquatches may be more like humans than animals. Rape is, I dunno, evidence of that. Thing of it is, if I knew exactly why the Bigfoot rape themes were so prevalent, it might not be as funny of a concept. I dunno. You talk of women who fantasize about being raped. Though that's a taboo topic among the morally upright, it happens. It seems kinda silly that some women fantasize about being raped, when so many other women are so very traumatized because they actually were raped. That's why rape is pretty much considered off-limits as comic material. However, the idea that some people are fantasizing about Bigfoot-rape, not to mention the idea that some people (if their claims are true) actually have been raped by Bigfoot—I mean, what the fuck?! Words fail me. But it sure is funny.
JG: What's with the hip-hop music that kicks in every time Bigfoot starts raping one of these white chicks? Some might interpret that as racist.
JO: Racist, schmacist! Originally we wanted to emulate good ol' seventies porn music. But Doug (Mitchell, the music supervisor) felt that it needed a more modern flavor as well. Hence the hip-hop beats.
To a certain extent, our Bigfoot is inspired by blaxploitation cinema—he's the Dolemite of the woods. He gets the ladies. However, we never intended to draw a parallel between black men and Bigfoot. We just wanted to give Bigfoot the same exaggerated mojo that many people (ignorantly) attribute to all blacks.
I'm not especially worried that people will interpret this movie as racist. If anything they'll think, incorrectly, that we are homophobic and sexist. Although one woman told me she felt the movie was actually anti-male. She saw Bigfoot as the ultimate nightmarish threat to the average male's masculinity.
JG: Bigfoot may be able to satisfy these women sexually, but in Ape Canyon he seems to have a fear of commitment. Do you think he's ready for a relationship?
JO: You're asking me to delve more deeply into the subtext of this movie than I normally venture, however...I think the correct answer to your question is one of two possibilities:
1) Bigfoot is a part of nature, and his more natural lifestyle is therefore unburdened by social concepts such as "monogamy" and "commitment" and "cuddling."
2) Sasquatches as a species are nearing extinction, dwindling in numbers. Bigfoot craves another Sasquatch mate, but none are to be found. His addictive sex habits with humans are merely a frustrated attempt to fulfill his natural urges. Bigfoot really wants love and sex with deeper meaning—something humans are incapable of giving him.
JG: Although these fantasies are abundant in fiction, I've only seen one case where someone claimed to have been raped by Bigfoot (on Usenet group alt.bigfoot.research), and that seemed like a troll. Do you know of any cases where a woman went to the police claiming to have been raped by a Sasquatch?
JO: That Usenet case was...uh...interesting. I wonder if he/she(?) really was gang-raped by Bigfeet. I also wonder if the meds they claimed to be taking after the incident were actually prescribed before it happened. The rape is described taking place shortly after "I had just finished my last Ale." A case of beer mixed with sufficiently powerful medication...anyone could find themselves feeling as if they'd been gang-raped by Sasquatches under such circumstances.
Other than that, no, I've never heard of any cases of Sasquatch rape in police reports or news. I recently called that 1-800-BIGFOOT number that you're supposed to call to report Bigfoot sightings. I was hoping someone would call me back and tell me if Bigfoot rape was often reported to them. But their voicemail was full. I'm strongly tempted to call up different police departments in the Pacific Northwest and just ask them, "Look, do you ever get reports of alleged Bigfoot rape?"
JG: Why do people find male inadequacy so funny, whereas similar yuks wouldn't be elicited by, say, female frigidity?
JO: Couldn't tell you why that is. But I sure see a lot of potential for female-frigidity humor. I think it can be just as funny as male inadequacy. I suppose in our culture there is a disproportionate emphasis on male inadequacy. Females always know exactly what they want sexually, while males are the bumbling fools who couldn't pleasure a cat if it was already purring. It's rare to see the opposite situation milked for comic potential. Which is a shame, really. Maybe there would be fewer issues with sexism (in either direction) if only both genders acknowledged that we are all jackasses from time to time when we get horny.
JG: Is there a planned theatrical release for Ape Canyon?
JO: Nothing planned, but I'd love to screen it where we can. It's tough finding venues where video can be projected—there is no film print to show. It was all shot on digital video. I'm putting out feelers, though.
A couple of years ago, we held a one-time-only screening of the rough cut at Oakland's Parkway Theater. The Parkway seemed like a good venue because it's a beer theater, one of those wonderful cinema houses where you can enjoy second-run features from the comfort of a couch while you consume beer by the pitcher and wolf down nice, greasy slices of pizza.
We had only one showing, and it was at 3:00 in the afternoon, and we only had two weeks to publicize it. One week, actually, because in the week before the screening we dashed back up to Humboldt to shoot the new, improved ending. I think maybe twenty people showed up. The only members of the audience who weren't friends of ours were couples who wandered into the wrong theater and thought they were going to be watching Harold and Maude. The defining moment for me was when I spotted one of those couples getting up and leaving in disgust. I had an entire pitcher of beer to myself. I was plastered, but good. Trevor (also plastered) and I made eye contact across the room. We both just raised our fists skyward in triumph. What a magic moment. Our first walkout!
I do want to screen it other places. There's a few "art spaces" in the Bay Area that have the kind of facilities we need—but I fear they'll be too stuck-up to give us the time of day. Bigfoot rape probably isn't considered avant garde, unfortunately. San Franciscans just don't seem to appreciate smut comedy like ours. For a while one of the bartenders at the Sacrifice [in SF] was playing Ape Canyon on their television screens. Some woman saw it there, got pissed off, and posted an online review. Described it as "bestial statutory rape porn" only "with none of the art and erotica of porn," or something along those lines.
Naturally, we are submitting to film festivals, including Cannes. The French ought to appreciate this movie. We'll just screen it when and where we can.
JG: What’s next?
JO: There could be an Ape Canyon sequel (God forbid) in which a scientist gets ass-raped by a Sasquatch, then uses the DNA from the Bigfoot semen in his impacted stool to make clones. Then he could get rich by opening a golf course populated by the cloned Sasquatches. Of course, everything goes horribly wrong when the Sasquatch clones start raping golfers.
JG: Does pornography encourage rape?
JO: I find that unlikely. However, I'm fairly certain that Bigfoot-rape fiction does not encourage Bigfoots to rape people.