Tahoe Joe (2022)—Humorous yet Realistic Meta Horror
It’s no secret that I love a good horror film. There’s nothing quite like a good scary flick you can enjoy while huddled up under a bunch of blankets while munching on some of your favorite snacks. Since it’s the month of October, I figure that we should go down the rabbit hole that is horror filmography. And what better way to do that than to explore the world of cryptids! Following their previous film The Flock, Tahoe Joe is a mockumentary by Dillion Brown and Michael Rock, this time based on a local Bigfoot legend.
Michael is a former Green Beret who comes across an email from Jaylin Smith (played by Jaylin Reaves), the son of Toma Smith, who happens to be a friend of Rock’s from their days in the military. After receiving an email containing a series of videos from Toma that depict his journey to discover a Sasquatch named Tahoe Joe, ending with his demise supposedly at the hands of the cryptid. Both Dillon and Michael set out to find out if Tahoe Joe is real, with Brown remaining rather skeptical. As they venture out to find Tahoe Joe, it becomes more evident they bargained for more than they could handle.
Despite Tahoe Joe being advertised as a horror film, it doesn’t feel particularly scary or even creepy. However, it does have a slightly unnerving feel throughout its runtime. The scenes filmed in the woods always put me on edge. To me, the thought that a mysterious, yet dangerous creature or even person out in the woods so far detached from society yet so close to it and can come to wreak havoc at any given time is what frightens me. To me, Tahoe Joe isn’t structured like your typical horror movie, rather, it is a representation of what real world horror is like.
Speaking of the realism of the horror, Tahoe Joe reminds me of another meta horror film: 1994’s Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. Both films star the crew playing themselves and both have fictional monsters that later are discovered to be real. The difference is that in Tahoe Joe, the main characters are literally just the director Dillon Brown and actor Michael Rock exploring the mountainous forests of Nevada for a Sasquatch. Michael is an actual Green Beret who served in the U.S. Army until 2014. Brown and Rock are not only friends in the film, but are also good friends in real life. I believe that the film’s quality was buoyed by their friendship which really helped carry the film. You can clearly see the two are having the time of their life making this film and I think that if it were anyone else but the two, the film wouldn’t have been as enjoyable as it is.
Tahoe Joe was shot on an estimated budget of $2,000. Much like The Flock, Tahoe Joe makes good use of its low budget. Brown shot the film in a private forest in Reno, Nevada and even made the Sasquatch costume from scratch himself! The suit itself is a ghillie suit spray painted. To make it look extra realistic, Brown also rolled it in dirt to give it a muddy and weathered appearance. In my opinion, it is a step up in costume production compared to The Flock. Similar to the demon Moloch in The Flock, Tahoe Joe is sparingly featured. However, when it is, it looks far more realistic, almost akin to a realistic depiction of a Sasquatch.
Overall, Tahoe Joe is a solidly entertaining mockumentary on Bigfoot legends and tales. Dillon Brown not only excels at making terrifying found-footage films, but also much more lighthearted and fun films. He knows when to keep the camera still, when to use panning shots to establish location and when to use first person shots. This film is supposed to be part of a cinematic universe featuring all of the known cryptids including Bigfoot, the Wendigo, Mothman and several others. With a solid Bigfoot movie down, all I have to say is that I’m very excited to see where this cinematic universe will go!