April 14, 2023

The Northern Arizona Field Guide to Bigfoot: Special Lance Henriksen Edition

Poster - Devil on the Mountain (aka Sasquatch Mountain, 2006)
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Devil on the Mountain (aka Sasquatch Mountain, 2006)

Pros: A quartet of grizzled character actors led by Lance Henriksen steals the show from the younger cast members; Features a clever reveal at the end
Cons: Due to budget limitations, the production doesn’t take full advantage of the shooting location; Much of the film looks like an 80s-vintage MTV music video; Rife with characters doing stupid things for the convenience of the plot

This post is part of The Seen on the Screen blogathon hosted by Rebecca at Taking Up Room. Rebecca's challenge: Review a film or TV show that is set in your hometown or some other very familiar place -- what does it get right (or wrong) about the place you know so well? See her site for more great locales!

Lance Henriksen, the great, gruff, gravelly-voiced actor with over 260 acting credits to his name and counting, has blazed quite a trail over the years in the deep woods of horror and sci-fi.

By the end of the ‘80s, Henriksen had made indelible, unsettling impressions in such cult favorites as Aliens (1986), playing an android science officer, Near Dark (1987), as the leader of a band of itinerant vampires, and Pumpkinhead (1988), as a grieving father who unleashes a mythic monster on the teens who accidentally killed his son.

By the end of the ‘90s, he’d wrapped up three seasons of the award winning series Millennium (1996-99) portraying Frank Blank, a haunted former FBI profiler who has a knack for getting into the minds of serial killers and assorted lunatics (another cult hit from X-Files creator Chris Carter).

In the early 2000s, the shadow of Bigfoot began looming over his career. In 2002’s The Untold (aka Sasquatch), Henriksen appeared as a wealthy entrepreneur who leads a search for a company plane that has gone missing in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest, along with his daughter. After finding the plane and the mutilated remains of the crew, the search party has to battle a homicidal Sasquatch to get out alive.

2006 was the year of the Bigfoot for Henriksen. In Abominable, he had a supporting role as a local who joins a hunting party to track down a mysterious creature that is killing cattle, and finds more than he bargained for. But it would be in Devil on the Mountain (aka Sasquatch Mountain) that the actor would score a more affecting and sympathetic role as a Bigfoot hunter.

Screenshot - Lance Henriksen in Devil on the Mountain (aka Sasquatch Mountain, 2006)
Lance takes a moment to reflect on making two Sasquatch movies in one year.

Henriksen plays Chase Jackson, an auto mechanic living in rural Northern Arizona, who, as we see in the film’s prologue, lost his wife to a freak auto accident the same night that Bigfoot decided to make a dramatic appearance.

Cut to the present, where we see Chase living modestly with his 20-something daughter Raquel (Melanie Monroe) in the same little town. For years he has been carrying guilt and regret over the accident, not to mention the community’s suspicions about the strange circumstances of the tragedy. Raquel, who is lively and intelligent, is reluctant to leave the nest because the old man is so lonely and pitiful. But Fate is about to arrange a second encounter between Chase and Bigfoot, and a chance for redemption.

Erin Price (Cerina Vincent) has recently broken up with her longtime boyfriend, packed up her car, and headed out on the open road for a new start. She makes a pit stop in town, and chats with Raquel before resuming her journey.

Unfortunately, her shortcut through the Northern Arizona forest takes her right into the path of a van full of desperate criminals who have just pulled off a bank robbery in town. Their vehicles collide, and both are totaled. When Sheriff Zeff (Rance Howard) and his deputies show up, a gunfight breaks out, after which the robbers take off into the deep woods with Erin in tow.

Screenshot - Karen Kim in Devil on the Mountain (aka Sasquatch Mountain, 2006)
Northern Arizona travel tip #1: Be sure to brake for Bigfoot, but don't brake too hard.

With the state police and their helicopters already committed to another emergency, the sheriff enlists the aid of a friend and expert tracker Eli (Tim Thomerson) to flush out the miscreants. When Eli mysteriously disappears, Chase, who years before had applied for a deputy position and been turned down, comes to the rescue.

But before long Chase, the cops, the gang and their hostage will be banding together to fight off a common enemy -- Bigfoot, who is aggressively defending his territory from the human incursion.

And now for a personal note:

In the mid-2000s I was living in Flagstaff, Arizona, a beautiful mountain town sitting at the base of the majestic San Francisco Peaks some 7000 feet above sea level, and surrounded by the Coconino National Forest, home to one of the country’s largest stands of towering ponderosa pines.

Flagstaff, located just 80 miles south of the Grand Canyon and 30 miles north of the beautiful red rocks of Sedona, and with Interstate 40, historic Route 66 and the Amtrak Southwest Chief rail line running through the center of town, is a busy hub for visitors from all over the world wishing to partake of Northern Arizona’s scenic wonders.

Some people who’ve never been to the state, and have mental pictures of a mostly featureless desert sprinkled with saguaro cacti, get discombobulated when they see miles of dense woods and snow capped mountain peaks. While the Pacific Northwest may be Bigfoot’s natural home, it’s not hard to imagine one or two of the creatures tromping around the Coconino Forest, scratching their backs on the tall ponderosas.

The San Francisco Peaks as seen from Flagstaff, Arizona (photo by the author)
Now that's a sight for sore Sasquatch eyes! Alas, no scenery like this made it into the movie.

Michael Worth, who wrote Devil on the Mountain and starred as one of the robbers, was one of those taken by surprise by the Northern Arizona scenery. In an interview in Flagstaff’s Arizona Daily Sun newspaper published around the time of the movie’s premiere on the (then) Sci-Fi Channel, Worth explained how they settled on the location:

“I drove up just before we shot and I was just like, ‘Holy mackerel, I didn't know there were so many pine trees in Arizona!’ Because I'm used to shooting in Tucson and Mescal and used to the desert. It was just so great, but first as a joke, on the way back south, I was sending photos back to the director of the landscape right where the forest starts to dwindle and it starts to get more deserty, with like three or four trees in a picture. I'd just say, ‘Here it is, here's where we're gonna shoot the bigfoot movie!’ And he'd be like, ‘Well, it looks OK but…’ and I'd say ‘No, it'll be great! There's like five trees in this section, we'll shoot around it.’ But no, we looked around at all the locations, and sometimes it's just a question of getting the vehicles out there. And even in Flagstaff, there were a lot of great sites that we liked but we just couldn't get everyone in and out of there.” [Jeff Reeves, “Sasquatch Flick Filmed in Area Debuts this Saturday,” Arizona Daily Sun, September 8, 2006.]

Months before, the newspaper had published a blurb about a Sasquatch movie starring Lance Henriksen that was about to be filmed in Flagstaff. The city being relatively small, I thought there was an off chance I’d spot the crew and possibly Lance himself, but no cigar. Then I thought, “At least scenic Flagstaff will be featured in a major (sort of) TV movie, and it will be fun to pick out the landmarks when it premieres.”

Also no dice. Apparently there were problems getting permits for shooting in town, or the logistics were problematic, because the bank robbery scenes were filmed in Williams, AZ, 35 miles west of Flagstaff. The crew did stay in Flagstaff for much of the shoot, but my beloved town was MIA in the final cut.

Screenshot - Bank robbery scene in Devil on the Mountain (aka Sasquatch Mountain, 2006)
Northern Arizona travel tip #2: If you see something like this, it's probably not Bigfoot.
The creatures rarely travel in groups, and they have no need for banking services.

Well, at least there’s the Coconino forest. Except that, as Worth indicated in the interview, the logistics and the limited budget dictated that they film at the edge of the forest, the end result being that much of the awesomeness of the ponderosa pine-rich backcountry is also missing.

Some nice establishing shots of the majestic San Francisco Peaks would also have been nice, but no luck there either. It also doesn’t help that they chose to shoot the film like a music video, complete with shaky cam and a purple-tinged color palette.

However, there is some redemption. The quartet of scruffy old farts led by Henriksen steal the show. Lance gets some genuinely affecting scenes with his dying wife in the prologue and later, his daughter (although for some reason they set up the engaging daughter character only to shove her off-screen mid-way through).

Rance Howard as the sheriff is dependably laconic and stoic through harrowing gunfights and Bigfoot attacks to the point of being almost comical; he’s the classic western Everyman who’s hard to get a rise out of, but implacable when finally motivated.

Screenshot - Bigfoot hunting party in Devil on the Mountain (aka Sasquatch Mountain, 2006)
Northern Arizona Bigfoot hunting tip #1: Wear layers, bring plenty of water,
and never hold your gun like the gentleman in this photo.

Fans of ‘80s and ‘90s B sci-fi will likely recognize Tim Thomerson. Among Thomerson’s multitudinous credits, he appeared in Full Moon’s Dollman movies and five (count ‘em) Trancers flicks in which he plays Jack Deth, a futuristic bounty hunter. Thomerson’s role in Sasquatch Mountain is a small but wryly amusing one, playing a mountain man who can take a licking and keep on ticking.

And then there’s Craig Wasson, whose biggest claim to fame was appearing in Brian De Palma’s Body Double (1984) as the claustrophobic protagonist and intended fall guy. In Sasquatch Mountain, his last film credit, Wasson makes the most of one of the film’s quirkier roles -- that of Travis, leader of the misfit bank robbers and would-be get-rich-quick day-trader. With a bluetooth headset stuck in his ear, Travis keeps interrupting the bank heist planning, barking out orders to his stockbroker. Then, after the Bigfoot scat has hit the fan, he seems more irritated with the lack of cell service than the fact that the cops are shooting at them and a hairy humanoid is tossing his cohorts around like rag dolls.

Lastly, as the movie builds to the climax, there’s a clever reveal that explains why Bigfoot is so pissed off (other than the tired premise that he’s just a monster that likes to kill for the heck of it). The final confrontation humanizes everyone, cops, robbers and Sasquatch included. It might just bring a tear to your eye. And, as if that isn't enough, in the epilogue there’s an exchange between the sheriff and one of the robbers that ends the film on just the right note. 

Screenshot - Sasquatch makes an appearance in Devil on the Mountain (aka Sasquatch Mountain, 2006)
Northern Arizona Bigfoot hunting tip #2: Before you shoot, make sure it's really
Bigfoot and not some hairy mountain man with questionable hygiene.

Where to find it: Streaming


  1. I had no idea Northern Arizona looked like that. Beautiful! And I can easily imagine Bigfoot frequenting the area.

    I laughed out loud at the Bigfoot Hunting Tips. Brilliant!

    1. Thank you! Invariably the people I talk with who've been to the area describe it with superlatives. And it is very Bigfoot friendly. P.S.: Just so you know, I would never hunt Bigfoot. 😉

  2. I heard the real Bigfoot took his Jack Link's Beef Jerky money and retired to Florida.

    1. Yes, but I heard he had a territorial dispute with the Skunk Ape who is a native Floridian.

  3. Very enjoyable review, Brian! Although I've driven through Arizona several times, it's always surprised me when I've seen forests and snow. As a resident of the Pacific Northwest, I'm tickled by the prospect of Sasquatch's southern cousins (or at least the mythology around it). I'm not sure how I missed this when I did my deep dive of Bigfoot movies, but considering the cast, I need to check it out!

    1. Hi Barry! While your neck of the woods is definitely Bigfoot's home base, I can see a group of them migrating down to the Coconino forest for a change of scenery. Devil on the Mountain is not high art, but some of the performances make it worth checking out. And I'm going to have to revisit your deep dive of Bigfoot movies!

  4. What a great story! There's definitely more to Arizona than meets the eye. Thanks again for joining the blogathon, Brian. :-)

    1. Yes, it is spectacularly beautiful in N. Arizona, and I do miss it. As always, I had a lot of fun with the blogathon, and enjoyed reading everyone's contributions. Thanks for hosting!

  5. Great review, brian! I love your various travel and Bigfoot hunting tips!

    1. Thanks John! It always pays to be prepared! 😉