With “Sasquatch” as its title and 420 as its premiere date, Hulu’s new true crime series sets certain expectations. I, for one, was anticipating an even trashier Tiger King-like show meets the Wikipedia page for North American folklore meets weed puns. But that Sasquatch ultimately fulfills none of those assumptions, and is better for it, may be the biggest and best surprise of this high holiday.
A Sasquatch committed a triple homicide on a dope farm in California. That was October 1993.
See, when investigative journalist David Holthouse was 23 years old, he overheard a story that piqued his interest. He was staying and working at a cannabis farm in Mendocino County — one of three agricultural districts that make up northern California’s famous “Emerald Triangle” — when one night a man came in the door claiming “a Bigfoot” had killed and dismembered three field workers.
Yes, that’s correct: A sasquatch, one of those mammoth mythical ape creatures, allegedly committed a triple homicide on a dope farm in California. That was October 1993.
In the 2021 docuseries, Holthouse retraces that outrageous legend’s very big footsteps by returning to Mendocino County and hunting for answers about the purported murders and, like so many before him, the mysterious primate supposedly behind them. Across three well-paced episodes, Sasquatch sees Holthouse chase his story with relentless tenacity, working to unearth not only if these deaths occurred in the manner this stranger from decades ago claimed, but whether they occurred at all.
It’s a refreshing change of pace that inverts the traditional true crime narrative and consequently, sidesteps some of the genre’s crasser tendencies. Instead of drawing viewers in with gruesome descriptions of real-world violence and personal tragedy, Sasquatch baits its audience with the promise of mystery and whodunnit satisfaction you’ll constantly wonder if Holthouse can deliver.
This isn’t just a fun and freaky romp in the woods.
Interviews with regional Sasquatch truthers and some well-placed chuckles from Holthouse underscore the absurdity of the task at hand with a kind of knowing warmth. One exchange between life partners and true believers, Wayne and Georges, is a particular standout in the trailer and really delivers in the full series as the two bicker about whether “squatches” can or can’t teleport.
But this isn’t just a fun and freaky romp in the woods. Holthouse’s straightforwardly entertaining undertaking gives way to a thoughtful look at an array of related topics, from the ongoing consequences of the Clinton administration’s war on drugs and racism in the Pacific Northwest to the anthropological value of folklore creation and the emotional power of monster making.
It’s a murder investigation by way of things that go bump in the night, both real and imagined, that puts Holthouse’s tremendous talents, forged through a career of high-stakes undercover work, on full display. Episode to episode, we see Holthouse mine for information in an intimate documentary style that makes for exceptional tension even when confronting a dead end. Identity-concealing technology, late-night conversations in parking lots, and plenty of straight-to-camera testimonials from Holthouse serve as constant reminders of the difficult task Sasquatch undertakes.
As Holthouse jokes in episode 1, not only is he “grabbing at smoke,” he’s doing so in one of the most notoriously dangerous parts of California with no idea what he’s gotten himself into. (True crime buffs familiar with Netflix’s Murder Mountain, a docuseries about missing persons in Mendocino’s neighboring Humboldt County, will understand just how scary this place can be.)
But under the skilled direction of Lorena producer Josh Rofé, Holthouse walks viewers through even these murkiest parts of the Sasquatch investigation — his insightful musings paired with chilling animated sequences that help to tie the entire project together. For the myriad questions Sasquatch cannot answer, it presents what it does know in a manner that’s both tidy and compelling.
This three-part series, although short, is packed with smart, thoughtful, daring true crime coverage that does a lot with a little and will leave you, at the very least, satisfied by its commitment to the ambition of this subject. Of course, it doesn’t end with a Scooby Doo-style unmasking of a centuries-old mythical creature — you would have heard about that before now. But Sasquatch will surprise you in all the right ways, delivering unexpected excellence in the face of overwhelming obstacles and making this hunt for Bigfoot an all-time great.