Yeti? Meh-teh [Man-bear]? Migoi [Wild man]? Mirka? Kang Admi [Snow man]? These are all names for the ape-like cryptid that has long been reported as inhabiting the snowbound reaches of the Himalayas (see this Wikipedia article for the derivations of the name). The creature is also known as the Abominable Snowman — and one of my favourite movies on the subject is the 1957 Hammer film The Abominable Snowman, directed by Val Guest and starring Peter Cushing and Forrest Tucker, written by one of the all-time great genre screenwriters, Nigel Kneale. If you haven’t seen it, go check it out. Just make sure you watch a version in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The current DVD edition from Anchor Bay is excellent.
The Yeti has long been associated in cryptozoological thought with the North American forest man-beast known as Bigfoot or Sasquatch, which in itself has spawned many horror films. But this weekend’s Fright Flick postulates a closer cousin still, an cryptid inhabitant of the snowy Yukon known as Yakatutch.
Claws (US-2010; short [11.23 min]; dir. Sean Francis Ellis)
The short film concerns a group of young friends who set out into the Canadian wilderness to find the father of one of their number, who has disappeared while hunting down the legendary Yakatutch. They find more than they bargained for.
It was based on a longer script developed by Sydney-born director Sean Ellis, which was a finalist in the Beverly Hills Film Festival Screenplay Competition in 2010. The short was filmed in Big Bear, California, in February 2010 and stars Spencer Falls, Adrian Chang, Sarah Belger, Paton Ashbrook, Alessandro Giannetti and Tom Skalka as Carter. For more crew details, see its Vimeo page.
Meanwhile, enjoy the short film here (or follow this link to view it in on the Vimeo site).
From Short to Feature-Length:
Ellis’ aim is to make the feature-length version as his first feature film, and to that end the Beverly Hills Film Festival event and the short film were a major step in bringing his vision to life. He commented to Undead Backbrain:
At this stage, the film is about one year away from production. The shoot will take place in the winter, in a mountainous area of the US or in Canada. The creature from the film is being designed currently, but no artwork is available yet. It will likely be a suit with some CG enhancements.
He sees the film as drawing inspiration from creature-feature classics such as The Thing, Predator and Jaws, “while adding a Native American element to the Yeti myth”.
Here is the full synopsis. It suggests that the film will be much more than a simplistic creature hunt:
For 350 years, the Tutchone people of Western Canada have told stories about the Beast known as Yakatutch, which lives in the remote wilderness of the Yukon. Once a fierce warrior, Yakatutch was cursed for an unspeakable crime against his tribe, and banished to the farthest mountains. But the tribal leaders who cursed Yakatutch could not foresee what has come… a large population, living on the edge of its habitat.
When an unknown animal starts killing people near the small Yukon town of Whitehorse, Anthropologist Marcus Fletcher discovers DNA evidence of something part-human and part-animal. He believes it is the legendary creature, but his son Scott (22), a local snowboarding champ, is unconvinced. Marcus meets with a Tutchone Elder, who explains that Yakatutch can only be killed by one of his descendants. The Elder sends Matusa, a powerful-looking but quiet young tribesman, who has been raised for one purpose: to kill The Beast.
Marcus introduces Matusa to local Police Captain, Pierre Babineaux, who is intrigued by their story. He invites them to his home for dinner, but Scott is uncomfortable, because he is dating Babineaux’s daughter, Ayasha, a beautiful young RCMP officer. That evening, Babineaux’s wife Anita, who is also Tutchone, makes a startling revelation about Matusa – he is her son. He was taken away as a child, because she was unmarried.
When police discover more victims with distinctive claw-shaped wounds and The Beast’s DNA, Marcus makes an even more startling discovery: The Beast is evolving – becoming more human. Marcus believes The Beast is the key to potentially ground-breaking DNA research. He secretly goes to the mountains alone, hoping to capture The Beast, alive.
Believing that Marcus is in grave danger, Scott convinces Babineaux that the legendary Beast is real. Anita warns him to stay away from The Beast’s domain, but Babineaux decides to go, with Matusa as their guide. Aware of the danger, Ayasha joins her father and her half-brother, Matusa, to help Scott find his father, and hunt down The Beast.
Alternate poster for the short film:
Director Ellis has also supplied us with some storyboard pages prepared for the crashing helicopter scene from the short film. You can download it in PDF format from here: Storyboard.