Among Us (2004)

(aka Bigfoot Among Us)

This is a remarkable film.

And perhaps what is even more remarkable is that it was made by the Polonia Brothers.

For those of you who still haven’t encountered them, the Polonia Brothers started out as a pair of teen-aged Pennsylvania twins who became cult heroes with their silly gorefest SOV (shot on video) first film, Splatter Farm and have since gone on to make dozens of eccentric and surprisingly entertaining films on next to nothing.

This is probably the best film they ever made. It is certainly the most heart-felt.

Billy D’Amato (Robert Dennis) makes terrible exploitation films with almost non-existent budgets.

Most of them, since his very first film, have featured Bigfoot in one way or another.

Including his Sword and Sandal epic, Bigfoot Gladiator.

Along the way, he’s hurt a lot of people — particularly Jennifer Dempsey (Hunter Austin) whose encounter with the legendary beast he sensationalized in his first film — and he’s made a lot of compromises because (supposedly) of his backers’ demands.

But something happened, something which changed him, something which made him drop his latest film, “Cornhole Cabin XII” and start a new project, something which has even sent him back to try to make amends to Jennifer:

Billy D’Amato saw Bigfoot.

There is a lot going on here, not all of it obvious. For example, “Billy D’Amato” is one of the frequent pen names used by the duo, as is the name of Billy’s (mostly) loyal camera man, Ray Steele (John Polonia).

Then we have a series of clips from Billy’s films, some of which very deliberately reference other Polonia Brothers films, including a lengthy take off of Peter Rottentail.

Clearly, the details may not be all that close and one doubts the Brothers ever sank as low as Billy (“Everyone did porn”), but it is hard to miss the fact that Among Us is about the realities of their brand of Guerilla filmmaking, their struggles and failings and, yes, their own longings for something better.

Perhaps the biggest surprise here is that their old friend and collaborator, Jon McBride (who co-directed), is almost unrecognizable behind a bowl haircut, big heavy-rimmed glasses and an effete manner. He’s playing a cryptozoologist who has worked with Billy for years, even though Billy has routinely twisted all of his contributions out of shape and made them far more sensational.

This is a film about people: who they are, what they want, and the sudden realization that maybe there is something better out there. This is a film whose best moments are about those characters, like what is perhaps my favorite moment in the whole film, when Jennifer reveals the unexpected film which scared her most as a child and Billy talks about his desire to be John Ford before he ever knew who John Ford was.

Yes, this is a movie about filmmaking, an amused if somewhat unflinching view behind the scenes.

Now, I’m sure it will come as no surprise that Bigfoot puts in an appearance before the end, or that Among Us ultimately slides into horror film territory before it is over.

But that really isn’t what it is about.

In fact, we can see that far better in the last moments of the film, when we learn what has happened to Billy and Jennifer and learn that Billy is having trouble with his latest project because he just can’t find enough films to show.

As I said before, this is a remarkable film, a thoughtful and unexpected film which isn’t what it is supposed to be. I’m not sure how much of Billy is taken directly from the Polonia Brothers’ real experiences (exaggerated or not) but I don’t suppose it really matters. Perhaps as their children grew up, they found themselves facing the same challenge Billy does, I don’t know. Perhaps.

But what really matters is that this is a film worth watching.

And, without question, their best film!

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And check out our new Feature (Updated April 21, 2020):

The Rivets Zone:  The Best SF Movies You’ve Never Seen!

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