At some point or another, almost everyone on the planet has been suckered into watching a Vice report. The company has created its own brand of clickbait. While other outlets try to keep up with the latest viral videos and celebrity gossip, Vice does something completely opposite. A normal Vice report usually involves a very obscure person or act combined with a very obscure location. The specificity is part of the appeal. This kind of niche journalism can be effective and interesting, but most of the time these reports are pretentious and pointless.
Filmmakers Zach Lamplugh and Brian Emond have studied Vice’s habits down to the smallest detail for their debut feature: The Vice Guide to Bigfoot. The mockumentary stars Lamplugh and Emond as two Vice journalists struggling to find purpose in their work. Brian is the on camera host who loses more faith in his job every time he is assigned to talk to a secluded rapper or comment on the craft beer scene in a foreign country. Brian looks like every Vice host (and every Brooklyn resident): thin frame, glasses, dark facial hair and tattoo sleeves on each arm. As the film starts he is already looking for a way to leave. Zach doesn’t like following clickbait either, and the rising frustration has caused friction between the two friends.
Vice assigns to Zach and Brian to investigate a possible Bigfoot sighting in Georgia. Jeffrey (Jeffrey Stephenson) is the self-proclaimed Bigfoot expert who volunteers to guide them through the Georgia wilderness. Any fans of cryptozoology can enjoy what Bigfoot myths Jeffrey pledges to, even the concerning amount of jarred urine. Like any modern influencer, Jeffrey even has his own YouTube channel called The Cryptid Commander.
It doesn’t take long for Brian to realize that Jeffrey isn’t an expert of Bigfoot or even the woods that he walks through every day. The three men quickly get lost and stumble into something completely over their heads. Treating serious danger with Brooklyn hipster deadpan is Vice’s signature.
A comparison that could be made to The Vice Guide to Bigfoot is Documentary Now!’s episode called DRONEZ: The Hunt for El Chingon. Both satires capture Vice’s dry delivery and guerilla style directing. Bill Hader and Fred Armisen’s version goes absurd pretty quickly, emphasizing how unprepared these journalists are to investigate Mexican drug cartels.
As a full length feature, Lamplugh and Emond have the task of creating a grounded story with grounded relationships. Jeffrey has a sympathetic backstory, Brian and Zach are constantly arguing about leaving the wilderness. These character beats sometimes feel overlong in order to stretch the runtime. Or they are treated as necessary character beats that need to take place so the audience can get back to the comedy. They are necessary and it doesn’t mean that they aren’t effective. Brian and Jeffrey especially feel like frauds. Zach is content with his place but he doesn’t want to see his friend desert him to be a “real journalist”. These moments payoff in the film’s third act, leaving the film with plenty of heart and sincerity.
The Vice Guide to Bigfoot is possibly the most accurate spoof of Vice’s style to date, down to the transition effects between scenes. Lamplugh finds clever ways to make sure the entire film is seen through his one camera. A hysterical side character captures the channel’s other specialty, which is to give very explicit shows to very explicit rappers. The breadth and the depth of Bigfoot’s critique is impressive. The film can be enjoyed by any fan of Bigfoot, and especially to any sucker who had a “Vice is real journalism” phase.