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The Legend of Six Fingers

I’m sure that when Roger Corman, who is still active after nearly 60 years in the exploitation film business, first heard the title Snow Shark, his immediate reaction was “Damn! Why didn’t I think of that?” But he didn’t. A young filmmaker in Lockport named Sam Qualiana did, and if the micro-budgeted feature he made is never going to appear on any AFI Best 100 list, it got Qualiana attention and a national DVD release. (And if imitation is truly the sincerest form of flattery, he might feel good about the impending release of a Canadian production called Avalanche Shark.)

Qualiana is back with a second feature, The Legend of Six Fingers, and if it’s less ambitious than his debut, it’s a better movie, pulling off the difficult feat of being both funny and scary. It marries the “found footage” format popularized by The Blair Witch Project to the 1970s genre of Bigfoot movies. You remember Bigfoot, right? Big hairy dude, lives in the woods, mostly in the Northwest. (Though there was a reported spotting a decade or so ago in Clarence. Seriously—look it up in the Buffalo News. The spotter was the former landlord of Mondo Video.)

The Legend of Six Fingers follows the attempts of two aspiring filmmakers who believe that a series of pet and animal killings is the work of a creature known in a Native American legend as “Yá·yahk osnúhsa,” or “Six Fingers.” At least would-be director Neil (Andrew Elias) believes this. I suspect his friend Drew (Qualiana) is mostly along because he owns the camera, but the amusing interplay between these two—one nerdy and obsessed, the other a smartass—keeps the movie entertaining through the set-up scenes you have to sit through to get to the monster stuff.

The monster (Tim O’Hearn, imposing in an effectively shaggy costume) appears earlier than you might expect, leading you to wonder where the bulk of the movie is going to go. One of the more interesting things about Snow Shark was Qualiana’s indifference (whether intentional or not) to traditional ideas of story structure. Once again he defies format by finding ways to keep you guessing.

The Legend of Six Fingers consistently finds way of turning its limitations into assets. The “found footage” format is of course an excuse for a certain lack of visual polish, though the movie finds plenty of opportunities to capture scenic vistas in the woods where it was shot. It will have its local premiere this Friday and Saturday nights at the Screening Room in Amherst.

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