HUNTING GROUNDS (2015) aka Valley of the Sasquatch
Starring Bill Oberst jr, Miles Joris-Peyrafitte, Jason Vail and David Saucedo
Written & Directed by John Portanova
“A father, his son, and his two old friends arrive at an isolated cabin for a weekend of hunting. A trip deep into the forest looking for wild game uncovers a tribe of Sasquatch who are determined to protect their land“.
Bigfoot movies have been making a quiet resurgence recently, with Willow Creek, Exists and countless other DTV titles appearing in the past few years. While Willow Creek did very little for me, spending the whole runtime building great tension but point blank refusing to pay it off, I did have a lot of fun with Exists, which went the more kitchen sink fun route. It still had its flaws, but I enjoyed it.
New to the table is Hunting Grounds, aka Valley of the Sasquatch. And while it’s not perfect by a long shot, it gets enough right to be worth a recommendation.
The story focuses on the troubled relationship between Roger (Vail) and his son Michael (Joris-Peyrafitte). After the recent death of Michaels mother, their very contrasting personalities are brought to the forefront and causing a strain. Michael wants to go to college and make something of his life, while Roger insists they simply can’t afford it. They drive out into the woods to spend some quality time together, with Uncle Will (D’Angelo Midili) and and asshole hanger on Sergio (Saucedo). But as they venture deeper into the forest, they find out they are on the menu of a clan of savage Sasquatch, and must work together to survive.
I want to focus on how enjoyable Hunting Grounds was so I’ll briefly mention its problems first. The main one for me was the character of Sergio. It’s not the fault of the actor, but the script inserts him to be a huge prick from the get-go, and he kind of drags the other characters with him simply because they don’t chin him straight away! Some of the pacing is a little sluggish, and the score has a real Lifetime Channel feel most of the way. Also, many of the night time scenes are too dark, making some of the action incomprehensible. And finally, lets face it, this one does nothing new. The story beats, the characters, many of the situations, we’ve seen before elsewhere…
HOWEVER, there is something to be said about doing something we’ve seen before but well, and that’s what happens in Hunting Grounds. The performances are very capable, and the father son dynamic is well thought out, and contrasts nicely when the family of Bigfoot’s lay siege. Which brings me to another aspect, the FAMILY of beasts. It’s hard enough to survive against one in many films, so adding more really heightens the stakes. The man-in-suit FX can be hit and miss, but that adds a level of B Movie charm to it all.
After a slow start, director Portanova really lays his cards on the table, with showdown after showdown in an entertaining man vs nature story that is much more than a SyFy Channel special. Stick with it, and you’ll find an engaging, if derivative creature feature.