When I was in the second grade, I was obsessed with Bigfoot. Armed with a few Time Life Mysteries of the Unknown books and similar reading material, my friends and I figured that we would figure out where the elusive giant was. For some reason, we had our hearts set on a forest in Montana. But had we grown up in Washington, where filmmaker John Portanova did, I’m sure we would have tried searching up there. He was inspired enough to base his ode to Sasquatch there in his film HUNTING GROUNDS (previously known as VALLEY OF THE SASQUATCH), and it’s coming soon to your home via VOD on February 7th, 2017!
Following the death of his mother, Michael and his father, have fallen on hard financial and emotional times. To get by, they opt to take up residence in a long abandoned hunting cabin deep out in the woods. Michael’s closest confidante, his uncle Will, and his father’s jerk of a friend, Sergio, join them to take advantage of the hunting season. Little do they know that they aren’t the only ones on the prowl in this wooded valley.
Character actor Bill Oberst Jr. does a great job with his limited screen time. He’s able to exhibit a sense of his character without relying on exposition. We immediately can tell that he’s seen some shit, and despite that, what he is running into is shaking him to the core.
The interaction between Michael and his father feels wooden. And yes, while they are both recovering from grief, and for one of them, alcoholism, the conversations don’t feel natural. That isn’t the case with all the other characters, which makes this one stand out even more.
My only other complaint about the film is the lighting. The daytime shots are absolutely gorgeous as we are able to revel in the majestic Washington woodlands. However, the night time scenes are shot so darkly that it can become difficult to fully tell what is happening with our characters.
WHY SHOULD YOU SEE HUNTING GROUNDS?:
The tease. As with any big creature film, especially those on a lower budget, the reveal can be disappointing. And, while the creature work isn’t the greatest you’ll see for a Bigfoot film, the tease and lead up for it is handled masterfully. We get slight glimpses and blurs off the side of the screen of bulking behemoths, and yet, we don’t know what their true intentions are until the third act.
Sergio is one of the more repugnant characters I’ve witnessed. He’s full of bravado and machismo, with nary a spine to support it. And he’s beyond extremely self serving. Characters like this make you love to hate them, and every time that they are on the precipice of danger, our desire to see them fail adds to the exhilaration. And the fact that he keeps on going gives us someone to root against.
Michael’s dealing with his uncle could stand alone as another film. The two have excellent chemistry together, and Will is that guardian angel character for Michael against Sergio and what lies outside. Whereas the father/son interactions felt contrived, these feel very natural and easy to believe.
Bauman: Bill Oberst Jr (CIRCUS OF THE DEAD, ZOMBIEWORLD)
Roger Crew: Jason Vail (TAMMY, BOO! A MADEA HALLOWEEN)
Michael Crew: Miles Joris-Peyrafitte (AS YOU ARE, GUT)
Will Marx: D’Angelo Midili (THE INVOKING, DIVINATION)
Sergio Guerrero: David Saucedo (PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE MARKED ONES, SLINK)
Writer/Director: John Portanova (THE INVOKING, THE DEVICE)
Cinematography: Jeremy Berg (THE DEVICE, THE INVOKING)