In the annals of horror, the sasquatch sub-genre is one of the hardest to take seriously. Bigfoot has been mainly used as comic relief in most mainstream media. Whether it’s HARRY AND THE HENDERSONS or those knee slapping Slim Jim commercials, Bigfoot is just the punch line to the joke. In HUNTING GROUNDS, this crypto-zoological creature is about as far from funny as it gets…and I like it!
Sure, I had my doubts going into HUNTING GROUNDS, originally titled VALLEY OF THE SASQUATCH, but that was quickly put at ease with the introduction of the character Bauman, played by Bill Oberst Jr. I love Bill Oberst Jr.! He was amazing as Papa Corn in CIRCUS OF THE DEAD, and I consider him to be a modern horror icon.
At this point, I’m not too sure what Bauman is doing out in the woods, but he soon stumbles upon a ravaged campsite with dead bodies strewn everywhere. A dead-body party is my kind of party! Keep following the trail of bloody rampage, and soon enough you’ll bump into trouble, and that’s exactly what happens to Bauman. The scene cuts away just as sasquatch gets a hold of Bauman, and we’re left on the edge of our seat.
Meanwhile, back in town we find Roger Crew (Jason Vail) and his son, Michael (Miles Joris-Peyrafitte) getting supplies. As they drive into woods, it’s clear that their family has suffered some tragedy, and they are forced to move into an old family cabin. Has either of these two ever seen a horror movie? Cabins in the woods are never a good idea. Upon arrival, the father and son discover the cabin to be in total disarray. Hey dummies, get the fuck out of there.
Not that there isn’t enough dramatic tension between Roger and Michael, but Roger has invited his brother Will Marx (D’Angelo Midili) and his best friend Sergio Guerrero (David Saucedo) to stay for a weekend of hunting. Only thing is Will and Sergio can’t stand each other. Sergio is a real dick, your basic overgrown bully, the type of Latino that probably voted for Trump. While on the other hand, Uncle Will is probably the only truly likable character. He’s smart, quick witted, is empathetic towards Michael, an all around great guy.
What’s a weekend hunting trip without beer and weed? By the way that Michael objects to his father’s consumption of alcohol, it’s clear that part of the family’s tragedy has to do with substance abuse. I appreciate the backstory of the mother/wife dying, and that alcoholism had a part in it.
After a night of drinking, and waking up hungover, it’s time to go shoot some shit. Only looks more like our little group are going to be the ones hunted. There is blood and gore hanging from the trees, and this is okay by me! Sergio thinks he shot Bigfoot. If you think you shot Bigfoot, you’re probably fucked.
Quick back to the cabin, Bauman has some how escaped and joined the group, this makes me happy. It doesn’t take long for them to be under siege by a group of sasquatch. Paranoia reaches a fever pitch, similar NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1990). So, everyone is still alive, did the sasquatach actually kill anyone? HUNTING GROUNDS has a great sense of claustrophobia which echoes the original EVIL DEAD.
For only my 2nd sasquatch-centric horror film, I don’t have much to base HUNTING GROUNDS on, but it is a different sort of horror film, and I enjoyed it. The scenery and cinematography capturing the green mountains of Washington State, is beautiful. It’s a fantastic juxtaposition with the gore-filled scenes. Some of the effects seemed makeshift, but at least they weren’t CGI. I have to give props to HUNTING GROUNDS on using all practical effects. I really dug seeing the sasquatch rip the arms off one of the characters, and then throw them at another. Also, there is a top-notch head-crushing scene, who doesn’t love a head- crushing scene?
HUNTING GROUNDS has a brilliant ’80s summer camp slasher feel to it. The acting is above average for an indie horror film, and combined with some dark humor, HUNTING GROUNDS is a real winner.