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Review: HUNTING GROUNDS (2015)

Bigfoot, Sasquatch, Skunk Ape, call him whatever you want North America’s two-legged cryptid has been popular with filmmakers for a long time, appearing in everything from family films like A Wish For Giants to hardcore porn like The Geek, now in John Portanova’s Hunting Grounds he gets in on a bit of family drama.

Shot and getting festival play as Valley Of The Sasquatch, the film begins with a Sasquatch attack on some campers including Bauman (Bill Oberst Jr, Circus Of The Dead, Lifechanger) before introducing us to the leads Michael (Miles Joris-Peyrafitte, Gut) and his father Roger (Jason Vail, Hunters, A Nun’s Curse) are forced to move into an isolated family cabin after Micheal’s mother dies and Roger drinks himself out of work and loses their house in the process.

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Into this already strained situation comes two of dad’s buddies Sergio (David Saucedo Area 51, Savageland) and Will (D’Angelo Midili, The Invoking). The foursome goes deer hunting, but what they end up finding is a lot bigger and meaner than Bambi.

While Hunting Grounds is writer/director Portanova’s first film as a director, he has several co-writer credits. They include genre films Ayla and The Device, both of which have strong family themes. Here he defines the fractured father/son relationship before complicating it with the visitors. This makes the reactions a lot more believable once things get ugly.

Portanova also seems to have done at least some basic research into Bigfoot lore, as the cabin is referred to as being near “Ape Canyon” and the story of how it got its name resembles a similar occurrence. The final siege at the cabin also echos that story. The part of the plot dealing with Bauman is obviously inspired by the case of Canadian prospector Albert Ostman. He claimed he was kidnapped by a family of Bigfeet in 1924. Most people won’t pick up on them, but for anyone who’s done any reading on the subject, it’s a nice touch. If you’re interested in that, Seth Breedlove’s On The Trail Of Bigfoot is worth a watch.

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On the other hand, I know films like this need somebody you want to see the creature rip apart. But Sergio is just so obnoxious and repellent, I was at a loss why anyone would put up with him. Let alone invite him up for the weekend. Seriously, if he talked to my kid the way he talks to Michael I’d break his jaw, he’s that obnoxious. Also, and this may just be the screener I got, but some of the scenes are very dark. Dark to the point of being hard to make out. Since among the awards Hunting Grounds earned on its festival run are a pair for Best Cinematography at the 2015 Horrible Imaginings Festival and the 2015 Crimson Screen Festival, I’m going to go with it being a flaw in the screener.

On the subject of awards, Hunting Grounds has also picked up several Best Feature Awards, and they’re certainly deserved.

Hunting Grounds is available to stream and on DVD and Blu-ray from Uncork’d Entertainment.

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