Starring: Jason Vail, Miles Joris-Peyrafitte, David Saucedo, D’Angelo Midili and Bill Oberst Jr.
Director: John Portanova
Writer: John Portanova
Running time: 92 minutes
Rated: None (contains adult language, graphic violence)
Reviewed by Michael Juvinall – Horror Patch
(Hunting Grounds was originally reviewed under the film’s previous title “Valley Of The Sasquatch” in 2015.)
*Hunting Grounds is now available on DVD, VOD, and Digital HD*
As a kid growing up in the 1970’s I was fascinated with the Bigfoot legend. Bigfoot was huge in the 70’s and the legend of the creature was really coming into its own in the mainstream media thanks to the legendary Patterson-Gimlin film in 1967 and a rash of Bigfoot sightings during the decade. For me, the Bigfoot craze began while watching the television show In Search Of in 1976, hosted by Leonard Nimoy. The Bigfoot episode of that show not only opened the flood gates in terms of Bigfoot hysteria for me, but for millions of Americans during that time. Ever since then I’ve been a self-described Bigfoot enthusiast and have devoured any and everything devoted to the so-called mythical creature imaginable, which brings me to my review of the creature feature Hunting Grounds from first-time feature director John Portanova.
Portanova seems to be a kindred spirit in terms of his affection for this creature. Not only has he delivered a highly effective creature feature but he portrays Bigfoot using details culled from real-life sighting accounts which really grounds the film firmly in the realm of possibility.
Roger Crew (Jason Vail) and his estranged son Michael (Miles Joris-Peyrafitte) are down on their luck and have just lost their house following the tragic death of their wife and mother. The two are forced to move into a rundown family cabin in the forest of Washington State while they put the pieces of their fractured lives back together again. Roger is out of work and more willing to drink beer than look for a job. Shortly after moving into the cabin, two friends arrive for a weekend of drinking and hunting, much to Michael’s chagrin.
Michael reluctantly treks into the woods with his dad, his father’s prick friend Sergio (David Saucedo) and their uncle Will (D’Angelo Midili) to do some hunting. Their weekend quickly turns deadly as the group run into a family of Sasquatch trying to protect their land from loggers and intruders. They are chased back to their cabin and run across fortune hunter and previous attack victim Bauman (Bill Oberst Jr.). Back at the cabin, the group must not only survive a relentless siege from the Sasquatch but betrayal from within as well.
Director Portanova makes wonderful use of the picturesque Washington locations. Much of the film was shot in and around Roslyn, Washington which was one of the locations used for the 90’s television show Northern Exposure. The film is shot beautifully and daytime shots look pristine, while night shots are lit well and look great.
The film features an exceptional cast and is toplined by Jason Vail and Bill Oberst Jr. who last shared the screen together in 2012’s Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies. Vail is wonderful as a misguided father who eventually realizes the error of his ways. Miles Joris-Peyrafitte also turns in a great performance as the fearful son trying to put his life back together who is forced into this unimaginable nightmare. Supporting cast members David Saucedo and D’Angelo Midili have believable performances and do a great job. Finally, there is the amazing Bill Oberst Jr. who rounds out the cast with his usual terrific performance while adding an immeasurable amount of realism to his part.
An integral part of the film is the Bigfoot creature effects brought to life by Doug Hudson and his talented family of crew. The film utilizes mostly practical makeup effects and the creature suits created are outstanding. The Bigfoot creatures in the film are some of the best I’ve seen in the recent Squatchploitation sub-genre explosion of the last decade or so. They are really well done. There is some decent blood and gore gags in the film and what you do see is very appropriate for the story. Those looking for excessive gore will not find it here and rightfully so.
The positives for the film far outweigh the negative. In fact, the only thing I can say that’s negative about the film is for me, I would’ve liked to see the creatures a little less throughout the movie. I prefer a little more mystery to the monsters which I feel adds more suspense and they’re on full display here. I can’t even say it’s a negative comment just my preference. The creatures portrayed in the film are not the usual man-eating, killing machines normally portrayed in past films of this type. They are creatures who do what they have to do to protect their surroundings from the encroachment of man.
Hunting Grounds is a riveting, top-notch creature feature that hits the bullseye in nearly every category. The story is extremely competent and gets extra marks for being grounded in reality. I love that Portanova catered to not only those who enjoy a good creature feature but also to the Bigfoot crowd with many of the scenes in the film being based on actual Bigfoot sighting accounts. Hunting Grounds has risen through the ranks to emerge victorious as the best this sub-genre has to offer. The film is available on Februrary 7, 2017 via DVD, VOD, Digital HD, so if you get a chance to see this film, don’t pass it up!
4 ½ out of 5 Pentagrams!
Watch the trailer here: