Welcome witches and warlocks,
Today I will be reviewing the bigfoot themed horror feature HUNTING GROUND by writer/director John Portanova. To best describe the story, I will turn to the IMDB plot summary:
A father, his son and two old friends arrive at an isolated family cabin for a weekend of hunting. A trip deep into the forest looking for wild game uncovers a tribe of Sasquatch that are determined to protect their land.
The still night air is cut through by a bellow from somewhere off in the distance that sounds as if a bear is in pain. While this could be the work of hunters, it should be noted that this area is not a natural habitat for bears. The sound comes closer and soon enough it seems to surround the campsite. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a blur move between the trees, but when I turn to look the sound comes from directly behind me. Something big has us surrounded and, worse, there is more than one creature lurking.
Before I dive into the actual review, I do feel it necessary to say that this feature's opening scene heavily involves Bill Oberst Jr. As most horror fans will know, when a well-known face like his is involved in your opener, that person is either going to die or have a larger role later in the film. While I will not give away which of the two options they chose to use, I will say that they do follow this unwritten rule and this leaves the heavy lifting to the rest of the case.
The fact is, the relatively unknown cast does a pretty good job of portraying their characters. Now that is not to say that all of the characters are well written, one is completely predictable, but the performances here are relatively on point. Given that the father and son duo are grappling with the loss of their wife/mother respectively, it gives a bit more heft to their relationship since the acting is good.
Their sense of loss is well displayed early on in this film as we watch the son and father each handle their loss in different ways. While this may be a common plot device, it works for this movie since they are able to tie it into the horror aspect. Given the clever way they tie the idea of death to the sasquatch attacks, it gives us a well-round story that never feels as if it is exploiting loss to gain the sympathy of the audience.
It seems as if sasquatch are once again coming back into style in the horror world and I could not be happier. There is something about this legend that has always fascinated me, so seeing more people adding their own spin to the mythology has been incredibly entertaining. While the legend may not receive much of the attention in this picture, there are still some interesting hints towards the personalities of the sasquatch. This becomes especially apparent in the finale when the leads are able to effectively use what they have learned about this tribe of bigfoot in their attempt to escape their wrath.
One issue I did take is that there is one scene in particular where movie logic overshadows the action. It is during this moment where we see the supposedly strong sasquatch overpowered by two people holding a flimsy wooden door. While this may seem feasible, there is a scene around the same time where we watch one of the bigfeet push over a small tree in the woods in anger. This is definitely a small quibble, and does not ruin the movie by any stretch, but I do feel it is worth noting as it stands out as a, "Why did they leave that in?" moment.
All in all, this is an interesting entry into the sasquatch lore that does justice to the themes of loss and learning to move on. The material ends up having a good amount of weight thanks to some solid performances. Fans of Willow Creek (2013) and the more traditional cabin in the woods type of movies should definitely give this a shot.
The Creeping Craig