A father and son move out to cabin in the woods after a recent tragedy. As a way to help soften the drastic change, the father invites his friend and former brother-in-law out for a hunting trip but they end up uncovering a tribe of Sasquatch.
NOTE: Due to Ronny and I living on different continents and working with different distributors/filmmakers, there tends to be an overlap when it comes to covering DTV horror titles. Especially if there is a change in titles. “Hunting Grounds” or, “Valley of the Sasquatch”, happened to be one of those overlapping movies but went unnoticed until this review had been posted. Instead of taking it down, we decided to keep both, because why the fuck not? You can read Ronny’s review HERE for his take on the movie.
Anyhow, back to the review...
“Hunting Grounds” proved to be an interesting viewing experience. In the span of 92-minutes, there were only four times when the movie did something that I remotely gave a shit about. What’s really amazing is that, not only can I pinpoint the exact time when each of these moments happened, but I can recount in detail what my reactions were:
1:23 - “Hey, Bill Oberst, Jr.!”
5:20 - “No! Don’t leave us so soon, Bill!”
1:00:2 - “Yay! Bill’s back!”
1:13:36 - “No! Don’t do that to Bill! Fuck you, movie!”
Everything that happened before, after and in-between was meaningless.
It may sound like I’m just being an asshole, which I am, but “Hunting Grounds” ranks up there as being one of the most uneventful and uninteresting movies I have received a screener for within the last year. It’s so boring that I actually feel sorry for anyone who rents or buys this movie based on the fact that it’s a monster movie with Bigfoot.
And while Bigfoot-based horror movies don’t have a track record for being the greatest — or even good, for that matter — “Hunting Grounds” proved to be a stellar example of how not to structure, write, or pace a monster movie.
The greatest offense that “Hunting Grounds” commits is that it wastes an extraordinary amount of time on its characters and the “drama” that exists between them. First you have a father and son who are forced to live in a hunting cabin because they’re poor — which, apparently, is due to the death of the wife/mother. Then you have the father’s best friend (the atypical asshole character) and the brother-in-law (the atypical good-guy who looks after the neglected son) who come to say at the cabin for the weekend.
It’s not wrong that “Hunting Grounds” is trying to create a story with the characters but for as simplistic as the movie is, the excessive amount of time that’s spent on them is pointless. Why? Because nothing is developed or resolved over the course of the runtime. No aspect of anything that’s established in beginning of the film carries over till the end. You have 45-minutes of a shallow narrative and empty dialogue but when the first Bigfoot encounter happens, the movie comes to a stop, then starts again but has now (finally) turned into a horror movie. Everything that happens before serves no purpose to anything that comes after.
That means either the story is there just to pad the runtime and save the budget from being spent on effects, or it’s incredibly poor writing because it doesn’t actually do anything with the characters. Perhaps the movie is attempting to make the audience care but these are basic characters with zero depth. Yet you’re forced to endure their trite dialogue knowing full well that they are solely horror movie fodder.
What makes it especially frustrating is that you don’t need to have story or characters — streamline the goddamn thing and just have hunters out in the woods that run into Bigfoot. That’s it. That’s all you need, but “Hunting Grounds” is trying to do more (at least it appears to be) or at least make something out of this story about a struggling father and son who have to survive a Bigfoot attack.
You can certainly have a character-story set amongst a monster movie. The much superior “Stomping Ground” was able to do it. And not only did Dan Riesser create meaningful characters but he actually managed to connect the monster element to the characters and weave them together to create a seamless story. How? Well, Riesser tied Bigfoot into the history/stories for each of his characters, thus giving them motivation to be out in the woods which then creates a reason as to why they would be forced to face the mythical beast. Through that, the film uses its characters, who are trying to find Bigfoot, to explore the troubles that exists between each character. It all comes down to cause-and-affect: with the story you can connect each plot point and how it motivates the next.
In “Hunting Grounds”, the characters involvement and being attacked by Bigfoot is strictly coincidental. You would have the exact same movie if you swapped out Bigfoot for any other creature. The only thing that could have saved “Hunting Grounds” is had it accepted its fate as being nothing more than a monster movie and given us, the audience, scene after scene of Bigfoot mayhem. And there were times when it did that; like someone getting their arms ripped off or somebody getting curb-stomped by the monster. It comes too late though. By the time the movie decides to do anything that’s remotely interesting, the audience has already checked out or shut off the movie.
God knows I thought, “this isn’t worth reviewing” more than once.
“Hunting Grounds” is another movie where it simply doesn’t know what to do with the concept that it has. Actually, the movie doesn’t know what it’s doing at all since every single night scene is so goddamn dark that you cannot see anything, but I digress. “Hunting Grounds” is genuinely a waste of time. You are forced to watch superficial characters interact with one another for an excessive amount of time only to have monsters thrown in at the end to try and justify the film’s existence.