- Ghosts of Empire Prairie (2013) Review

Title: Valley of the Sasquatch

Also known as:

Year: 2015

Genre: Independent / Horror / Thriller

Language: English

Runtime: 92 min

Director: John Portanova

Writer: John Portanova


A son and his father move out to a cabin in the woods a few weeks after the death of his mother. The two are struggling to keep their relationship, and theirselves, strong but are hoping to cope better when they get away from everything. The mother's brother, and a friend of the father, come to visit too - which only leads to more disturbance among the relationships. But worse than all, there is a tribe consisting of something big, hairy and angry out in the woods.

Our thoughts:
Sasquatch, bigfoot, yowie and whatever other name there is for it, had its time a few decades ago, with one of the most memorable B-movies being "The Legend of Boggy Creek" and a few others to follow. There has always been an interest in cryptozoology in horror, and I guess the poster boy of cryptozoology might be bigfoot. Why? I'm not sure, maybe it is simply that he is the most plausible, as he is very human and ape-like. That and the fact that many people claim to have seen one. More recently, there has been a raised interest in bigfoot in horror movies, from smaller titles like "Lost Woods" and the Australian Yowie indie "Throwback", to the "The Blair Witch Project" director's "Exists" and my personal favorite of the bunch, "Willow Creek". The main issue with bigfoot movies is that they are largely the same. Some titles are so alike that you'd be surprised that you aren't watching the same movie again. There is no innovation at all, and I don't really understand why when they actually could go as off-track as they want. The two that have stood out are probably "Throwback", which put heavy focus on its characters, and "Willow Creek" which was a more creepy, slower horror where audio played a big part.

"Valley of the Sasquatch" is written and directed by John Portanova, who is more known as a writer and producer from titles like "The Invoking" and "The Device". "Valley of the Sasquatch" is actually his debut feature, so I was very curious how it'd measure up to the other two in quality. They are both movies that I might not have loved, but which were of higher standards than the majority of indie horror we get. Luckily, his bigfoot debut feature is of similar production standard.

The movie takes a father and son, both destroyed after the death of the mother of the family, and puts them in a remote cabin in the woods. They've moved there to hopefully get a peace of mind to get a grip of their shattered relationship. The father has tried to put away the alcohol, but when his friend comes to visit he remembers why he even had a drinking problem to begin with - there is no better "help" to get away from reality. Along with the father's friend, they also get a visit from the mother's brother, a guy who the son looks up to and has a good connection with. But between the four, there is some bad chemistry brewing. Soon they are torn between their personal problems and the struggle to survive against whatever is outside in the woods, just waiting to tear them to pieces. They have to stand up against a furious tribe of monsters - sasquatches. "Sasquatches" is the plural of a sasquatch, right? Because there are more than one, which we learn early on in what is probably the most effective scene of the movie.

Along with "Throwback", this is a movie where the characters take up a large part and are important due to having strong personalities. Unfortunately I have a lot of issues with the characters. The friend, Sergio, is just a giant asshole - intentionally - and mostly feel like the clichéed "bad guy" that seems to be in every monster movie. Most of the time I was just annoyed at him, because he was constantly being a bastard, so much that you wonder why the father was his friend. Then we have the son, who isn't all that bad, except that he seems to be quite useless in the situation. The father and the uncle are both alright characters and well-acted, and I think they help drive a lot of the movie even though the main focus is on the son. Then we have the characters we were actually there to watch - the hairy beasts. They're actually quite well done and believable enough even though you can tell that they are suits. Smaller details like them having convincing looking feet help sell the costume, and as a picky bastard I was perfectly content with their look.

There are some violent/action-oriented scenes in the movie, and while they have decent enough effects, the problem is largely in how the scenes are edited and photographed. There is just something that feels over-dramatic about them, without actually having a sense of urgency. Like if a character is caught by a sasquatch, then you can obviously see that the character is acting scared, but you don't feel it. It could be that it always shot the scenes in a wider, steady angle, which made it look more like a color corrected behind the scenes shot. I'm not here to tell you how it should have been done, but there was something missing in the shots. I didn't feel any tension.

Overall, "Valley of the Sasquatch" is an alright horror movie. It has character drama, a decent monster and some mostly solid effects. There are some issues that keep it from being great, like the annoying characters and the lack of tension in the "horror" scenes. But if you are looking for more sasquatch horror movies then you won't be bothered by adding this to the queue. It's entertaining enough for a watch. Personally I was mostly interested in seeing John Portanova's directorial debut feature, and I hope to see more from his as a director.

Positive things:
- Character-driven.
- Solid sasquatch effects.
- Pretty well produced.
- Bill Oberst Jr. in a smaller role!

Negative things:
- Some annoying character traits.
- The lack of tension.
- Doesn't innovate on the sasquatch/bigfoot genre.

Gore: 2/5
Nudity: 0/5
Story: 2.5/5
Effects: 3/5
Comedy: 0.5/5

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