Not to be confused with the 2015 expose on college campus rape crimes, Hunting Grounds is a killer sasquatch movie; a horror sub genre I never thought would be so weirdly popular outside of the 1980’s. Writer/Director John Portanova takes his time setting the stage, introducing us to a father and teenage son who are recently homeless and slipping through the cracks of society. The father, Roger (Jason Vail), is floating and aimless, and it doesn’t take long to realize the only reason he’s anchored in any sense is due to his responsibility to his son, Michael (a stoic and natural Miles Joris-Peyrafitte). Roger and Michael find themselves at a family cabin for a hunting trip with Roger’s brother Will and their old friend Sergio.
Though the hunting trip is Roger’s cover story and possibly his main motivation, it’s clear he has no other options. There are hints that Sergio and Will might offer a helping hand, but this is sidelined when our focus switches to the ethics of hunting. Michael has trouble shooting a deer, much to the disgust of his father and Sergio.
You might have noticed that it’s taking awhile to get to the promised Bigfeet. Indeed, save for an opening sequence starring a hapless hunter (Bill Oberst, Jr) getting stalked by hairy giants, there are only hints of something amiss. Otherwise, this film is strictly a quiet family drama along of the lines of Winter’s Bone. Still, once the bigfoot characters are introduced, the family dynamic the tribe of Sasquatches have in common with their human counterparts become clear, and it’s an interesting contrast.
Watching the film, I couldn’t help but think the Portanova had a genuine story to tell about rural poverty, but felt compelled to sandwich in Bigfoot in order to try to turn a profit. In the world of micro budget filmmaking, I can hardly fault him for this. The performances are solid (particularly from Miles Joris-Peyrafitte and the ever dependable character actor Bill Oberst Jr), the effects serviceable, and the portrayal of Sasquatches is surprisingly multifaceted. Still, in trying to splice drama with creature hijinks, I can’t help but think folks craving an understated indie family drama will be just as disappointed as the ones wanting a fun monster romp. However, if you go into this one with an open mind, you’ll might be find Hunting Grounds a refreshing surprise in the world of ultra low budget filmmaking.
Craig is a co host of the Half Assed Horrorcast. His writing about horror has appeared on Bloody Good Horror, Fanboy Report and other places. Find him on twitter @4colorcraig.