Sometimes love makes you do crazy things. It can take you outside of your comfort zone and make you do things you wouldn’t normally do – like go on a hunt for Bigfoot.
That’s the general premise of director Dan Riesser’s newest project, Stomping Ground.
Oddly enough, Riesser chose his home state of North Carolina for setting of the film. You know we’re dealing with a country setting when you have to give someone film credit for the banjo arrangements and it only takes a few minutes to here your first Bojangles reference.
Our storyline follows Ben (John Bobek) and his girlfriend Annie (Tarah DeSpain), a couple from Chicago who have traveled back to Annie’s hometown for the Thanksgiving holiday.
What’s great about this film is the genuine feel that you get for the south. You get a sense of this early when Annie’s mom is proudly serving up a pie for dessert before refusing to let anyone near the dishes in the kitchen sink when the time comes. If you’ve ever lived south of the Mason Dixon line, you’ve experienced this first hand. It’s a smaller detail in the grand scheme of things, but it really lends a hand to the genuine feel that really encompasses the whole film.
As our couple sets out for a night of fun following dinner, they run into some of Annie’s old high school pals. This is where we first meet Paul (Jeramy Blackford), who you instantaneously recognize to be an old flame of Annie’s, even if nobody wants to admit it right away. As Annie and Paul fly down memory lane, we find out that the pair were once into cryptozoology (yeah, you read that right), which involves searching for a species or creature that has yet to be scientifically identified.
After a nightcap that involves a few more drinks and some infamous White Lightning for our main man Ben, it is decided that the trio, along with another old pal Jed (Justin Giddings), will set off to the woods the next day in hopes of finding the elusive Sasquatch, whom they refer to as “Boojum”. Now, Ben’s your sterotypical city boy. He’s never been hunting and never shot a gun. He’s a self-proclaimed ‘indoor kid’ who spends his days working as a social media analyst. A camping trip in the woods, to this guy, sounds about as fun as an enema. But, Ben has something to prove to Annie. He wants their relationship to progress to the next level, thus this presents an opportunity to show he can hold his own and make some progress in his quest.
So, off we go into the backwoods of good ole North Carolina.
It’s at this juncture that the film could have been taken in a couple of different directions. While the hunt for Boojum is never abandoned from the plot, the main focal point of our story surrounds Ben and his personal insecurities. Paul’s true intentions start to take shape as he begins making moves to try and win Annie’s heart back, going as far as to tell his plans directly to Ben’s face in a moment of solitude that the two share. The wholesome vibe of our group quickly turns sour as Ben starts realizing he doesn’t know as much about Annie as he thought he did. The realization that perhaps Annie could get away from him start to take over. With self-doubt creeping in, our humorous comedy of a movie starts heading down a darker road that is fueled with jealousy and one-upmanship . For his part, Paul is the centerpiece of the drama as he conveniently flexes his alpha-male persona along the way.
Our friend Boojum does make an appearance in the latter stages of the film, but in keeping with general comedic tone, you can’t take the beast too seriously when you do see him. Riesser definitely embraces the low budget he was playing around with in creating this ghastly creature. But, if you pay attention, there’s some connections between the elusive creature and the developing storyline of the film.
Overall, Stomping Ground does a great job of captivating its audience with the relationship dynamic of the film. If you’re looking for Bigfoot’s brutal emergence into the horror scope, you’re going to be disappointed. But, if you take the film for what it is, and allow the storyline to mold your opinion versus any expectations you had going in, you’re in for a real treat.
Although the cast is generally unknown, the performances of our four main characters set a high bar and they each do a great job of capturing the essence of their respective characters. It can be difficult to have four characters with stark differences in their personalities come together and gel on the big screen, but Riesser really does a fantastic job doing just that. The writing in Stomping Ground is strong, and the camera-work is phenomenal considering how much time is spent trucking through some rough terrain.
Stomping Ground will be released on DVD and VOD starting March 8th.
Stomping Ground [Review]
A Fresh Take
Stomping Ground gives us a unique twist to the often drawn out storyline of Bigfoot. While the Sasquatch is a focal point of the plot, the focus on relationships and overall comedic relief make this film truly original.