There’s an abundance of Bigfoot films out there, but very few of them manage to work especially well. For some reason, the massive mythological creature rarely makes for an engaging cinematic subject. Dan Riesser’s Stomping Ground features one of the most unique approaches to Sasquatch cinema we’ve ever seen, and ends up working brilliantly as a result.
An all-too-relatable tale of young love masquerading as a backwoods monster movie, Stomping Ground finds Chicago native Ben (John Bobek) and his girlfriend, Annie (Tarah Despain), traveling to her hometown in North Carolina for a weekend getaway. Shortly after their arrival, they run into many of Annie’s old friends, including Paul (Jeramy Blackford) and Jed (Justin Giddings), who suggest that the four go hunting for the infamous Boojum—North Carolina’s version of Bigfoot.
Reluctant, but wanting to impress Annie, Ben steps out of his comfort zone and heads out on the excursion. It isn’t long after that Paul’s true intentions of wanting to steal Annie away from Ben are revealed, leaving the four twentysomethings at odds while deep in the woods. But when their skeptical beliefs that the Boojum is real are confirmed, they’re forced to band together—if only momentarily.
Decidedly North Carolina-y, Stomping Ground is filled with fun references to the Tarheel State and the American South in general. Bojangles, Highland Brewing Company, Cheerwine, moonshine, cornhole, and an unironic bluegrass soundtrack are ever-present here, much to the delight of genre fans who happen to be proud hillbillies. Fish out of water elements are charming and occasionally sweet as Ben learns to appreciate certain aspects of southern living, despite his initial reluctance. While it isn’t completely bereft of white trash caricatures, Stomping Ground provides one of the most accurate representations of southern life in genre cinema.
Performances are notably human, with the cast of relative unknowns doing a damn fine job of bringing the characters to life. Bobek and Despain share an interesting chemistry that grows stronger as the film progresses, and their occasional lovers’ quarrels feel genuine to the point where the stability of their relationship seems in jeopardy. There’s as much suspense regarding whether or not the couple will stick together as there is regarding whether or not they’ll survive an interaction with Boojum.
As a result, Stomping Ground is far from your typical creature feature. While the horrific monster does make an appearance in the film, it’s definitely not his story. Instead, this is a smart, sweet tale of true love that just so happens to be set in the deadly backwoods of North Carolina; and it’s one of the most enjoyable indies of the year thus far.
Stomping Ground arrives on DVD and VOD March 8th.