As many of my reviews state I find the whole monster movie genre very hit or miss. Possibly akin to the zombie genre, there is little to no middle ground when it comes to reviewing the quality of such releases, they are either complete gash or, and these are the exception that proves the rule, really really good.
I am very pleased to state that the newly released ‘Stomping Ground’ definitely falls into the latter category, it’s great fun.
The movie is essentially a big foot monster film, but recognising that this particular creature has been covered a lot, writer/director Dan Riesser has invested a lot of time in his characters and script to ensure that when the big man shows up we actually care about his potential victims.
The plot follows a city boy from Chicago, dubbed ‘big city’, and his southern formally from the sticks) girl-friend as they return to her home town. After discovering his new sweetheart was actually a teenage hellion there is one element to her past he is struggling to come to terms with the most – she believes in the Bigfoot myth! Not only that, she actually used to hunt the thing as a child. As you might typically expect the couple begin to hang out and party with old friends until one night one drink leads to the next and boom! Bigfoot hunting camping trip.
Big City, Girlfriend, Girlfriends-ex and a comical tag-on who claims to be a Bigfoot expert all embark on their adventure which takes a turn for the worse when the couple they planned to hook up with turns up mutilated. From then on in the hunt is on, but the tables have turned.
The charm of the plot is that at no point does make either cardinal sin by taking itself too seriously and trying to substantiate the myth of the creature or spoof itself and become a corny mess. The characters shine through, and their interactions are the glue that hold the whole film together. Their personas are nicely one dimensional and this means you can simply sit back, relax and enjoy how each deals with the different events as they transpire. Big city, for example absolutely refuses to believe in Bigfoot and comes out with some classic lines as the opposing character type reels off a load of shit to the group about some research which unequivocally proves the opposite. The love interest does enough to keep the recent and ex constantly standing off with one another which keeps the whole movie grounded in relative emotional reality. Cleverly the humour is mixed in with the groups banter – reference is made to the genre and character stereotypes, all the whilst ‘hat tipping’ a number of films which clearly inspired either the plot or character type so of this – the several references to ‘deliverance’ being amongst my favourites.
The ‘less is more’ monster approach will make or break the movie for some people, but for me it made it. The monster makes only subtle appearances for much of the first two acts, leaving it to make maximum impact in the third. Early on certain scenes actually lend a degree of ambiguity as to whether or not the ‘monster’ is even real. As you might expect plenty of the usual techniques are deployed to keep the monsters visual element hidden until right at the end – scenes filmed through the creatures eyes, flashes of movement in out of focus shots; all the usual. That’s not to say however we are robbed of any sort of satisfaction, once it all kicks off towards the end we get to see the Bigfoot in all his hairy glory. To the films credit he does actually look nicely feral, and for once you can’t see the joins in his outfit! As an add-on here the sound effects are nicely disturbing, with a couple of decent jump scares benefiting from them.
Overall ‘Stomping Ground’ is in no way an innovative entry into the genre, just an excellent example of how to make a great monster movie. It is thoroughly entertaining; funny with some great creature attack scenes. If you are in the mood this dull march for some creature feature action this will do you proud. Two big hairy thumbs up from me.