THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Nine: Stomping Ground

(Editor’s note: This review contains major spoilers.)

The 2014 independent Bigfoot film Stomping Ground is more romantic melodrama than Bigfoot creature feature, yet I found myself enjoying the movie more than I expected.

Directed by Dan Riesser, Stomping Ground uses the Boojum legend of Haywood County, North Carolina, as the backdrop for a story about a modern-day couple taking a major step in their relationship. The Boojum, by the way, is a voyeuristic Southern Bigfoot who fell in love with a human woman named Annie.

The couple in Stomping Ground features Ben, a city slicker from Chicago, and Annie, a Southern transplant living in the Windy City. John Bobek portrays the sometimes condescending Ben as a nerdy fish out of water in the rural South. Tarah DeSpain portrays the feisty Annie as a Southern girl with daddy issues related to a childhood incident involving Bigfoot.

While Ben visits Annie’s hometown in the South for a nostalgic Thanksgiving visit, he learns from Annie’s friends that she hunted Bigfoot in her younger days. It’s not long before Ben, who thinks the Bigfoot legend is nonsense, follows Annie and two of her childhood friends into the woods on a Bigfoot hunt.

The two friends include Annie’s former high school boyfriend Paul, who still carries a torch for Annie, and lovable lug Jed, a Bigfoot enthusiast. Jeramy Blackford plays macho jerk Paul to a T, and Justin Giddings is genuinely likable as redneck Jed.

Ben is jealous of Paul’s subtle attempts to win back Annie, while Annie is initially content to ignore the men’s posturing. It’s an interesting enough dynamic that fuels the film’s tension, overshadowing the Bigfoot hunt for most of the movie. Still, the most compelling scenes are the ones where Annie reveals a couple of family secrets to Ben, which explain her belief in Bigfoot and why she moved to Chicago.

Once in the woods, the usual Bigfoot horror tropes start. On the first night of camping, Ben steps to the edge of the camp to relieve himself and has a rock thrown at him from the darkness followed by a menacing grunt. The next day, the hunters find a tree structure and a familiar footprint. It all seems too convenient, making the possibility of Paul pulling a prank to spook Ben plausible. When Bigfoot attacks the cabin where Ben, Annie, Paul, and Jed are hiding, the true natures of the characters are revealed.

The Bigfoot creature is well done, looking quite prehistoric. The film’s banjo-inflected musical score is notable and complements the movie perfectly.

Of course, I’d like to see more Bigfoot than what Stomping Ground briefly shows, but the film is a fun romp through the woods.

NEXT UP: Chapter Ten: Chasing Bigfoot: The Quest for Truth. I review the 2015 documentary series Chasing Bigfoot.

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Eight: Abominable

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(Editor’s note: This review contains major spoilers.)

A heartfelt performance by Matt McCoy as Preston Rogers and a virtuoso soundtrack by Argentinian composer Lalo Schifrin elevate the 2006 film Abominable above the average creature feature.

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McCoy is best known to horror fans as husband Michael Bartel in 1992’s nanny horror-thriller The Hand That Rocks the Cradle and to many others as gum-chewing mental patient Lloyd Braun on Seinfeld. However, his performance as Preston Rogers ranks among the best on the list of lead actors in Bigfoot horror films.

Abominable follows Preston after being paralyzed six months ago in a mountain-climbing accident. As a paraplegic confined to a wheelchair, Preston returns to his cabin in the mountains as part of his rehabilitation in dealing with the tragedy of his last climb.

Preston is accompanied by a creepy male nurse named Otis who leaves his crippled patient alone in the house for hours to drive into town. Left on his own, Preston uses a pair of binoculars to check outside where a group of girls arrives at the cabin next door to celebrate an upcoming marriage.

Preston’s spying fuels the most intense and horrific scenes in the film. Preston hears noises and sees a downed phone line, making the lack of cell phone reception even more isolating. When Preston watches one of the girls walk outside to find cell phone reception, he notices movement in the trees behind her. The girl disappears but her cell phone remains behind on the pavement. One of the eeriest shots in the movie is when Preston uses a flashlight with his binoculars to scan the trees and Bigfoot’s eyes appear for the first time.

The best moments of Abominable show Preston as he watches Bigfoot break into the girls’ cabin and kill them one by one. Hampered by his disability, Preston tries to warn the girls, but the relentless Bigfoot is on a mission of mass murder. It’s an intense sequence.

A scene in the bathroom after one girl showers is particularly brutal. Horror scream queen Tiffany Shepis plays the victim. As well done as that practical special effect was, nothing compares to the Bigfoot face-bite to come later. Kudos to the special effects team.

Only one of the five girls, Amanda, survives Bigfoot’s attack. Haley Joel plays Amanda to perfection as the final girl who flees to Preston’s cabin. The most powerful scene in Abominable is when Preston delivers an inspirational speech to the terrified Amanda where he shares the heartbreaking details of his mountain-climbing accident.

“I’m scared to death right now,” Preston tells Amanda.

“Me too,” Amanda replies.

“That means that we want to live,” Preston says. “I was given a gift that day. And I don’t know why. I mean, it was a miracle that I lived. And I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure that I don’t waste that gift.”

Galvanized by his courage, Amanda starts helping Preston implement his plan to escape the cabin and the rampaging Bigfoot. I especially liked how director Ryan Schifrin incorporated Preston’s use of his mountain-climbing skills to fuel their flight. Of course, their escape is only short-lived, but the final face-off with Bigfoot is intense and satisfying.

Like many horror movies, Abominable features veterans of the genre in small roles. Lance Henriksen (Pumpkinhead, Aliens) makes a brief appearance as a hunter. Henriksen was also in another Bigfoot film I reviewed for The Bigfoot Files, Big Legend. The always solid Dee Wallace (The Howling, Cujo) is a farmer’s wife under attack by Bigfoot in a chilling opening scene.

Other actors of note in Abominable include the late great Paul Gleason as the sheriff. You may remember him as disciplinarian/assistant principal Richard Vernon in 1985’s The Breakfast Club. Phil Morris, who played Kramer’s lawyer Jackie Chiles on Seinfeld for three seasons, is a sheriff’s deputy.

The Bigfoot itself in Abominable is suitably savage enough to deliver the goods and passes the quality test of this Bigfoot enthusiast.

Abominable is a low-budget film that originally aired on SyFy back when it was still called SCI FI Channel. However, thanks to McCoy’s stellar performance, wicked special effects, and superb soundtrack, Abominable stands the test of time as a good old-fashioned Saturday night popcorn fright flick.

NEXT UP | Chapter Nine: Stomping Ground. I review the 2014 horror film Stomping Ground directed by Dan Riesser.