November 13, 2014

Bigfoot Stomps Into North Carolina

John Bobek (from left), Tarah Despain, Jeremy Blackford and Justin Giddings star in “Stomping Ground.” Photo courtesy of Dan Riesser

Los Angeles-based filmmaker Dan Riesser has a bone to pick with the so-called “Hicksploitation” horror genre.

Riesser, a native of Greensboro, is an Emmy-nominated TV producer for E! network show “The Soup.” He returned to North Carolina to put a new spin on Southern horror with his debut feature, “Stomping Ground,” a genre-melding Bigfoot epic shot in the beautiful Uwharrie Mountains of North Carolina. “Stomping Ground” will receive its North Carolina premiere when it screens at Jengo’s Playhouse for the Cucalorus Film Festival on Saturday.

“While it does meander into Southern horror territory,” Riesser wrote in an email, “I like to think (‘Stomping Ground’) showcases the South with honesty and respect. I tried to make the characters feel real rather than bank on Southern stereotypes.”

The 80-minute film centers on Ben (John Bobek) and Annie (Tarah Despain), a young couple living in Chicago who take a Thanksgiving vacation to Annie’s hometown in the North Carolina mountains. On his trip, Ben, a Chicagoan for whom the South is completely foreign, learns quite a lot about his Southern girlfriend and her past, including that she and her high school friend Jed (Justin Giddings) and ex-boyfriend Paul (Jeremy Blackford) are avid Bigfoot believers. Reluctantly, Ben joins Annie and her friends on a backwoods Bigfoot hunt, where things get a little hairy for all involved.

Initially, Riesser didn’t set out to make a Sasquatch film. Bigfoot entered the picture only after Riesser stumbled upon the well- established Bigfoot lore in the Uwharrie Mountains.

“On my first location scout down in the Uwharries,” Riesser said, “the folks that took us around to show us locations told us a few great stories of sightings and encounters in the area. … It became pretty clear that I should shoot the movie there, and that it was going to be a Bigfoot film.”

Bigfoot aside, everything about “Stomping Ground” screams North Carolina, from the serene opening shots of the autumnal Uwharrie forest to the food and beer the characters eat and drink.

“I hope there’s a distinct ‘North Carolinian’ flavor to the film,” Riesser said. “If nothing else, there’s at least a solid Bojangles reference.”

“Stomping Ground” moves slowly at first as it shines a light on the Southern-fried, Bo-Berry-Biscuit charm of Riesser’s home state. Eventually, however, what begins as a romantic comedy rapidly switches into a full-on creature feature that skirts the edge of scary and campy.

What: “Stomping Ground” at the Cucalorus Film Festival
When: 10:15 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 15
Where: Jengo’s Playhouse, 815 Princess St., downtown Wilmington, NC


See also:

World Premiere of Bigfoot Feature Film “Stomping Ground”
You Can Help Finish “Stomping Ground,” A Bigfoot Movie
Bigfoot Stomping Around The Woods Again


About Craig Woolheater
Co-founder of Cryptomundo in 2005. I have appeared in or contributed to the following TV programs, documentaries and films: OLN's Mysterious Encounters: "Caddo Critter", Southern Fried Bigfoot, Travel Channel's Weird Travels: "Bigfoot", History Channel's MonsterQuest: "Swamp Stalker", The Wild Man of the Navidad, Destination America's Monsters and Mysteries in America: Texas Terror - Lake Worth Monster, Animal Planet's Finding Bigfoot: Return to Boggy Creek and Beast of the Bayou.

Filed under Bigfoot, Bigfoot Report, Cinema News, Cryptid Cinema, Cryptozoology, Movie Monsters, Pop Culture, Sasquatch, Videos