The October People are on a roll. Taking genre subjects and injecting them into well written and acted dramas, films like Jeremy Berg’s THE INVOKING and THE DEVICE have done a great job giving viewers an old school, slow-burn approach to storytelling, all while being completely engrossing while doing so. Now switching roles a bit, The October People’s John Portanova, who co-wrote the two previously mentioned films, is hitting viewers with his directorial feature debut, VALLEY OF THE SASQUATCH, a film that takes the subject of bigfoot, and gives its viewers an fun time, while also giving a really heartfelt story at the core.
Telling the story of a father and son having to relocate to an old cabin, due to being poverty-striken, VALLEY OF THE SASQUATCH does a fine job of allowing us to get to know the film’s characters in depth, with the father/son dynamic being on shaky ground, due to the father’s carelessness towards his son, and the boy’s desire to make something more of himself. Portanova has a real knack for character development, and it really shows in this one, we feel for Michael (Miles Joris-Peyrafitte), a boy who wants to be close to his father Roger (Jason Vail, GUT, CROW HAND!!!), a man who hasn’t been able to recover following the loss of his wife. Though neglectful of his son and his wishes, as an audience, we feel for Roger, the man is just wounded and losing his battle with picking up the pieces.
When Roger invites his friend Sergio (David Saucedo, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE MARKED ONES) and former brother-in-law Will (D’Angelo Midili, THE INVOKING) up to the cabin for the weekend, it seems like a fun time, but when the gang is put in the way of a creature inhabiting the forest, the film not only shifts a bit to a creature feature, but also kicks up the drama quite a bit (in a good way). Instead of choosing to just focus on the Sasquatch and our protagonists’ fight against it (or them), Portanova opts for also showing how people can turn on each other when put into tense and dangerous situations. It’s a touch that really makes the film stand out from typical genre fare. There’s a kinship between Michael and uncle Will, and it’s obvious that Will realizes Michael’s hurting, not only from the neglect of his father, but also because of the loss of his mother. While Roger can’t seem to break the cycle of focusing on himself, Will sees a need in Michael, and does everything he can to help the kid.
It’s a film driven by characters, and good ones at that. It’s impossible to hate Roger, because we’ve all been there at one point, hurting from something happening in our lives, and failing to see what’s in front of us. It’s a film about a father’s journey to move past a difficult time in his life and when placed in danger, making sure his son is not only ok, but taken care of.
The lack of CGI in VALLEY OF THE SASQUATCH makes it even more enjoyable, it’s become quite frustrating to see poorly rendered creatures in horror films these days, but the decision to have an actor play the Bigfoot beast is a good one, adding to what feels like an authenticity to the film, making it even more entertaining. Combined with standout performances by Joris-Peyrafitte and Midili, the film’s writing, directing and approach just works perfectly, giving genre fans (and even non genre fans) a hell of a movie, one that definitely stands out, proudly.