Creature From Black Lake (1976)

“Like Boggy Creek without any of the documentary nonsense”. One would assume that’s how this 1976 drive-in monster movie was sold to its backers, as 1972’s “The Legend of Boggy Creek” had made a decent profit (and would go on to spawn many sequels, as previous reviews have shown); and there’s nothing producers fear more than originality.

They even reference the southern Arkansas setting of the more famous forebear, as a couple of Chicago university get some funding from their Professor (who’s one of those “science was wrong once, so why can’t it be wrong again?” idiots that litter movies like this, and is played by the director) and drive down south to see if they can’t rustle themselves up a Bigfoot sighting in rural Louisiana – in “extremely odd coincidence” news, that place, Bossier City, is the same location a lot of Andy Sidaris’ movies were shot in…and “Olympus Has Fallen”, at least partly. Who’d have thought that little sleepy backwater we see here would become a hub of movie activity?

Anyway, the plot. Two fish-out-of-water guys, and a town who wants nothing to do with city folk disturbing their miserable status quo. Hey, that was quicker than I expected! I guess there’s one local who believes them, and that is Jack Elam, who you’ll recognise from his all-time great performance as the Doctor Nickolas Van Helsing from the “Cannonball Run” movies. There’s a couple of local ladies who are a surprisingly modern-feeling love interest, a Sheriff who’s a decent guy really, and a few other bits of the local colour that are so beloved of things set in the South. They go camping, and…

I don’t mind a bit of waiting for my monster to turn up, but this is about the Beast like “Waiting For Godot” is about Godot. It’s on screen for about 4 minutes, maybe, and it’s a shame because, terrible costume aside, it’s actually a pretty scary creature, with a good scream and a good line in tearing people and personal possessions up. We don’t really get a good look at it until…75 minutes? Something like that. Anyway.

This is definitely of its era, in terms of pacing too. I feel like maybe when movies are created for drive-ins, the directors know to have something exciting at the beginning and end, and never mind the middle, as that’s when drive-in patrons are busy having sex in the back seat. Or is this just me trying to fit the evidence to my very patchy knowledge? Lots of these movies have really really boring middle sections, and I have zero first-hand knowledge of what drive-ins were really like. But if you’ve seen stuff like “A Touch Of Satan”, or indeed the first Boggy Creek movie, or one of hundreds of slow, largely uneventful 70s horror / thrillers, you begin to wonder just why they’re all like that.

But it’s not all boring. For example, the two main characters have some nuance to them, and have some interesting conversations- for example, about one of them being a Vietnam vet and the other being a Canada-based conscientious objector. But they’re friends, have a totally believable friendship, and get through it, which is different and shows some ambition from writer Jim McCullough (who also wrote “Mountaintop Motel Massacre”, which will be a future ISCFC review). Director Joy N Houck Jr was a drive-in “auteur”, also making “Night Of Bloody Horror” and “Women And Bloody Terror”.

So, it’s kind of interesting, with its washed-out 16mm 1970s aesthetic, even if it’s sort of dull and nowhere near enough stuff happens. It’s on Youtube for nothing, though, so if you’re drunk and have run out of all your other blu-rays and DVDs, you could do a lot worse.

Rating: thumbs in the middle

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Bigfoot Wars (2014)

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Is “bestselling” one of those words, like “natural”, or “inspired by a true story”, that can be used without any regard for the actual meaning? Because I was surprised to find out that the series of novels that this film is based on is bestselling, when I’d lay good money on the fact that Eric Brown’s Bigfoot-themed adventures have topped no sales charts, anywhere (with the possible exception of “self-published fake creature novellas, to members of the Brown family”, and even then only just).

If you’re not buying my from-the-off negativity, it seems that the stars of the film feel the same way I do. C Thomas Howell tweeted at his fans not to buy this movie, due to unspecified “post-production problems”, and one of his co-stars sent a message to her friend praying that she was cut out of the finished film, so bad was it. But it’s probably not that rubbish, is it?

Oh, god, we’re in Boggy Creek! ISCFC readers may remember our coverage of “The Legend of Boggy Creek” and “Boggy Creek”, plus MST3K did “Boggy Creek:…and the Legend Continues”. Despite the original films not being set in Boggy Creek – no town of that name exists, as far as I can tell, and the first two films are set around Fouke, Arkansas – there’s been a virtual torrent of rural Bigfoot movies released since the death of original director / producer Charles Pierce in 2010, and they’re all set in Boggy Creek, because imagination is the endangered species in this decade.

After starting with the introduction and killing of 6 of the biggest douchebags you’re ever likely to see (well, one of them survives), I thought there was half a chance this film would turn out okay. But it gets bad quickly. The Sheriff, despite this being a giant monster in the woods thriller, has a voiceover which feels lifted straight from a film noir, with the strong suspicion it was put in to fill in the holes in filming. The eagle-eyed among you may wonder why he’s not wearing a proper sheriff’s hat, too.

Top billed C Thomas Howell as crazy (but ultimately decent) redneck Zeke doesn’t show up til over halfway into the 75 minute movie, and Judd Nelson, as the drug addicted doctor who suspects bigfoot attacks, is barely in the movie at all. There’s a local news anchor who becomes an investigative journalist, and admittedly I don’t watch a ton of TV news but do those people exist any more? Aren’t all the TV stations owned by corporations who don’t want to upset other corporations? Oh, and there’s a bigfoot attack at a local drive-in cinema that barely anyone seems to notice. Perhaps ten feet tall monsters are commonplace in their neck of the woods.

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If that’s not enough to worry you, let’s talk technical shortcomings. Daylight turns to night in seconds, and I think there was a microphone providing “room tone” that was on the fritz, as it kept cutting in and out. The Sheriff has a chat with his daughter near the beginning, and for absolutely no reason the two of them aren’t ever shown in the same shot; it’s not like one of them’s a big star who they could only afford for half a day’s filming. The music that plays over the end credit sounds like – if you can believe this – an even worse version of Kid Rock, a band called the Moonshine Bandits. Oh, and one of the cars has a Rand Paul sticker in the window, indicating that someone involved in the making of this film is a raging Tea Party asshole.

Perhaps the sole decent thing in this film is C Thomas Howell. From the cusp of the A-list in the mid 1980s, he must have made a few bad decisions or annoyed the wrong people, because he’s not really headlined a film that looked worth a damn in over 20 years. He’s made some smart TV decisions recently, though, with fantastic recurring roles on “Criminal Minds”, “Grimm” and “Southland” so perhaps he does films like “Bigfoot Wars” for a laugh now. I’m at a loss as to any other way to explain his amazing performance in this, one of the wildest overacting jobs in years. If only the rest of the film was as much fun as him.

Obviously, avoid this film like the plague. Bigfoot annoys me. They’re exactly as real as zombies, vampires and unicorns, but with the other three there aren’t a thousand awful TV programs with under-educated fools with guns trying to track them down. If only someone would put critical thinking on the curriculum in US schools. But yes, terrible film.

Rating: thumbs down

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Boggy Creek (2010)

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1972’s “The Legend of Boggy Creek” was a pseudo-documentary about the “Fouke Monster”, a Bigfoot-esque creature which reportedly attacked a few people in Fouke, Arkansas at the time (I was about to say “it’s real”, but I just mean reports of it were in real newspapers). 1985’s “Boggy Creek 2…And The Legend Continues”, famously covered by “Mystery Science Theater 3000”, has recreations of alleged events, but is mostly a more straight monster movie. So, 25 years after the last installment, what would be a good thing to do? If you said “make a really terrible cabin in the woods movie, set in Texas with absolutely zero to do with the previous ones”, then a shiny prize is yours.

The beginning of this film is so thoroughly annoying that I need to break it down for you. Jennifer is getting over the death of her father, so asks her best friend Maya to come with her to her family’s cabin, just outside Boggy Creek, Texas, for some quiet time away from everything. So far, so good, right? But as they get to the car to set off, Maya reveals she’s decided to invite her father’s godson Dave, as he’s having a bad time and could use a holiday…oh, and he’s hot. This on its own would have annoyed me, coming from my best friend.

We then discover that Dave has taken it upon himself to invite his girlfriend Brooke along, unbeknownst to either Jennifer or Maya. What? Who does that? “Hey, honey, my godfather’s daughter’s best friend invited her to a cabin in the woods, do you want to come? Even though I have a phone and could call them to ask, I’m not going to bother”. When it’s revealed a little while into the film that Maya has also invited her own boyfriend Tommy along, again without asking Jennifer, I gave up. Could they not have figured out a less annoying way to fill a cabin with hot young actors?

The guy next door is full of portentous statements about the danger of the monsters, and Jennifer, while being plagued with flashbacks of her parents, has to suffer her friends getting eaten too. Well, the first main cast member doesn’t die til nearly the hour mark, which is a weird choice and leaves the last half-hour thick with bodies.

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Thing is, this film clearly isn’t all that cheap. Although some of the shots look like a poor-quality digital camera took them, there’s quite a lot of nice-looking footage on display, and the special effects look good too – the blood and gore is decent; and the monsters have decent make-up, looking like the weird half-human monsters they’re intended to be. Also, the entire cast can act, and pretty well too. The brilliantly named Texas Battle (Tommy) has been in “Death Valley” and spent five years on a soap, and the rest of the cast all have a decent number of credits.

The blame must, I think, lie entirely behind the camera on this one. Firstly is the use of the “Boggy Creek” name, which I think happened solely because Charles Pierce, director of the first two, died in 2010 and didn’t do the right sort of copyright-filing for his films. The film, aside from a few tiny scenes of cannon fodder getting eaten (which is confusing, as the couples we see dying all look like Dave and Brooke), for over two-thirds of its running time is a group of young adults trying to have a good time in the creeks of rural Texas. In August, which my wife reliably informs me would not get much below 30 degrees C even in the middle of the night. But whatever the temperature, nothing interesting happens!

I fear a little trip into spoiler territory is needed to explain the rest of the film’s problems. That cannon fodder I mentioned above? Their deaths are investigated by a Sheriff and his squeamish deputy, but after their couple of appearances they play no part in the last hour of the film at all. The neighbour is obviously going to be the guy who saves the day, and when it’s down to just our star and she runs into him, you think “okay, it’s been dumb up to here, at least they’re going to get this bit right”. Then she just runs off!

It’s been established that Jennifer is a decent runner – she’s seen training at several points in the film. “Okay,” you think. “That last bit where she ran away from the guy with the guns was pretty stupid, but she’s in her element now, no way the monsters are going to get her”. Think again, voice in my head who sucks at predicting the ends of movies! Running into a clearing, she sees she’s a few hundred yards away from a motorway, where cars and help will be. So what does she do? Takes a phone call from her mother (her phone apparently unable to call the police at any point), then just sort of stands there while a load of monsters emerge from the woods and carry her off, presumably for mating purposes. What?

I have to assume the film was unfinished, and they edited it the best they could after running out of money. There’s way too much of the “kids” messing about on the river, and their assorted relationship dramas, and way too little of anything to do with the monster(s). Which is a shame, because when they appear the monsters look decent – credit to the special effects people.

The only interesting thing about this movie is that it joins that legion of sequels which are absolutely nothing to do with the previous films in the series. “Halloween 3” is the most famous example, despite at least having some John Carpenter involvement; but we’ve got the “Project Shadowchaser” films, a few of the “Puppet Master” franchise, and my personal favourite, the David Hasselhoff’s-penis-featuring “H.O.T.S. 3”. Filmed in the 70s as “Revenge of the Cheerleaders”, a decade before college-raunch comedy “H.O.T.S.”, it featured uniforms roughly the same colour as the other films in the franchise, so that was enough for the producers to buy the rights to it, slap a new title on it and have it be a sequel to a film it obviously predated. Oh, and the Hoff plays a character called “Boner”.

Hey, serial killers! If you’re reading this, and need a new mission, then the crew of this movie can be found at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1493798/ . Not saying they deserve to die, but if you’re going to kill some people, why not prioritise?