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