Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Creature from Black Lake (1976)

The big bang of Boggy Creek spawned legions of copycats.  Suddenly, drive-in screens were sick with bigfeet, skunk apes, sasquatch, etc., all born in a quest for more money.  Creature from Black Lake is probably one of the better affairs, but that doesn't mean it's necessarily good or anything.  Bigfoot horror is one of those weird subgenres that hasn't really yielded any classics, so a good-but-not-great movie like Boggy Creek is your ceiling and everything else lives at various levels of failure below that.  Anyway, you'll have to wait to the end of this movie to hear "Exits and Truck Stops", which is probably a conscious choice to keep viewers watching even when there are too many character-development scenes.


"Character development".  Two college students are inspired by a professor's lecture about bigfoot.  The filmmakers must have really been out of cash by the time these scenes were filmed: the professor is shot in EXTREME close-up with no students in the frame and barely even a few feet of bare wall behind him.  Hilarious!  But then we get to the meat of the movie, as Chicagoan bigfoot enthusiasts Rives and Pahoo travel to Oil City, Louisiana, in search of a legendary monster who prowls the waterways.


Trigger warning: they talk and banter a lot.  Way too much of the movie wastes our time with attempts at comedy and there's a running gag about Pahoo's love of hamburgers that is as rib-tickling as it sounds.  Things get better when they start to interact with the locals, who (spoiler alert) are generally portrayed as brutish rednecks.  Easily bribed with a whole $25 and dressing like Grand Old Opry phantoms, they're also quick to anger and rant about "damn yankees" a lot.  I did love one old man's breakdown into a crying fit about the "damn criture", though.


Like pretty much all movies about the South that aren't movies about the Klan, Creature is adamant that this is purely a land of white crackers, despite demographic statistics to the contrary.  At one point, we actually see black people in a shot, though!  They've got their backs to the camera and are moving down the road in the distance.  I would like a sequel to this film in which two students analyze that scene and head down to Louisiana to prove that southern blacks really exist.  I'm not really sure why these movies go to such lengths to portray the South as some sprawling Hee-Haw landscape, but it sure is strange.  Anyway, you can tell how interesting most of this movie's middle section is, given what I am talking about in this paragraph.


BTW, none of the monsters in these screenshots is the monster of the title.  The movie follows the Boggy Creek template of keeping the creature relatively obscure until the epic final confrontation.  When it's shown, it's pretty wicked: less bulky than other Bigfoots, it moves quickly, like a smaller ape, but has the killing power of your standard horror-movie gorilla-thing.  


The last scenes ditch all the hamburger and jailbait girl jokes and, for its final fifteen minutes of life, Creature from Black Lake tries to become a legit horror movie.  This still can't reach "good" no matter how hard it stretches, but portions of it are fun and I could see it being a good choice in a party setting, given the right drugs.  


**1/2

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