Saturday, July 12, 2008

In Country: The Legend Of Boggy Creek(1972)

"Bigfoot"(or "Sasquatch") and the "Yeti"(abominable snowman) have been a popular and often used antagonist character in horror films over the decades. A few have done well at the box office but most have, regrettably, not turned a profit. One of my favorites that explores the mystery of this creature is The Legend Of Boggy Creek, which was released theatrically in the U.S. in December, 1972. This film was produced and directed by Texarkana(Arkansas) ad salesman Charles Pierce, who borrowed $160,000 from a local business and, using his own cameras, made a movie which utilized local citizenry from both Texarkana and Fouke, Arkansas. The return on Mr. Pierce's investment was, needless to say, stupendous: the movie raked in a total of over $20 million dollars.

The movie itself takes on a serio-documentary approach in chronicling the "Fouke monster", a hairy, bipedal man-monster which prowls the Sulphur River bottoms of Fouke, a town in the extreme southern part of Arkansas and close to the Arkansas-Louisiana border. Many of the cast in this movie play themselves as details of the monster's handiwork are recounted, via fictional reenactments.

Many things, IMO, work well to make this movie creepy and suspenseful: first, the face of the monster is never revealed and the creature is rendered throughout the movie as a faceless, growling, mysterious antagonist forever lurking in the woodland shadows. Secondly, Charles Pierce does a good job at capturing the indigenous sounds of the swampy wetland bottoms surrounding Fouke: crickets, bullfrogs and the occasional growl of an alligator all figure prominently throughout the movie and are used to great effect at the beginning credits and then later during various scenes preceding the monster's contact with the understandably traumatized local citizenry. Thirdly, the creatures roar is truly scary to listen to, part swine, part canine and part something else altogether. Though the viewer of this film never sees the monster's face it's apparent, from everything else visible, that it would be the last thing on Earth invited over for brunch after the AM Sunday church service.

The characters in this film belie the town of Fouke: blue collar, hard working, many possessing drawls and a variety of firearms, and who pass the time hunting and/or fishing, none more so perhaps than Herb Jones, a fellow who has sequestered himself deep within the rugged woodlands of the Sulphur River, for over twenty years, and whose only contact with the outside world was the youthful Travis Crabtree, who brought the old and grizzled Jones some supplies once a month. Mr. Jones, a weathered and semi-toothless old geezer who was included in the cast of this movie, presumably for his extensive knowledge of the woods around Fouke, attempts a brief commentary of his own regarding the existence of the monster. His speech slurred perhaps because of the absence of teeth, Jones uses terms like "he brung me tobaccer" and "it'ern't nuttin", which is, thankfully, not indicative of the way the remainder of this movie's cast enunciates syllables and consonants.

The climax of the film is one last encounter between a group of predictably terrified Fouke locals and the monster, albeit intensified and including a brief barrage of gunfire as two locals open up on the mysterious monster with shotguns. (no other spoilers)

This movie does not, IMO, make much attempt to provide an explanation of what the "Fouke monster" is, nor should it. It is, after all, a horror movie, only loosely based on what is purported to be a mysterious creature that appears in Fouke every so often. The film will, I think, if you watch it, make you a little more hesitant to peep out the cabin window at night on your next camping trip. Believe it.

The Legend Of Boggy Creek(1972) was released to R1 DVD in 2002 by Sterling Entertainment. The film's sequel, called Return To Boggy Creek(1977), was released to R1 DVD in 2005 by Elite Entertainment. A third installment, called Boggy Creek II: The Legend Continues(1985), has also been released to DVD. Neither the second nor third "Boggy Creek" film is made in "docu" style and are both straight ahead horror films.

This film has been uploaded to YouTube(in ten parts). Here's the first ten minutes of the movie: