Monday, March 8, 2010

The Legend of Boggy Creek (1972)

Texarkana filmmaker Charles Pierce's first project was a low-budget "documentary" about the Fouke Monster, a Bigfoot-esque creature roaming the bottomlands and swamps of the Texas/Arkansas border. The film collects various accounts of encounters with the creature, local legends and campfire tales tied together by a folksy narrator recounting how the creature scared him as a child and wondering if the thing is still lurking in the woods. Local citizens and landowners spin yarns of spotting the monster while on squirrel hunts and driving at night on lonely roads; at one point, a hunt is organized but once the dogs catch a whiff of the hideous thing, they go no farther. The centerpieces of the film are two disturbing scenes involving late-night attacks, one on a trailer where three teenage girls have a slumber party, the other on an isolated farmhouse rented by two young couples; the latter attack is a recreation of a newspaper account, but both occurrences too closely resemble archetypal "damsel in distress" horror-movie scenarios to carry much credibility. Hoax or not? One old salty codger, living for decades in a shack deep in the swamp, claims he's never seen any such creature. What is beyond dispute: despite the extraordinarily low budget (the movie was filmed on a borrowed 16mm camera, and it shows), or perhaps because of it, Boggy Creek is very effective at delivering some low-grade thrills. Pierce -- savvy to catch the Bigfoot craze in full swing, not long after the release of the infamous Patterson Film -- lovingly showcased the eerie shadows and sounds of the remote swamps in such a way that, sure, a shaggy 8-foot-tall monster seems plausible. And the fleeting glimpses of the creature, never fully revealed and often only heard, are just right. A huge hit at the drive-in theaters of the era, this was an undeniable influence on later films such as The Blair Witch Project (1999).

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