Horror in the Bottomlands
"What kind of thing could pick up two hunnerd' pound hogs and walk off with 'em?" The Legend of Boggy Creek, a pseudo-documentary about the true-life sightings of an ape-like creature in Fouke, Arkansas during the '70s, is full of these little back-porch country contemplations. Its re-creation of individual sightings using the actual witnesses who have reportedly seen the "Bigfoot" creature, adds to its charm and allure as a campy little fun-loving cult classic thriller that originally swept the nation in 1973.
The film opens in the wilderness of the Sulphur River bottoms of southeastern Arkansas. Director Charles B. Pierce sets an eerie mood by allowing the camera to examine the swampy landscape with a series of beautiful camera shots that vary from close-ups of spiders and reptiles to wide aerial angles showing us the ironic beauty of an area so deeply disturbed by a mysterious presence. Now, I'm not talking about the kind of grand cinematic beauty you might find in The Sound of Music or Dances With Wolves – it's more like what you would see on a Saturday afternoon episode of Marty Stouffer's Wild America.
To this point, our senses have been so hyper-stimulated by Pierce's mesmerizing atmosphere, that by the time we finally see the hairy figure, an actor in a cheap gorilla costume could frighten us just as easily as a Spielberg-created special effect. In fact, that's exactly what we see. But although the creature is indeed a man in a cheap costume, credit Pierce for not over-exposing the "Fouke monster's" screen time. We only get glimpses of him through the brush and tree limbs, not really seeing much more of him than any of the river bottoms' residents who claim to have encountered him throughout the decades. Much in the same way that Hitchcock so often scared us out of our wits, Pierce realizes that the fear and terror created in our own minds, far surpasses anything that can be displayed on the screen.
Another aspect of the film that needs to be mentioned is the oddly appropriate soundtrack. Funny little ballads with hokey lyrics and sad acoustic guitar melodies run throughout the movie. But listening to the words evokes a giggle as it meshes nicely with the grainy, low-budget feel of the picture. We meet Travis Crabtree, a resident and hunter of the area, as his ballad croons in the background "Hey Travis Crabtree/Wait a minute for me/Let's go back in the bottoms/back where the fish are bitin'/Where all the world's invitin'/And nobody sees the flowers bloom but me." Or how about the main theme that goes "Here the Sulphur river flows/Rising when the storm cloud blows/This is where the creature goes/Lurking in the land he knows/Perhaps he dimly wonders why/Is there no other such as I/To love, to touch before I die/To listen to my lonely cry." This is gold! Asking if an ape-like creature ponders why there are not others like him is the kind of tongue-in-cheek humor that makes this movie so appealing.
Although it sparked a rash of "Bigfoot" sightings across the country soon after its release, and two direct sequels were released in the years following, including The Legend of Boggy Creek 2, and Return to Boggy Creek, none approached the effectiveness and allure of the original. Thirty years after its release, it's difficult not to find someone who, when asked the question, "have you ever seen The Legend of Boggy Creek?" doesn't smile before responding.
(Distributed by Hen's Tooth Video. Not rated by the MPAA.)
Review also posted at www.franksreelreviews.com.