Friday, April 25, 2014

Film fest friday: The Legond of Boggy Creek

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Here is another funky little film that has that student film feel such as Brighty of the Grand Canyon (see my review). This one is directed by Charles Peierce (June 16, 1938-March 5, 2010 (aged 71). He was born in Hammond Indiana. As a small child he was moved to the same general area in which the action of Boggy Creek takes place. This is no doubt where the learned the legend of the "Fouke Monster," the Bigfoot-like creature that is the center of the film. He drafted customers from the local gas station to act in the film,[1]  (released in 1972). One might suspect the gas station approach to casting judging by the armature acting feel of the film. Even though it's about a  dark, scary,  confusing, if not corny, wacky subjet, it has a positive harmless student film quality. It's something about that amature quality I find appealing. It's not a great film, it's not even a fine film. Yet it's appealing in a home-spun way. It reminds me a lot of Brighty of the Grand Canyon. It was also Pierce's directorial debout. He moved Carmel, befriended Clint Eastwood, Eastwood helped him get a job directing Sudden Impact (1983) a major motion picture starring Clint Eastwood (It's really Dirty Hary No.4). He is said to have invented the phrase "make my day."[2] He made other films including Boggy Creek II (which lacks the magic of BC I). The film was Written by Sean Taylor . (according to the IMBD). Wikipedia says it was written by Earl E. Smith.

There is a magic to this film. It is quite strange because all the individual elements suck. It's a pile of crap in every category from acting, to production values, yet it just has a feel the way it all comes together, innocent, sincere, alarming, scary, but somehow postive. It harkens back to child hood.

From IMBD page:
Cast overview, first billed only:
Vern Stierman ...
Chuck Pierce Jr. ...
Jim as Boy
William Stumpp ...
Jim as Adult
Willie E. Smith ...
Lloyd Bowen ...
B.R. Barrington ...
J.E. 'Smokey' Crabtree ...
Himself (as Smokey Crabtree)
Travis Crabtree ...
John P. Hixon ...
John W. Oates ...
Buddy Crabtree ...
James Crabtree
Jeff Crabtree ...
Fred Crabtree
Judy Baltom ...
Mary Beth Searcy
Mary B. Johnson ...
Louise Searcy ...
The nerration begins with a framing device that opens and closes the film. Plays the narrating charter, who has returned to the cabin he lived in as a child. His mother and he were trying to eek out a living in that rural community, described as so small you would miss it if you blinked while driving through. The man peers through the windows of the empty abandoned house, as he sentimentally examines the property and his eyes room to the wooded horizon that sounds the poetry completely. It's moving toward dusk and he's thinking, i the dying evening sun light, "it's still out there." He ponders his memories of the creature.

We see him a as a boy, , dashing through a huge field of ankle and waste high grain or grass. he's climbing a fens and talking about how the creature had shown up he often heard it screaming from the woods. No one knew what it was but some felt it sought a mate. He hears the scream from the woods off in the distance and hurries along his way even faster. He comes to the little story on a dirt road were three old men are, one watching the other two play checkers. The boy comes in and asked teh owner, his landord, to come to the farm as his mother asks, investigate the strange noises. The landlord tells him there is no booby man in the woods, but he will change his mind by the end of the film. The boy hurries back, again hearing the scream. Then we move into the action of the film narrated by the adult version of the boy. This framing device is one of the best decisions the director made. It really takes us into the action. That scene would have been played out in the 40's when the Fouke monster first showed up. It was a latter version of a phenomenon from the 20's in neighboring county of Johnson called "the Johnson monster." Some form of Harry monster can be found roaming that area as far back as white settlers were there to record it. The framing device close the film with the man pondering "is it still there, is it watching me now?" The sun is setting and  sense of tension grows that he's goign to be there after dark in an abandoned house and the thing is right outside. But he leaves just in time and the film ends. In the middle of these two segments he narratives the actions that happened years latte, in the 1960s. The resurgence of the Fouke monster in the 1960s is really the most famous period of activity. The film centers around a family called "Crabtree" who in real life is the family of Smoky Crabtree who has made a carrier out of the monster. He written many books and so on such as Smoky and the Fouke Monster. Notice Travis Crabtee plays himself. Oddly enough buddy Crabtree is played by James Crabtree. Kind of makes you wonder.
One member of the family sees the creature while sitting by a river bank. He only has bird shot in his gun so he doesn't fire on it. It's maybe a hundred years away so he just watches it. We catch only a fleeting glimpse of it. That is the second initiative choice the director makes that creates the magic of the film aside form the narrative framing device, that is the indirect approach to the horror. That is always the most effective appraoch to a horror tale, as evidenced by the Blair Witch Project. The whole film is really series of vignettes of various sightings. The man who owned the little story and laughed at the narrator's mother's fear saw the creator and shot it but the gun had no real effect. He now believed in the harry monster. Another saw it take two hogs one hundred pounds each, one under each arm, and step over the fence and walk away. Two boys found three towed foot prints in the mud while fishing. One of these scenes shows one of the only three semi direct views we get of the creature in the whole film. One is the scene with the Crabtree man by the bank. The other the major scene that all these little views of it are moving toward, where we see it grab a man on a porch. But it's dark and you only see ti fro a second. There's an extremely well done scene where a boy is out near his house with a shot gun he's looking for the origin of a noise. This on toward evening, it's perfectly light. He walks right up within feet of it but he has his back to it so he doesn't see it. It's only obscured by a few leafless three branches so we can see clearly it's a Bigfoot-like thing similar to the Patternson film. The creature makes a noise, the boy turns with great alarm sees it standing right there, nd fires! The creature is clearly hurt, annoyed but not damaged. It is angry! He's screaming and hitting trees. They boy is running to his house.

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 Three major event-scenes that describe the film and fill in the action leading up to the denumont, which is the siege of a certain familie's house. Strangely enough there's a song in the film. It's like an Innocent Disney kind of song about what a wonderful life it is in the woods, "hey Smoky Crabtree." It's so corny and out of place. Here's this horror thing running around, no one knows what it is, it's scary but there's this innocent little song about how great it is. It's so kitschy and out of place. In trying to figure is it that this song doesn't spoil the film for me even though it's ridiclous, makes the film see like "a hoot," or does it work with the flim to help the "magic," I would have say it works with it. It would be so easy to ruin it. The song is a prelude to a since with an old hermit who Travis Crabtree befriends. He brings the old man tobacco and stuff. The old man seems to say he's never seen the creature then latter says he doesn't bother it and it doesn't bother him. It leaves one wondering "why is this here in this film?" It seems to serve no function. It's almost like he was going to make a different film and then put it in for filler. Coming right after the song seems even more superfluous.  Yet like the song it doesn't destroy the film.  For one thing part of the charm of the film is its armature nature. So this helps on that score. Then I think it's characterization. The population of Fouke and the surrounding area is a major character in its own right, this is part of charactoriztion where we see the nature of the populace.

In terms of action of the creature we see a scene in which a young girl goes to bed, taking care of her siblings. The creature comes right out side. Earlier that evening as she drew water for the house she watched the woods feeling something was there. Now she watches through a window as we hear it growling. It's supposed to be killing a cat but I can never make anything out, not even on DVD. It's all dark. Another scene shows three girls in a small clap board house, alone. They are going to bed they are having a pajama party. The three hear the creature breathing outside. It tries to get in. They put a chair at the door and get the father's shot gun. They don't necessarily know how to load or shoot it. They are not harmed but the sense of tension and vulnerability really words to make a scary scene. We do not see the creature at all. The idea the three women alone raises a question echoed throughout the film as a theme, it it looking for a mate. It's either horrassing women alone or taking live stock as food. Since it's appearances seemed to run in periods, punctuated by long periods of absence, as the Johnson monster in the 20s, the Fouke monster in the 40s, and 60s, they speculate that it get's lonely. One wonders why they would assume it's the same creature after all those years? There have to be others or it would die off.
The community has a big monster hunt with hunters from all over the state bring dogs, coon hounds and so on. But the dogs wont move in on the scent once they get it. The hunt goes nowhere. One guy sees it and is thrown from his horse. All of the scenes in the film are based upon "real" claims of sightings and stories in the community. It's narrated as a documentary but shows some dialogue in scenes as a docudrama.

Then we come to the major point, the siege. A family has moved in to a rent house along a back road in the area. The husbands are working near by and the two women and children are accompanied by a brother of one of the woman, a young man who may be the one grabbed on the porch. They hear the thing outside at night and are frightened. It comes up on the porch and tries to get in. It even turns the knob but they put a chair there. It reaches into the living room at one point through the front window. All we see is a hairy arm. It almost grabbed one of the people. It also reaches in through a bathroom window and almost gets the young man visiting his sister. The men come home and go out to confront it. All they have is flash lights. You would not find me doing that. The thing comes up on the porch behind one of them and grabs him and throughs him. I say he got off easy. They rush him to a hospital at  Texarkana. The boy is in shock. This is said to be a true story. The people decide to pack up go at first light they never come back. That's basically the end of the film.

Then the framing devise closes it with the man wondering is it watching me now. Leaving just before dark. It's not an art film and not a fine film, it has a quality to it that I find appealing. It works on a couple of levels. Maybe that's it's secrete. It's a cult classic for Bigfoot hunters but no one regards it as a serious source of information because nothing it says about the creature is advanced knowledge, so any bigfoot hunter worth his wood knocks knows that information anyway. It's not really documenting anything because no attempt is made to actually demonstrate the veracity of the stories, no story teller is really identified other than the fictitious narrator. On one level its a laughable amateurish attempt that makes the work a hoot. On a deeper level it's a respectable first attempt to bring to light a subject that the director no doubt grew up with and wants us to take seriously. But it's an innocent presentation that doesn't seek to scare the viewer with horrific nonsense but just tells its tail outright. The two best choices are the framing devise, which pulls us in to the guy's plight and his naustalgia and the wonderment at "what happened to the thing?" The indirect appraoch to presenting the horror is always very effective. The imagination can compel us to look.

accessed April 24, 2014.

[2] Ibid.

Watch the entire film on Youtube

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