Since those days, there have been a good handful of films – big and small – that have tried to explore the various Bigfoot myths (and, rest assured, there are many tales from history suggesting the existence of such a creature); but perhaps none have had enough star power, special effects, and good storytelling behind them to truly break through with an entirely skeptical public. As such, the monster remains more of a thing drawn from local folklore – maybe even an old wives’ tale – instead of a bona-fide possibility of a lifeform just beyond our reach. When the truth is as elusive as the beast, Hollywood usually won’t invest much in it; as a consequence, Sasquatch doesn’t have the intellectual cache that perhaps ghosts, demons, and superheroes do.
Still, congratulations to director Joy Houck Jr. and screenwriter Jim McCullough Jr. for giving the giant a reasonably intelligent fictional expose: their Creature From Black Lake (1976) may not have spent a lot of cash on crafting what could’ve been the seminal exploration of a Louisiana legend, but their completed project has just about everything the traditional ‘monster movie’ requires to make the grade. Made in the era when drive-in movies typically tried to capitalize on boobs, guns, and gratuitous violence, this Creature stayed true to its formula and, instead, tried to put down footprints of a completely monstrous variety.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last few paragraphs for the final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the film’s IMDB.com page citation:
“Two men exploring the Louisiana swamps encounter a Bigfoot-type creature.”
I’ve often written in this space of my fondness for monster movies, and despite its share of drawbacks Creature From Black Lake rises to the level of, minimally, B-Movie goodness by steering clear of traditional Grindhouse elements in favor of trying to give those of us who hold out hope for a real Bigfoot a sign that the creature could be something. While other storytellers might’ve gone in for more glitz, gore, and gags, this Creature sticks to a fairly mainstream presentation, portraying an effective yarn of two college boys heading out into backwoods territory in hopes of proving that the Sasquatch is more than just a bit of local lore.
As happens all too often with smaller, independent films, Creature’s biggest problems evolve from an under-developed story.
Screenwriter McCullough Jr. never quite taps anything more than a quick and fanciful look at the central creature; while visually that might help to elevate the level of suspense needed to make this one a respectable hit with the drive-in crowd, it certainly didn’t have the legs to stand aside pictures at the traditional cineplex. Smaller budgets typically require the talent to fashion a script that meets the requirements of the checkbook instead of authentically delivering moments that might transcend the ordinary. Instead of tying the events of this narrative up in a grand finale, Creature goes for the easy way out, never bothering to really address the proper who, what, and where of how the thing came to be much less what’s next for it and our cinema heroes now that the finale has been reached. It just ends – with a modest nod to a job well done – but never even gives our two-man team of intrepid outback explorers so much as a scene to tell us what it all may’ve meant to them or their respective futures.
Creature From Black Lake (1976) was produced by Jim McCullough Productions. DVD distribution (for this particular release) is being coordinated by the good people at Synapse Films. As for the technical specifications? Though I’m no trained video expert, wow! Honestly, it oughta be a crime for a B-Movie of the bygone 1970’s era to look and (mostly) sound as good as this one; I can only guess that the production benefitted from having a behind-the-scenes crew committed to providing their A-game even though the project was probably viewed as a bit half-baked at the time. Lastly, if you’re looking for special features, then be prepared to spend time with the following:
- This Blu-ray boasts an all-new 4K restoration from the original 35mm camera negative;
- An audio commentary with author/filmmaker Michael Gingold and film historian Chris Poggiali;
- An all-new ‘looking back’ featurette with the film’s Director of Photography Dean Cundey;
- The original theatrical trailer, along with a radio advert; and
- New translated optional English subtitles.
As I said above, I have a lingering fondness for monster movies. While I’ll admit that Creature From Black Lake is probably not going to shake any bridges or burn any barns with today’s audiences, those of us who can appreciate a bit of cheese from a few decades early might find a few nuggets of joy and suspense in its 95 minutes. Honestly, I’ll happily concede all of it could’ve used a leaner cut, some stronger characterization, and (as always) a few more bucks … but then it might’ve sacrificed the charm of B-Movie magic.
In the interest of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Synapse Films provided me with a complimentary Blu-ray copy of Creature From Black Lake by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.