Creature from Black Lake (1976)

Author: Brett H.
Submitted by: Brett H.   Date : 2012-05-30 07:23

Directed by: Joy Houck Jr.
Written by: Jim McCullough Jr.
Starring: Jack Elam, Dennis Fimple, John David Carson & Cathryn Hartt

Reviewed by: Brett H.

“I believe I relieved myself!”

After watching The Legend of Boggy Creek and enjoying it for what it was, I decided to knock off another from my small Bigfoot seventies horror collection. I have no doubts in my mind that few, if any, of these films will actually be good, but when you have a thing for mythical creatures, they just sort of draw you into their crappy little world. I came back from my trip to Boggy Creek moderately impressed at the interesting presentation, use of narration and stellar visuals of the murky swamps. Because of this, I’m actually quite anxious to make the trip down to the woods of Black Lake, where I’m sure to meet a whole host of new rednecks to bemuse at and one shrieking beast that no man with a decent camera has ever come across…

The film opens up promisingly with a couple of rednecks paddling down a lake and checking their traps. But, dagnabbit, someone has been robbing them! From beneath the water, a hairy hand comes up and pulls one fella into the depths of the lake while the other, Joe Canton (Jack Elam), gets away unscathed. A couple of university students hear this story and head down to Louisiana to see if they can capture evidence of the beast and load up their van with their gear (a spare tire, gun and a flashlight; I thought these were students on research?) and head on down to the country. Greeted by an angry sheriff, hot country bumpkins and a giggly waitress, they find no one in the town too anxious to tell them stories about the creature that stalks their neck of the woods. Finally they get a break and begin to acquire information about the beast before meeting up with Joe Canton, who sends them way down 25 miles from his place in the middle of nowhere. It is then that these two students come across their mythical creature… and his overwhelming power!

Creature From Black Lake is a garrulous and shallow affair in which the director and screenwriter must have forgotten that they were making a horror flick. There is virtually no subplot, the viewers are merely treated to the every move of students Rives (John David Carson) and Pahoo (Dennis Fimple). The film is prophetic of the slasher film in so many ways; first of all, the premise is pretty much the same as all the terrible slasher flicks. Secondly, actor Dennis Fimple was 36 when he played Pahoo, and believe me, he’s not a young 36. The two chum around and joke a lot about Pahoo’s love for hamburgers, fries and coke (all he eats… ever) and a strong disgust for chicken. Rives is the smart and calm one, Pahoo is the fretful ‘Nam vet that he has no business out looking for a murderous creature that he truly believes to be real.

The joking is all right for a chuckle, as are Pahoo’s constant bumblings, but there’s a creature to seek out, and they’re doing a terrible job at it. The only the reason the plot advances is because of numerous strokes of luck. One of the few things that prevents the movie from not being a total disaster is the drunken, shotgun waving, bearded character of Joe Canton, who is an absolute blast. Actor Jack Elam plays the role very tongue and cheek and it’s a joy to watch every scene he’s in. It’s a good thing, because this film would be awful dull if it took itself seriously. The flick doesn’t take advantage of the creepy woods setting that the opening sets the standard for and other than few blurry and dark glimpses at the creature here and there, we get next to nothing in terms of action until the climax. Much like The Legend of Boggy Creek, the cutting shriek of the Sasquatch is fabulous, but in Black Lake, you aren’t held in any suspense whatsoever. I always end up wondering why these movies only ever had one Bigfoot; does that mean we’re seeing the same beast at different times in his life? It’s an interesting theory that makes these films slightly more bearable, as obnoxious as it is.

Despite a distinct lack of horror and action, the flick ponies up a lot of cheesiness because of the redneck characters. There’s usually something being said about old hound dogs or the weather and how these city boys are just a couple of Yankees. And, I’ve never said no to a Grizzly Adams-like moonshine-drunk hick stumbling into a sheriff’s office with a shotgun. Even more amusing is the fact the sheriff takes the gun from him like it’s an every day thing. What’s the danger in a shotgun, right? The version of the film I have on DVD is from a company called Hollywood Entertainment and I was sad to see that unlike Sterling’s release, it isn’t merely cropped from 2.35:1 to 1.85:1, but is in fact a full frame transfer. Most likely culled from a VHS, the cropping is horrible and uninspired. I opted to stretch the image on my TV to 16 x 9 just to make it bearable to watch. The audio is plain, sometimes it’s clear and sometimes it’s not, but there’s not a lot of popping or hiss, shockingly. Extras? With this flick, you have two choices. You can watch the rather poor movie or you can look at the title screen; there isn’t even a chapter list. Creature from Black Lake isn’t going to win over any new fans, the only people out there that should even give the film a look are the type that just can’t get enough of cheesy Bigfoot “terrors”. It’s not quite an abomination towards mankind; it’s just not recommendable. Trash it!

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