March 16, 2004

The Legend of Boggy Creek

Swamp scenes and swamp music, in the form of crickets and frogs and the myriad other sounds that emanate from wilderness bogs around Fouke, Arkansas fill the first two minutes of this film. Nothing else. The camera moves slowly following snakes in the water, insects in the air, and the setting sun between the trees. You see the visual art and you hear the music of nature. In a theater, this was very affecting, and does an excellent job of creating the creepy backwoods ambience of the film. This shows how much a film often loses when it transits from celluloid projected onto a big screen in a dark theater, to a disk you play on a TV in your well-lit living room.

When I was 12 years old, I went by myself to see The Legend of Boggy Creek in the theater in my hometown. The Temple Theater has been closed now for many years, but I'll always remember that night seeing this film.

It scared the crap out of me.

I'm usually not one, even when I was that young, to get honestly frightened by a movie. However, the supernatural aspect combined with the supposed reality of it really got to me. I didn't sleep well for a while after seeing Boggy Creek.

The story of the southern Arkansas version of Bigfoot is timeless. A friend just found the DVD of this film a few months ago, and I am fascinated by it. It really is an artfully done film -- artful in its low-budget crudeness. It blurs the line between dramatization and documentary to the point of non-existence.

Charles Pierce, the man who did the film, is from Fouke, and has firsthand experience with the Fouke Monster. He claims in the film to have been 7 years old "the first time I heard him scream."

Alleged actual audio of the creature's bone-chilling howl is used in this film. And if you hear it, it will give you goosebumps.

Pierce should be in the hall of fame of filmmakers. In dramatizing the encounters with the hairy beast-freak, he apparently had the actual people who lived the experience play themselves wherever he could. There were a few actors he used, but for the most part the real people reenacted their experiences, hence the blur of the line. And I think this is what gives it the timeless quality, and its visceral effect.

The film was released in 1972, and at first glance the production is decidedly cheesy. It has the grainy/fuzzy quality of 60's era instructional films. However, the storyteller's relationship with the story far transcends any budget deficiencies, or acting inexperience. It doesn't scare me like it did, but it sure makes me remember how scared I was when I saw it the first time over 30 years ago.

I appreciate the effect of how you never get a good look at the creature. He/she is always an undefined hairy black mass back among the trees. You usually have to look really hard to tell anything is there. I'm sure this is much like the actual sightings.

There is one shot that is absolutely brilliant. It's a scene where a teenage girl is looking out a window into the woods around her house, the camera is shooting over her shoulder and you can see an outline of a black hulk coming out of the trees towards her with the moon in the background.

It looks so good the girl faints from fright.

Some art snobs might start watching this film and in the first 10 minutes decide that it is just too primitive to take seriously. And if they are from either coast they might think the people too primitive to take seriously too. That's unfortunate because if they could get past their initial judgements they might have a memorable movie experience. And they might not. I'm sure my first time with the Boggy Creek Freak has had its lasting effects.

Posted by Wayne at March 16, 2004 07:42 PM
Comments

My grandmother only lived a few miles from fouke Arkansas after seeing the movie and vacation rolled around it was time to pack up and go to Arkansas. The hair was standing up on my neck when my mother told me we were going there I knew we would be staying with my aunt who lived out in the woods. I talked to my aunt about the movie and wouldn't you know she said there was truth to it. She knew a farmer in fouke who had some chickens and dogs killed by some big animal that they could never identify. It left funny tracks. And on any given night you could hear a strange howling like a wolf only sharper and much louder. It never hurt a human but it cost farmers and chicken ranchers money in lost livestock. The farmer told my aunt the animal could pick up a 300lb. hog and walk into the woods with it where it would snap its back like a twig and thats how the farmer would find it. My aunt never saw the movie but she described one of the things that happened in it. There is a three toed ape or bigfoot down in some swamps on the Texas Louisiana border. It would be nice if someone could catch this animal and solve the mystery. By the way the farmer told my aunt this animal travels he has seen the same footprints in wooded areas in other counties. If this was something made up then why would there be so many sightings of bigfoot from around the world?

Posted by: Bruce Hanley at April 19, 2005 09:17 PM
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