Director – Joy N. Houck Jr.
Cast – Dennis Fimple, John David Carson, Jack Elam, Dub Taylor, Bill Thurman, Jim McCullough Jr., Roy Tatum, Cathryn Hartt, Becky Smiser
Release Year – 1976
Reviewed by John of the Dead
My ever-long search for Bigfoot films continues with Creature from Black Lake, and the very moment I came across this film I knew I had to see it. For starters, the storyline and title reminded me very much of one of my favorite films of all time, The Legend of Boggy Creek, and this being a 70s flick set in the swamps of Louisiana I knew it would be heavy on the atmosphere, and I LOVE 70s atmosphere. Sure enough Creature from Black Lake played off very much like Boggy Creek, and despite its PG rating and low-ratings throughout the net I found this to be an engaging creature film that gave much more creature action than expected.
Two graduate students from the University of Chicago travel down to the Louisiana swamps in hopes of finding a Bigfoot-like creature that many of the townsfolk have seen but few will talk about.
Well there you have it, two nosy students looking for answers and adventure in a small Southern town that is quite hospitable to outsiders, but don’t you dare ask them about the creature whose spine-tingling screams haunt them every night. I went into this story expecting a simple effort and hopefully a few decent kills and shots of the creature, and surprisingly enough I was given more than I bargained for. The film starts off quickly, giving us an opening sequence containing the first glimpses of the giant missing link that has been terrorizing the town. When the two students, Pahoo and Rives, arrive in town they are greeted by the local sheriff, and despite this being the deep South the rednecks in town are not the usual stupid rednecks we see in horror. The rednecks in this film were hospitable, good people who know that they lack the money to move elsewhere and leave the town that dreads the woods around them. Pahoo and Rives’ search for answers takes them to several of the townsfolk who have seen the creature, and sure enough they eventually come face to face with the beast. They only wanted to prove its existence, and they were given plenty of evidence when the creature made its presence known to them in a very full frontal fashion. There are a few deaths in the film, but of course this being a PG film means that you should not expect great gore or a multitude of kills. Thankfully we were given plenty of scenes where the creature is visible, each paced very evenly throughout the film and making for an experience that flowed very well. This story won’t win praise, but it did its job with its simplicity.
Director Joy N. Houck Jr. did a pretty fair job executing this low-budget PG film. The acting performances from these no-name actors were pretty good and they all portrayed their characters well, especially Jack Elam as crazy wild man Joe Canton. Houck Jr. really sold the film with his atmosphere, which aside from the spooky swampy visuals came complimented with sounds to help seal the horror. The deep bellowing shrieks of the creature were were fantastic and the sounds of twigs snapping from within the woods added to the creepiness already provided by the sets and locations used. As mentioned earlier there was not much blood to be seen onscreen, but we do get many looks at the creature – a creature that was simply a man in a suit but one that was executed very well and kept just out of clear view in a successful attempt to keep the scares and creep factor high.
Overall, Creature from Black Lake is far from the horrible film it is supposed to be. Despite a low budget, PG rating, and no-name filmmaker / cast this flick settles on a simple story and very atmospheric direction to provide a flawed but enjoyable effort sure to please fans of creature features.