Cult Cinema: The Legend of Boggy Creek (1972) - Reviewed

The early 1970s were a strange time for documentary films.  With such peculiar oddities as the Oscar winning “documentary” The Hellstrom Chronicle garnering critical and commercial attention despite the debatable integrity of the piece, the way was paved for more genre-bending documentary films to be unleashed on the unsuspecting public.  Not long after Hellstrom made waves in the documentary film genre, indie filmmaker Charles B. Pierce would unveil one of the strangest docudrama films ever produced in the 1970s with his meditation on a ‘bigfoot’ type creature sighted around Fouke, Arkansas: The Legend of Boggy Creek

The debut film of the indie horror filmmaker (and eventual writer of Sudden Impact, believe it or not) is as homegrown as movies come.  Feeling less like a documentary feature and more like a group of locals making a home movie in their backyard, the film is comprised of “interviews” and staged reenactments of encounters with the inhuman creature.  Aided with voiceover narration by Vern Stierman who warns forebodingly of the ‘Fouke Monster’ over the soundtrack, The Legend of Boggy Creek’s cast is made up almost entirely of locals wanting to be in a film.  Despite being photographed in Techniscope, the film never escapes its footing in the director’s backyard when he and his crew aren’t wading through swamps and wetlands with their cameras.

Probably most inexplicably is the financial success of the picture.  Whereas something like this today would air on network television, The Legend of Boggy Creek went to theaters and took in $20 million against a $160,000 production budget.  The film’s director even went so far as to use older 35mm cameras to save on production costs.  Moreover, the film paved the way for many like-minded drive-in movies loosely based on true stories including but not limited to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre as well as Charles B. Pierce’s very own The Town That Dreaded Sundown.  The film even spawned an official sequel helmed by Pierce though that film is best remembered on Mystery Science Theater 3000 which should tell you all you need to know.

Released recently on a 4K restored blu-ray disc for the first time with a collectible booklet, The Legend of Boggy Creek seen today doesn’t hold nearly as much water as it did for audiences in 1972 and whose closest kid cousin is arguably The Fourth Kind.  The non-acting cast of locals don’t have much in the way of range but get the job done running away screaming in terror from a man in a gorilla costume. 

That said, the film is representative of a bygone era of mockumentaries that would rear its ugly head again decades later with films like The Blair Witch Project and a whole slew of found footage movies that would follow after.  While we’ve grown accustomed to TV shows like Unsolved Mysteries or Sightings which function as docudramas surrounding the supernatural or extraterrestrial, The Legend of Boggy Creek remains a curiosity by being among the very first purveyors of the docudrama form irrespective of the silliness of the subject matter.

--Andrew Kotwicki