Creature from Black Lake (1976)


USA. 1976.


Director – Joy Houck Jr, Screenplay – Jim McCullough, Jr., Producer – Jim McCullough, Photography – Dean Cundey, Music – Jaime Mendoza Nava, Special Effects – Sterling Franck, Makeup – Charlene Cundey, Art Direction – Roger Pancake. Production Company – Jim McCullough Productions


Dennis Fimple (Pahoo), John David Carson (Rives), Jack Elam (Joe Canton), Bill Thurman (Sheriff Billy Carter), Dub Taylor (Grandpaw Bridges), Jim McCullough, Jr. (Orville Bridges), Becky Simser (Becky Carter), Michelle Willingham (Michelle), Catherine McClenny (Eve), J.N. Houck Jr (Dr Burch)


Pahoo and Rives, two anthropology students from the University of Chicago, travel to Oil City, Louisiana, to track down Sasquatch. They try to find old-timer Joe Canton, whose best friend was allegedly snatched in the swamps by Sasquatch, but run into a wall of hostility and opposition from the locals.

Creature from Black Lake was one of a host of Bigfoot/Sasquatch movies that came out in the mid-1970s. Others included the likes of Bigfoot (1971), The Curse of Bigfoot (1972), The Legend of Boggy Creek (1972), Shriek of the Mutilated (1974), The Legend of Bigfoot (1975), Manbeast! Myth or Monster? (1975), The Mysterious Monsters (1975), In Search of Bigfoot (1976), Sasquatch (1976), The Capture of Bigfoot (1977), Snowbeast (1977) and Night of the Demon (1980). All of these were independently made, usually regionally shot productions intended for drive-in audiences.

Creature from Black Lake was a Bigfoot film from the father and son team of Jim McCullough Sr and Jr, who subsequently made a handful of other films, including The Aurora Encounter (1985), Mountaintop Motel Massacre (1986), Video Murders (1988) and The St Tammany Miracle (1994). The director was occasional actor Joy [N. ] Houck Jr, who had made several other cheap horror films as director including Night of Bloody Horror (1969), Night of the Strangler (1972) and The Brain Machine (1977).

One should credit Joy Houck and the McCulloughs for obtaining an authentic flavour of a rural backwater – one is surprised to find that Oil City, Louisiana is a real town – and what feel like convincing rural characterizations. Here McCullough regular Jack Elam conducts an enjoyable essayal of the whiskey-soaked old timer, which enlivens the latter half of the film. The downside of this is that the film becomes absorbed by its portrait of a small town to the extent of almost everything else. Crucially, though it is a Bigfoot film, Bigfoot is rarely seen throughout. Instead, Joy Houck takes us through banal observations of everyday smalltown life – the heroes run-in with the sheriff, the fun made of their quest at the local diner, they trying to make out with two local girls, their being invited to dinner by a local farmer. Everything takes place with a dreary ordinariness where it feels like Houck is padding the film out.

The main failing of Creature from Black Lake is that it fails to pump Bigfoot up as an adequate menace. To his credit, Joy Houck lets the creature only be seen in brief glimpses. Alas, he does this too successfully and one is kept waiting throughout for Bigfoot to actually do something. The attack on the van at the climax does raise a mild frisson but Houck leaves such far too late in the game and by then it is too late to revive interest in the otherwise dreary film.

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