I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book. - Groucho Marx

Legend of Boggy Creek


by Meredith R. Tolan
April 21, 2013

Eerie is a word seldom associated with modern scary films. But, it is one that definitely characterizes Charles B. Pierce’s low budget mockumentary, cryptozoology masterpiece. Today’s cinema is definitely “No guts (and I mean this in the visceral sense), no glory” for a horror filmmaker. Which is why Pierce’s subtle use of the “creature” on screen and implied violence is more reminent of Gothic literature than other backwoods horror films.

The setting, Fouke, Arkansas’ Boggy Creek, makes for a perfect habitat for a monster such as The Creature from the Black Lagoon or The Swamp Thing. Fouke is, geographically, only a hop, skip and a jump from Shreveport, Louisiana, where TruBlood’s vamps and weres are taking over their genres, and it is not far from Texas where, a few years later, Leatherface, would make his mark in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. But the Fouke Monsters is not a monster like any other. Far from it. The narrator, who we learn later is the boy from the beginning of the film, starts the whole shebang off with the words, “I was seven years old when I first heard him scream. It scared me then and it scares me now.” But, then, nothing truly scary follows. The narrator, whose soothing Robert Young sounding voice, presents Fouke with a very frank and friendly demeanor the likes one might find in a Disney film or a tourist bureau commercial. So, the audience is off to discover this very likable, if not a bit backwater, area of small town America. That is…”until the sun goes down”.

This film’s documentary style also differs greatly from its modern day horror counterparts. It is rated G, for general audience. The Fouke Monster causes “hair raising incidents” rather than bloodshed and decimation, “…before the creature finally wandered off, he smashed flower pots and overturned everything in sight. These erratic changes in his usually cautionary behavior may be caused by lonely frustration for he apparently is the only one of his kind…but, tonight he’s on the rampage.” There is no hand held camcorder, which makes the filming much more elegant and actually lends to the verisimilitude of the documentary format. The Legend of Boggy Creek could even be interpreted, at times, as a Rachel Carson-esque call to arms to defend the local Arkansas flora and freaky fauna, the narrator shares, “…and you know, I’d almost like to hear that terrible cry again, just to be reminded that there is still a bit of wilderness left and that there are still mysteries that remain unsolved and strange unexplained noises in the night.”

What keeps suspense building is the fact that we very much desire to meet the creature, almost in a brutal face to face, but we never do. He is kept at a comfortable distance from us, a fuzzy, kitchy, costumed blur, but he is in close proximity to the actors on screen. It is eerie because the film is a game of the senses. This is a beast that does not intentionally hurt humans. He scares them. And, what we hear are his cries. We see is him looking through the trees. We feel the anguish of his plight. There is no Halloween suspense soundtrack that makes our hearts beat faster. This film’s “difference” becomes even more evident once the narrator’s love song to the monster is sung:

 

This is where the story plays

A world on which we seldom gaze

A page from the book of yesterdays

Birds and beast and wind and water

Here beneath the light blue sky

No man’s smoke blinds the eagle’s eye

and thing that crawl or swim or fly

eat and breed and live and die

 

The seasons passed

Summers into falls

Winters into springs

And somewhere in the remote wilderness of the bottoms

The creature spent his days

 

Here the sulfur river flows

Rising when the storm cloud blows

And this is where the creature goes

Safe within a world he knows

Perhaps he dimly wonders why

Is there no other such as I

To touch to love before I die

To listen to my lonely cry

 

Where he searches, where he goes,

This of course nobody knows

But once you’ve heard his lonely cry

You can guess the reason why

 

And whether he’s a beast or man…

His love for others of his clan

The loneliness he cannot stand

 

Charles B. Pierce was in advertising1 before his directorial debut with The Legend of Boggy Creek. Pierce, a resident of Texarkana, was inspired by the familiar local legend, dating back to the 1830’s2, of the Fouke Monster, a humanoid, mostly nocturnal creature said to stand between 6 to 7 feet tall, covered in dark hair, with an odoriferous body scent. He killed local livestock and pets, but no people, though he was reported to have harassed a few families in the 1960’s3. He walked on two feet, but with only 3 toes on each foot (as opposed to Sasquatch or Bigfoot who had 5 toes per foot). Pierce’s fascination with the Fouke Monster unknowingly paved the way for other similar monster characters. The Legend of Boggy Creek was the first film to feature a Bigfoot4, and would soon make new-to-screen Sasquatch a star. To finance his film, Pierce borrowed $160,0005 from a trucking company and shot the film with a used camera. He did not hire professional actors, and opted for locals to play themselves. And he shot on location in Fouke. The film was initially rejected by Hollywood distributors, but this did not stop Pierce. He believed so much in his creative vision and its potential that he rented a movie theater and showed the movie until word of mouth spread and the film was picked up by the Texas based Howco International Pictures. The movie became a drive-in success and earned over $20 million. Pierce did not make the sequel, Return to Boggy Creek, but did write, direct and star in the third film, The Barbaric Beast of Boggy Creek. None of the subsequent films were as successful as the original, but all three played into the big foot mania that was sweeping the United States. The Legend of Boggy Creek went on to become a cult classic and inspire future film makers, such as Daniel Myrick, who co-directed Blair Witch Project, who stated, “We just wanted to make a movie that tapped into the primal fear generated by the fact-or-fiction format, like [The] Legend of Boggy Creek.”6

1 http://www.foukemonster.net/movies.htm

2 http://www.history.com/interactives/monsterpedia-boggy-creek#bigfoot-evidence

3 http://www.prairieghosts.com/whiterv.html

4 http://www.cryptomundo.com/cryptozoo-news/boggy-creek-2/

5 http://www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?entryID=2192

6 http://www.foukemonster.net/movies.htm

Meredith R. Tolan is a celestial and terrestrial poetesse, who lives among her muses, in a high turret, above the City of Lights (thought she is a born and bred Philly girl), with the love of her life and their young Frog Prince.  She is an Aries, Scorpio rising, and was born on a Thursday, during the Year of the Dog.  Writing is her passion and she works on any project that soothes her soul, from erotica to feature articles to children’s literature.  She has one novel, The Fool, an esoteric parable, she’s shopping around, a collection of poetry in progress and another novel, with subject matter so freaky, she hides the pages under the bed, with the other monsters, when not working on it.