TOT TERRORS: THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK

I often get asked about what influences my work as a writer. Inspired by the amazing website Kindertrauma–which is right up my alley–I’m compiling all of my childhood (and some adult) terrors.

Legend of Boggy Creek 1

The menu of my DVD edition. I have no idea which edition this is, but I know I got this at least a decade ago, maybe more. What I love about this menu is its featuring of what I think is the scariest episode in the film: the creature’s assault on the Fords and Turners.

I wouldn’t be surprised if 1972’s The Legend of Boggy Creek—an In Search Of…esque docudrama chronicling the hair-raising encounters of the people in Fouke, Arkansas with a sasquatch-like creature—spawned an entire generation of Bigfoot hunters: it certainly inspired me to not only fall in love with Bigfoot, but with what-none-of-us-knew-then-would-be-called found footage.

Legend of Boggy Creek 2

I remember seeing this title card on my grandmother’s kitchen television set — and it totally creeping me out. I’m thinking I could also attribute my love of found footage to this film.

This is yet another of those movies that I watched at my grandmother’s house, and I had few fuzzy memories as time wore on, clearly remembering only that I was frightened to go in the woods—especially the five acres of it that embraced our isolated cabin in the Adirondack State Park.

I didn’t rediscover The Legend of Boggy Creek until 2002, when I was 31 years old. An ex-boyfriend—whose sole purpose for briefly appearing in my life, I’m convinced, was to  reintroduce me to many of the lost films of my childhood and turn me on to Asian horror—had just managed to get his hands on a rare VHS copy (remember, in the early 2000’s it was still hard to get things) of a film called The Evictors, which was done by the same director, Charles B. Pierce. “This is WAY better than The Town that Dreaded Sundown, sweetie!” he said. “Wait ’til you get a load of this!”

The Evictors was decent, but not as haunting as The Legend of Boggy Creek. Because it’s become a cult favorite (and it’s a Halloween season staple for me), there has been a lot written about it, and all of it’s valid, but I’ll share my thoughts.

The scariest moments in this film are built around people in their isolated homes or trailers thinking they hear something moving around outside, and yet they never quite get a full-on view of their attacker. These incidents play out between equally chilling first-hand accounts of a dead kitten “unmarked; apparently, she had simply been scared to death,” gargantuan footprints and mutilated livestock.

While the shots of the monster are, clearly, shots of a man in a suit, it’s the way they’re presented that makes them creepy and not cheesy. They’re reminiscent of the Patterson film aesthetic; we see a black shape, walking, hulking, but never really in focus, and shadowy and blending into the trees. It’s quite effective, as it allows room for the imagination. (If you’d like to see the Patterson film – and get the significantly less magical treat of what it looks like when it’s stabilized – you can do that here: http://www.relativelyinteresting.com/heres-what-the-bigfoot-patterson-gimlin-film-looks-like-when-its-stabilized/).

The narration is actually artfully written and gives the piece an atmospheric, horror-movie type of feel; a folksy, soft-spoken voice tells us that “every now and then, [the creature] is drawn to civilization, like a moth to a flame; he creeps out about dusk” and how we may often hear the “lonely cries ringing out over [the creature’s] watery domain.”

But it’s really the final vignette of the film—the assault on the Fords and the Turners—that leaves the strongest impression. Like the episodes that come before it, the family is trapped in the home, hearing mysterious noises or seeing strange shapes out in the woods. But this time, the creature attacks, sticking his arm through a window on the porch and knocking one of the men off the toilet—quite comical to watch now, but as a kid, the idea that you could be swiped off the john by Bigfoot’s huge paw coming through the window was terrifying.

Legend of Boggy Creek 12

Every dude’s worst nightmare — a hairy arm coming at you while you’re trying to take a dump.

If you love Bigfoot and/or found footage, this cult classic is not to be missed. If you’d like to learn more about The Legend of Boggy Creek, here are a couple of great fansites: http://www.foukemonster.net/boggycreek.htm and http://www.legendofboggycreek.com/

Legend of Boggy Creek 13

One of the shots that frightened me the most was this one, in which the boy at the beginning of the film—now an adult—returns to his abandoned home. I kept thinking, “what IS this terrible monster, how bad is he that he scared someone completely away from their home? Did they flee in the middle of the night?”

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About kristipetersenschoonover

A ghost story writer who still sleeps with the lights on, Kristi Petersen Schoonover’s fiction has appeared in countless magazines and anthologies. She has received three Norman Mailer Writers Colony Residencies, is a co-editor for Read Short Fiction, and co-hosts the Dark Discussions Podcast. Her work Skeletons in the Swimmin’ Hole is a collection of ghost stories set in Disney Parks; her horror novel, Bad Apple, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She’s also a member of the New England Horror Writers Association. More info: www.kristipetersenschoonover.com

Posted on September 19, 2017, in Horror Movies, Tot Terrors and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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