A Professor in Anthropology takes 3 students into the Arkansas swamp to investigate stories of an ape-like wild man, who has been spotted many times over the years by members of the local population. But, as it turns out, he gets a little more than he bargained for…
Charles B Pierce began his entertainment career playing a children’s character called ‘Mr Chuckles’ on a local TV station. A frustrated filmmaker, he built his own camera and used it to shoot ‘The Legend of Boggy Creek’ (1972), a micro-budgeted docudrama that featured reconstructions of reported encounters between residents of Fouke, Arkansas with a ‘Bigfoot’ type creature from the local swamp. Incredibly, it was a smash on the drive-in circuit, taking approximately 25 million dollars. ‘Return to Boggy Creek’ (1977) followed, but it was nothing to do with Pierce, who was busy as a Set Decorator on such major Hollywood pictures as Clint Eastwood’s ‘The Outlaw Josey Wales’ (1976). Subsequent work with Eastwood included providing the story for the Dirty Harry outing ‘Sudden Impact’ (1983).
But Pierce’s own directorial efforts, mostly westerns, had been less successful and a return to Boggy Creek must have seemed like a smart move. This time around, the story was presented as straight drama, although the Professor does relate several stories about the creature, which echoes the docudrama approach of the original film. This includes an ill-advised stab at comedy, involving a generic redneck and an outside toilet.
There are two main problems with the finished product. The first is a lack of story. The screenplay disintegrates into a series of incidents that only lead somewhere in the last quarter of an hour, by which time audience interest has vanished. An encounter with a rabid dog early on seems particularly pointless. The Professor never even bothers to report it to the local authorities, which would seem advisable, given the contagious nature of the disease.
The other major problem is the casting and characters. Pierce himself plays the Professor (not too badly), although his motivations and behaviour don’t make a huge amount of sense. Although he’s travelled into the wilderness to investigate the monster, his first reaction is to try and shoot it. Not very scientific. Worse than that, his students are a pretty annoying trio, who spend most of their time complaining. You can’t help but wonder why they agreed to go along in the first place. Just what course of study are they following? One of the two girls is played by the director’s wife and the boy by his son (who’d appeared in the first movie as a child). Junior appears to have developed an allergy to wearing shirts and, when he finally appears in one towards the end of proceedings, he promptly takes it off!
Plot development is often fairly improbable; the boys go off and leave the girls in camp without any weapons, despite the fact that the monster is in the area. Later on, the girls decide to go to town just for ‘something to do’ and get their truck stuck in a muddy hole. Well, it is Boggy Creek, I suppose. When some story arrives in the shape of Old Man Crenshaw, a redneck recluse living in the swamp, it’s far too little, too late.
Pierce considered this the worst of his movies and it’s not hard to see why. A snail’s pace, no drama and thin characters make for little audience involvement. In one scene, the Professor tracks the creature on a radar scope, just like Sigourney Weaver and the marines do in ‘Aliens’ (1986). Somehow, it’s not quite as exciting.