1979’s BOG is the type of movie Ed Wood would have made in the ’50s: a cheerfully inept little monster flick that’s so bad it’s heartwarmingly charming.
While on a fishing excursion in the woods of rural Wisconsin, friends Chuck (Rojay North) and Allan (Glen Voros), and their extremely unhappy wives, Kim (Lou Hunt) and May (Carol Tanner), are attacked by an unseen creature that emerges from the lake. When Kim and May disappear and are later found completely drained of blood, the local police are baffled by the mysterious crime and call in scientists, Ginny Glenn (Gloria DeHaven) and John Warren (Leo Gordon), to help.
While Ginny and John look into microscopes and hypothesize ideas – and have an awesomely corny and adorable romance on the side – Chuck and Allan take matters into their own, gun-toting hands and go back to the lake to find what killed their wives. In doing so they run into Wallace Fry (Robert Fry), a fedora and overalls-wearing hillbilly (a precursor to Crazy Ralph, perhaps?) who takes Chuck and Allan to see an old hermit named Adrianna (also DeHaven).
Adrianna informs them an ancient fish-monster has been asleep for millennia at the bottom of the lake, and now it’s awakened from fishing dynamite and needs human blood to survive. Chuck and Allan tell the authorities, who seem to have a hard time finding the creature, despite the fact it makes more noise than King Kong on steroids. But, wait – there are also eggs found at the bottom of the lake by a couple of scuba divers, who’re eventually killed and the eggs brought back to Ginny’s lab (which suspiciously looks like a high school science classroom).
I first learned about Bog back in the early ’90s when I saw a VHS of it in the $1 bin at my local video store. I was immediately mesmerized by the colorful if awkward art, and upon watching it was swept up in its amazing awfulness. But like most good bad movies, Bog has a charm to spare. The actors, mostly professionals from way back when, give it their all, especially former MGM star DeHaven, who, considering the material she’s working with, is quite good as both Ginny and Adrianna – Adrianna’s old age make-up looks like it was done with a kit bought at a drug store Halloween sale.
As for the monster itself, well… If you took a large papier-maché fish head and attached it to a lizard costume, you’ll get the picture. But, as I mentioned earlier, the movie’s dime-store aesthetics are what make it so delightful, but so does the cast, with Ann B. Davis lookalike, Tanner, a hoot as cranky May.
Best line: “Do we have a Dracula running around out there?”
Back to the woods it is for the 2014 Bigfoot chiller, EXISTS. Directed by Blair Witch Project‘s Eduardo Sanchez, Exists follows a group of twenty-something friends as they venture into the forest to spend the weekend at a – drumroll, please! – cabin.
Brothers Matt (Samuel Davis) and Brian (Chris Osborn) invite several of their friends to their uncle’s house in the Texas country for the weekend. Upon arriving, Matt hits something with his car; later they hear what sounds like animalistic cries of pain in the woods. Thinking they hit a deer, the gang continue to the house, but stoner Brian, remembering stories his uncle told them as a kid, believes it could be Bigfoot. He quickly sets up GoPro cameras around the property, hoping to capture footage of the beast.
After a night of partying, Matt and friends start to believe Brian’s Bigfoot theory when the house is attacked by a large creature walking on two legs. The group makes a hasty exit the next morning, only to find Matt’s car trashed, with a tree trunk sticking out the windshield. They all decide to fortify the house and wait for the arrive of Matt’s and Brian’s uncle.
Unable to wait, Matt rides his bike to seek help, only to come face-to-face with the massive beast who, in the film’s best scene, pursues Matt in an intense, high-speed chase reminiscent of the water skier chase sequence from Jaws 2. With no help coming, it isn’t long until the helpless group realizes it’s a fight to the death between them and the monster.
In terms of found footage monster movies, Exists isn’t one of the best, but it’s most certainly not one of the worst. While it lacks the grueling horror of Blair Witch Project (and the nail-biting suspense of Willow Creek), Exists is more of a jump-scare funhouse movie and doesn’t pretend to be anything other than that. The film delivers several fun scenes and uses the monster wisely, but keeps it in the shadows and hidden behind the shrubbery in the woods. Sanchez keeps the pace moving fast, which helps with the absence of suspense and the annoyance of its dumb, one-dimensional characters. But, as FF flicks go, Exists is a decent entry in the canon and worth a look for fans.
Concluding this week’s “Creatures in the Woods” theme is the 1979 environmental monster romp, PROPHECY. When all the members of a search-and-rescue team are brutally murdered by a mysterious beast in the wilds of Maine, lumber mill director, Bethel Isely (Richard Dysart), blames a local tribe of Native Americans for the deaths of both the searchers and for a group of missing mill employees. Unsure of how to solve a land dispute between the mill and Native Americans, the Environmental Protection Agency sends Dr. Rob Verne (Robert Foxworth), along with his wife, Maggie (Talia Shire), to Maine to write up a report on the situation.
While researching the area, Rob discovers abnormal wildlife, including oversized salmon and violently aggressive raccoons, one of which attacks Rob and Maggie in their cabin. Later on, Rob is approached by John Hawks (Armand Assante), a Native American who informs Rob that the lumber mill is poisoning the surrounding environment with pollution.
Meanwhile, on a nearby camping excursion, a father and his two children are torn to pieces by a large, mutated, blood-and-pus-dripping bear, the same animal that killed the rescuers earlier. Isely accusing Hawks and his men of the new crimes, but when Rob and Maggie find a deformed and dying bear cub in a fishing net, Rob uses the cub as evidence of Hawk’s innocence. That is until Mama Bear comes looking for her child.
An unfairly criticized film, Prophecy is a solid creature feature with some terrific scenes, including the shocking death of a boy smashed against a rock while helplessly caught inside his sleeping bag. The screenplay (by The Omen‘s David Seltzer) gets too wrapped up in its pollution-as-monster metaphor, especially during the first hour, but director John Frankenheimer (The Manchurian Candidate) makes up for it with brisk direction, a good use of widescreen framing (soaking in the beautiful British Columbia landscapes used as the backdrop for Maine), and an exciting last 30 minutes. A tighter script and this could have been a cult classic. | Bog: A– Prophecy: B Exists: B–