Another swampy story about a backwoods monster with similarities to Sasquatch, Creature from Black Lake plods through a simplistic and somewhat uneventful storyline until climaxing with a passable action/suspense sequence. For devotees of Bigfoot cinema, one decent vignette of a hairy biped laying siege to a college student in a panel van might be worth the price of admission, especially since the sequence, which is set at night, has a measure of creepy atmosphere. For other viewers, watching the rest of the movie just to enjoy a few low-grade thrills won’t seem like a fair trade. In other words, proceed with caution. The picture begins well, with Joe Canton (Jack Elam) and his redneck buddy steering a canoe through a swamp until they glimpse a bizarre creature and flee, only to have the creature emerge suddenly from the water and pull Joe’s buddy below the surface. Then things slow down. In Chicago, students Pahoo (Dennis Fimple) and Rives (John David Carson) hear rumors about the monster menacing a community in Louisiana, so they embark on a research trip.
While trying to find the much-discussed Joe Canton, the boys clash with a sheriff who doesn’t want his citizens riled up by rumors. Later, they hook up with two local girls and go camping with the girls in the hopes of getting lucky—only to endure an attack by the very monster they’re researching. Lest this give the impression the storyline is picking up speed, however, the whole business with the panel van happens during a subsequent confrontation. Although Creature from Black Lake is mostly drab from a cinematic perspective, cinematographer Dean Cundey—later to break big with Halloween (1978)—lends moodiness to nighttime scenes. The picture also benefits from the presence of familiar character actors Elam and Dub Taylor. Elam gets the meatiest bits, including a monologue about encountering boars slain by the creature, but there’s only so much one can do with dialogue along these lines: ‘If I hadn’t been drinkin’, I’d have blown his butt off!” Taylor does his usual angry-old-coot routine. As for the leads, they’re competent but milquetoast. All in all, this isn’t the worst guy-in-a-suit creature feature you’ll ever encounter, but it’s far from the best.
Creature from Black Lake: FUNKY