For an ultra low-budget movie about a monster in a lake terrorizing a small town, 1979's Bog is quirky enough to make it notable and charmingly bad enough to make it thoroughly entertaining. Its highlights include a script stuffed with howlers and a fish-man costume that looks like a middle-school art project.
Since it’s being added to Shudder’s streaming library this month—oddly, Shudder, Prime Video, and other sources have it labeled as being from 1984, which feels way too late if you actually watch the movie and hear its pure ‘70s AM gold theme song, “Walk With Me”—we decided it was time to revisit this waterlogged should-be classic. It’s no great work of cinema, but there are far worse ways to spend 90 minutes.
Directed by Don Keeslar and written by Carl Kitt, who have just a handful of other credits between them, Bog was shot in Wisconsin, but we’re given minimal setting information beyond the lake and the adjacent burg where all the action takes place. The movie is called Bog, the lake is called “Bog Lake,” and there’s really more lake than bog going on, but we’re still meant to believe there’s some kind of Swamp Thing or Black Lagoon situation at hand. The plot feels like a proto-X-Files monster-of-the-week yarn as we see a poacher using dynamite as a fishing method accidentally awakens something that’s been lurking in the lake for years. He doesn’t live long enough to regret it, and the creature soon moves on to a pair of “city broads” reluctantly visiting the area with their Budweiser-fueled husbands.
The cops, the town doctor, and Ginny, the chipper local pathologist played by Gloria DeHaven—one of a few Hollywood veterans in the cast, along with Aldo Ray, Marshall Thompson, and Leo Gordon—are forced to reckon with a bizarre new menace in their community that drains the blood of its victims for unknown reasons. (The guy running the town’s gun shop, however, isn’t entirely displeased about all the new business he’s suddenly picking up.) “Could we have a Dracula running loose out there?” Ginny wonders, in one of her few lines of dialogue not overstuffed with medical jargon. While a swamp vampire is absolutely a monster worth building a creature feature around, Bog’s antagonist is possibly even weirder, and it gets a wonderfully vague backstory courtesy of Adrianna, the movie’s self-described “old hag of the woods,” who’s also played by DeHaven in a move that feels more economical than anything else.
Adrianna’s explanation of the monster: “Ancient, long dead through all the centuries. But alive! It feasts on blood while awake, and once satisfied, it sleeps. Years before, it could sleep a thousand months. Now, too many come deep into the forest and arouse it. So it must feed again. [It sleeps] in the slime at the bottom of the lake.” We come to learn that Adrianna has a psychic connection to the creature, and also shares blood with it, which has something to do with the creature’s need for human blood to produce eggs that’ll ensure future generations of bog monsters. The science, for all Ginny’s talk of sophisticated microscopes and chemical compounds, is a little murky here.
But that’s forgivable—and really, the scenes in Ginny’s lab are stuffed with unintentional hilarity and what we’re meant to believe is sexual tension between her and Thompson’s Dr. Wednesday. Bog runs barely 90 minutes, so there’s never much time between attacks, which are generally rendered by showing the creature (which has a surprisingly feline growl) in silhouette, or as a disembodied claw, or merely in the imagination of the viewer as its latest victim turns to the camera and screams their head off. But Bog doesn’t deprive rubber-suit monster fans of some of the sweetest cheese they’ll ever see, with a scene filmed in full daylight that shows the fish-headed beast in all his arm-waving glory, moaning as he’s sprayed with pesticides the damn fool humans think will curtail his reign of terror. You absolutely end up rooting for the guy, and the movie knows it—not for nothing does it hopefully write “The End?” after the big finale. Alas, we’re still waiting for Bog 2: Back 2 the Lake.
Bog streams on Shudder starting April 10.
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