A bachelor party in the woods gets crashed by the ultimate party animal.
One of the pure joys of reviewing independent film is that it’s a sub-level of film making that isn’t inhibited as much by the parameters set by financial backers of the big budget mainstream industry. The companies with the gajillion (not a word, I know, but left in for emphasis and humor so deal with it) bucks available to spend want as much of a guarantee on their box office return. And the formula to get masses through the ticket turnstiles involves more of a straight A to Z plot thread (boy/girl develops superpowers just as evil mutant/villain/genius plots to wipe out mankind and there’s loads of super-awesome mammoth explosions and CGI) and the minimal error percentage does not allow for masturbation to phone porn, penile dismemberment, and bigfoot crashing a bachelor party.
In other words, all the deliriously goofy, gory fun to be had with up-and-coming indie helmer Todd Jenkins’ 2018 effort Cherokee Creek. It’s a purposefully chaotic Bigfoot-meets-American-Pie grue with a cast that seems to be having a grand time mixing yocks and yucks for the audience.
A group of guys kidnap a young groom-to-be named Patrick for a bachelor party at, well, a unique venue for such debauchery (a campsite deep in the forest). Note of caution: If the best man at your pending nuptials decides on a forest as a good place for a bachelor party, sever ties immediately. There may not be marauding monsters targeting you but the cost of transporting strippers out there would likely be enormous! In the case of Patrick and friends, the acreage they have chosen just happens to be the stomping ground of a particularly feisty hairy creature with quite the nasty disposition to go with a yen for human flesh. When the group aren’t arguing with one another about a variety of subjects, their numbers keep dwindling.
The stock negative I usually have with these low budget chillers is the limitations a lack of budget creates and how, unless you are skilled as a filmmaker (ala Roger Corman) in stretching and/or covering the meager funds, these flaws become exposed for all to see and often kill the mood and ambition of story. In a weird reversal, however, a paucity of money seems to help Jenkins visualize an isolationist, kind of claustrophobic atmosphere. Placing the action in a remote setting, hemmed in even more by night shooting, and restricting the story to just a handful of characters helps two-fold: a blanket over the budgetary sins and a tangible sense of intimate terror. At no time did I stop the film in a fit of groaning at some obvious fakery of effect or “come on!” continuity gaffe. Credit to Special Makeup Effects Artists Andy Arrasmith, Emma Campbell and Shelly Pinder for taking what cash they were allotted and creating a convincing creature costume (a particularly gnarled visage with razor-sharp teeth) that belies its low cost trappings. Of course, leaving nothing to chance, Jenkins manages to keep the critter off screen until a reveal becomes absolutely necessary. I would imagine that, in bright light or even clear focus, even the best-hidden of zippers would ultimately show.
Kudos to Jenkins, doubling as scriptwriter (with credits to Jarrett Bigelow, Araceli Jenkins and Billy Blair on original story concept) for mixing some gut-busting raunchy humor in with the gut-crunching gore moments. The fake kidnapping opening with the getaway driver caught during a spanking the monkey (the phone porn mentioned above) moment had me rolling. Later in the action, a blow job scene interrupted by the monster and resulting in a severed male member is of the laugh profusely while simultaneously cringing bits that you hate to admit is funny. Jenkins and gang go full on for both the throat and funny bone. As with many horror comedies where the ubiquitous everything-thrown-in-but-the-kitchen-sink mantra is used, not every single one of the jokes works. I felt the bit with the security guy accompanying the strippers was somewhat labored in reaching for the joke. But most of the humor is spot on and will have your stomach hurting by the roll of end credits. Speaking of the final roll call, if you stay through there are some quite amusing, blooper-ish scenes that continue the chortling (the deputy playing with both the severed hand and penis had me in a laughing jag).
The cast roster is unilaterally fine. Standouts include Blair as film star Vinny Blades, Jenkins (taking a third hat as one of the leads) as the pal Jinx, Justin Armstrong as the heroic (if somewhat naïve) Patrick and Olivia Sabini as his shrew fiancée Caroline. Jenkins very bravely assays a full nude blow job scene and the hacking off of said member with a screeching aplomb that few others could do. Sabini steals every scene she’s in with her amped up shrew turn. She’s a character that even Shakespeare couldn’t tame, truth be told.
Adding to his multi-hyphenate aspirations, Jenkins additionally took on the role of cinematographer and does a very commendable job if at least in not reaching for the irritating crutch popularized by the folks behind the Blair Witch films: that of the extreme closeups on quivering faces of actors. There are some nice, quick cutaway points and periods of refreshingly static camera shots. Handicam is not eliminated here, but it’s also not relied on. Using an actual park location in McKinney, Texas only helps the ambience and realism here.
If you are looking for normal, wait for the next Hollywood summer blockbuster that cost $300 million to make and will bring gajillions (there I go again!) back. If you want loopy, hilarity and elements of nausea-inducing gore in your filmic diet, check out Cherokee Creek on Amazon Prime Streaming. The gore-hound-ish, Bigfoot legend fan kid in you will be glad you did.