The Fouke Monster: The Southern Sasquatch of Arkansas
The Fouke Monster is a well-known cryptid around Fouke, Arkansas. Known by locals as the Fouke Monster, and by cryptozoologists as the Southern Sasquatch, it was first seen in the area in 1851. Most reported sightings are from the 1970s to present. It is known by locals for having an odor that is like the combination of a wet dog and a skunk.
The creature is often seen by hunters in the woods, running across the high ways or back roads, or even reaching through screen doors. It is often blamed for missing livestock and attacks on dogs.
A film published in 1972, The Legend of Boggy Creek, discusses Bobby Ford’s several encounters with the creature, as well as encounters by other residents of Fouke, Arkansas. As the docu-horror presents, he is known to travel along the Boggy Creek, and is often deep in the woods.
You could say the ‘80s are having something of a moment amidst the ever-churning clutter of modern pop culture: “Stranger Things,” a Netflix series that celebrates the decade with dedicated diligence, was one of the most buzzed about showcases at last weekend’s massive Comic Con, along with the trailer for Ready Player One, a film from ‘80s iconic director Steven Spielberg, based on a novel by Ernest Cline that pretty much exists solely as a paean to all things hairsprayed and shoulder-padded; to say nothing of the Guardians of the Galaxy films drinking so deeply of the era’s zeitgeist, the sequel even gave us an appearance by David Hasselhoff for no reason other than a reference point.
David Leitch’s violent spy thriller, set in 1989 Berlin, right before the tearing down of the Wall, employs an off-the-rack ‘80s-era soundtrack that you might have once found on a Ronco compilation record – Nena’s “99 Luftballoons”, Queen’s “Killer Queen,” Falco’s “Der Kommissar,” New Order’s “Blue Monday,” an unusual reliance on ‘Til Tuesday; hell, they even use David Bowie’s “Cat People (Putting Out Fire)”, a song he wrote expressly as the closing credits number for the ‘80s remake of that very film – along with many excuses to dress the film’s heroine in an impressive array of black/white/red ‘80s fashions. It could very well have carved out a fine niche for itself as a smooth, punchy female-lead thriller, but it turns out many of those punches actually make an impact. The film might enjoy its splicey editing, colored filters, and jumpy sound cues, but there’s more than a little blood trickling down the corners of its sleek frame: The excess of violence is reflected all over the badly beaten and bruised countenance of its heroine.
When we first meet Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron), she’s soaking in a well-appointed ice bath, her body battered as if she had spent considerable time in the company of a cement mixer. Not that she’s taking the abuse terribly personally: When she emerges out of the tub, she casually tosses a couple of those ice cubes in a tumbler of Stoli she downs in a long gulp. She’s on her way for a debriefing at MI6 headquarters, getting grilled by her immediate superior (Toby Jones), and, despite her protestations, a blustery CIA operative (John Goodman), under the watchful eye of her chief (James Faulkner). Settling into her chair, chain-smoking – another ‘80s shout out! – she doles out the complicated story of her last two weeks in a give-and-take flashback.
Sent to Berlin to retrieve a stolen list of hidden agents amassed by the Stasi – and dangled to British intelligence by a defecting East German operative known only as “Spyglass” (Eddie Marsan) – Lorraine has to outwit both the KGB, who have sent an envoy of operatives to take out the traitor and get the list for themselves, and her own supposed colleague and main point of contact, David Percival (James McAvoy), a debauched wild-child who has “gone native” after a decade spent in Berlin, who sports a “Sinead O’Connor” haircut and wooly-cuffed parka, and delights in playing her against the KGB and Stasi at almost every turn.
As if that weren’t enough, she is also tasked with finding a dangerous double-agent known only as Satchel, all while trying to avenge the assassination of a colleague and former lover (James Gasciogne), taken out by the KGB after first acquiring the list. Also thrown into the mix, there is Delphine (Sofia Boutella), a comely French agent, still a bit wet behind the ears, who tries in earnest to seduce Lorraine and compromise her position for reasons yet unknown. Through all the jousting and cat-and-mouse interplay, Lorraine has to keep her head straight about the actual objectives of her mission even as a streaming gaggle of thugs attempt to remove it forcibly from her shoulders.
The action scenes, intricately choreographed and endlessly brutal, emulate the style employed in the popular vernacular of John Wick (unsurprising, considering the Keanu Reeve’s-lead thriller was director Leitch’s first film): Many scenes are closely held single-shot affairs with nary a stuntwoman in sight. Instead we see Theron dispatch an array of international goons by the crate, utilizing whatever weapons she finds handy at the time – in one scene, she makes a good deal of headway against a contingent of East German police officers with a rope, a frying pan, and a freezer door – all while taking a beating doing it. Many times in the course of things she’s felled by a particularly vicious attack, or staggering impact, only to gather herself and rise up once again to enjoin her adversaries. She might eventually come out on top of these battle royals, but even her victories come at a heavy physical price.
If it hasn’t already, much will eventually be written about this summer of the leading action heroine – between this, Zoe Saldana’s fierce Gamora in Guardians, and Gal Gadot’s star-turn as Wonder Woman, it’s safe to say Hollywood is coming to believe in the concept – but this isn’t some Angelina Jolie smiling assassin bit where the heroine smugly dispatches her enemies with nary a scratch. Lorraine gets continually whomped, strangled, shot at, clubbed, smacked, punched, and pitched into walls. In the film’s signature action scene, we see her take out a cadre of KGB agents in a tight stairwell, the camera capturing every punishing hit, kick, and squib. By the end of this battle, she has an extended showdown with an unremitting adversary, the two of them so exhausted by the end, neither can even stand up straight.
It’s the kind of spicy violence you likely wouldn’t see Tom Cruise attempt – even in the Jack Reacher films, Cruise’s character never seems to sustain more than a tear in his shirt – but here it enticingly anchors the action down, providing some welcome ballast against the otherwise confoundingly complicated spy vs. spy plot mechanics. We feel the amount of pain and suffering Lorraine endures to achieve her objective, adding considerable heft to the ferocious proceedings.
Despite the film’s more nostalgic leanings, its willingness to put its heroine in such plaintive physical distress, fighting men twice her size and matching them punch for punch in bestial fury, is a far more modern – and welcome – convention. Theron, for her part, has proven time and again that she’s unafraid of utilizing her naturally stunning looks in non-traditional ways to keep an audience off-kilter, whether covering them up entirely, as in Patty Jenkin’s Monster (which earned the actress an Oscar), suppressing them behind weathered hellaciousness in John Hillcoat’s pitiless The Road, or covered in grime, soot, and a buzzcut for Mad Max: Fury Road.
Unlike many pretty actresses of her generation, she has never shown trepidation at subverting her looks to powerful effect. She has a penchant for utilizing her Hollywood glam to throw some of her darker characters in ironic relief. Here, with Lorraine’s badly beaten body on full display, Theron once again shows a willingness to batter her image, to impressive, if disconcerting, effect. You might think to ask such a beautiful woman what she’s doing in a place like this, but she’d likely ram your teeth down your throat in response.