by Tim May
Welcome to Camelot Studios weekend! This interesting Michigan based studio released six movies in the mid-to-late eighties including The Earhunter (1985), Black River Magic (1985), The Black River Horse Capades (year unknown), and The Hackers (1988). The company still exists, though they no longer produce features; these days, they prefer to focus on commercials and industrial videos. Later this weekend, Dan will review The Hackers, but let’s start things off with the bizarre shot on video kids’ movie, Black River Monster.
Now, Black River Monster is most definitely the rarest movie we’ve ever reviewed. It had one of the smallest print runs of any of the Camelot releases, it has no IMDb page, and there are no other reviews anywhere on the internet. What makes it even more of an oddity is its affiliation with the Black River Farm and Ranch, a summer camp for girls based in Croswell, Michigan. It’s about halfway between a movie and a promotional video for the camp.
As the movie begins, one of the campers is scared off by a “monster,” who looks like your average sasquatch/big foot/skunkape. She runs off to get “Mr. D,” presumably the owner of the ranch (in the movie, and probably in real life, at least at the time the movie was made), to look into it for her. Of course, there’s no sign of the monster, but he did leave a giant footprint in the barn.
Despite being called Black River Monster, this movie is really about a fat guy named Leroy who lives with his mother (who looks exactly like him). Leroy’s mom is sick of his lazing about, so she gets him a summer job at the Black River Ranch. Now, Leroy is a miserable asshole who can’t accept this kindness. He just wishes he could “get something more in his line of work,” which seems to be eating a lot of Little Debbie’s.
Leroy is too fat and lazy to walk to the ranch, so he hitchhikes. He’s picked up by a couple of ridiculous creatures literally named Louie and Sleaze.
These guys make him sit in the bed of their pick-up truck and drive so fast he tumbles around for the whole ride. Watch the clip below and tell me you can’t hear the Dukes of Hazard theme kick in as soon as they hit the gas pedal.
Black River Monster is all over the place, tonally. It often feels like a kids’ movie, but then it goes and makes a bunch of mean-spirited fat jokes about Leroy. Even the kindly Mr. D berates Leroy for being lazy and for sleeping on the job. I thought this was mean at first, but Leroy is constantly complaining about everything. Just do your job, fatass. You’re not an air traffic controller, you’re a ranch hand. Scoop cow shit, motherfucker.
The monster almost always feels like an afterthought until the film’s climax, in which Louie and Sleaze return to try to steal some of the ranch’s horses in order to sell them and make a “quick buck.” Here is where the monster has his greatest moment. He picks Louie and Sleaze up by the throats and chokes them for a full minute. Crime doesn’t pay when the Black River Monster is afoot.
Leroy and Mr. D find Louie and Sleaze passed out in the barn and turn them in to the police. All of the campers (portrayed by actual campers from the summer the movie was shot) rally around Leroy. Sadly, one of these poor little girls was forced to say Leroy was “kinda cute.” Yuck. Anyway, Mr. D gives Leroy the rest of the day off, but asks if he could close the barn door first. Leroy obviously can’t appreciate Mr. D’s kindness and must complain that there’s “always one more thing to do.” You can’t get through life this way, Leroy. Do some work, lose some weight, and avoid a heart attack. When he goes to close the door, the monster appears and Leroy goes running like a little bitch. Credits.
At a brisk 50 minutes, Black River Monster is light, stupid fun. You can buy a DVD copy directly from Camelot Studios at their website. Camelot still produces promotional videos for Black River Farm and Ranch, but this obscurity is a charming time capsule for an incredibly specific and elite group (campers and councilors who were at the ranch the summer the movie was made). Basically, it’s an elaborate yearbook with a lot of fat jokes and a dopey ape costume.
Most of the images in this review were provided by our boy, Grant Cornelison.