Suburban Grindhouse Memories: THE LOCH NESS HORROR (1981)
SUBURBAN GRINDHOUSE MEMORIES
A VERY Messy Nessie…
By Nick Cato
If there’s anything special to point out about 1981’s THE LOCH NESS HORROR, it’s the fact that it’s a PG-rated monster movie, yet still qualifies as a grindhouse film (you’ll see why as this column unfolds). And while I had just started to get into R-rated films in 1981, my life-long obsession with monsters, coupled with the AMAZING poster for this flick, caused me to hit the (now defunct) Amboy Twin theater one Saturday afternoon for a solo viewing, fully aware there’d be little violence and a 99.9% chance of nothing too objectionable.
In an attempt at a scary opening, a man (in 1940) is watching a plane through his telescope when it takes a dive toward a lake. The man follows the plane down, but instead of seeing it hit the water, the Loch Ness Monster’s head pops into the viewfinder. It’s an un-dramatic sequence but sets us up for the events to come, which take place forty years later.
A couple of dopey-looking scientists are floating on Loch Ness in a rubber raft with cheap-looking equipment when Nessie sticks her head out of the water. (NOTE: While the film slows down, I have to give the director credit for these two well-paced opening segments). Not scared—because, y’know, scientists just don’t scare easily—our heroes decide to dive into the loch and see if they can locate the creature. What they find are the remains of the forty-year old plane (featuring two pilots whose bodies look like as good as new!) as well as a large egg that we assume belongs to Nessie (it does). One of the guys is eaten, but the other manages to make it to shore with the egg, where an old man in a mobile camper is waiting.
When they go to sleep that night, Nessie comes out of the water and drags the egg-stealer back into the lake as he screams in his sleeping bag (!), leaving the old man to look on in (poorly acted) horror. Laughs erupted around the decently-crowded afternoon screening.
After this, THE LOCH NESS HORROR becomes an orgy of incoherence. I’m assuming the screenwriters only wanted to show off their cheap-looking Nessie costume (that no one told them looked about as menacing as a Muppet), as they bring in several college age-looking characters, for no other reason than to become monster chow. And for some reason no film critic in the world will ever be able to explain, the old guy in the camper kidnaps one of the college girls.
At this point it should be noted that it’s PAINFULLY OBVIOUS this film was not shot in Scotland, and the actors were most likely friends of the filmmakers who weren’t taught how to speak like Scotsmen and women. The kidnapped girl has one of the worst Scottish accents you’ll ever hear—but apparently Nessie liked her—because the monster ends up eating the old bag that kidnapped her, picking him up by consuming his whole head (a great little scene that had us all cheering!).
WHEN the crowd cheers for the monster, you know you’ve entered GRINDHOUSEVILLE. There are several fun monster-eating scenes, and while not graphic, they each brought a satisfied grin to my seventh-grade face.
BACK to the incoherence: we find out the plane that crashed in the beginning was a Nazi craft, and Scotland’s military has been trying to cover up something it was involved with (but again, WHY we’re never told). NOTHING is ever explained, and thanks to the Nessie-feeding sequences we eventually just go with it and learn not to care.
We DO learn (about halfway through this mess) that Nessie ONLY kills those with low moral standards. Why? Who knows!? Perhaps she’s a Jehovah’s Witness, or an underground Mormon? Or maybe some bizarre cult financed half the film and wanted this obscure fact thrown in there?
If there’s ONE reason to see THE LOCH NESS HORROR, it’s for a sequence where Nessie’s trying to hide from some soldiers. She hops out of the lake and hides behind a tree (remember, this is NESSIE, who must be 50-70 feet long) and the soldiers walk right by her without noticing anything! This is UNBELIEVABLE stupidity at its finest.
There’s also a silly axe murder (don’t ask), a few scenes of Nessie stalking the van holding its egg from behind the bushes (it’s amazing how this huge creature hides behind tiny vegetation while on land) and plenty of Scottish stereotypes (one guy even wears a kilt through the whole film), enough that I’d love to know what Scottish folks thought of this.
This disaster of a film concludes (SPOILER ALERT!) when a bomb planted in the aforementioned Nazi plane goes off, taking out Nessie and the guy who planted it. One of the college students then drops the Nessie egg into the lake, and the HORROR ends as we hear the baby-Nessie heart beat, promising the Loch Ness Monster will live on (but thankfully there was never a sequel).
Director Larry Buchanan has delivered some real gems in his day (including 1967’s MARS NEEDS WOMEN and 1966’s ZONTAR: THE THING FROM VENUS) but this one has to be in the Top 5 of his worst offerings.
Recommended for hardcore Nessie completists and those who may be on a mission to see every single cheap monster movie ever made. Everyone else, run away like your pants are on fire…
© Copyright 2012 by Nick Cato