23 October 2017 | Wuchakk
When you're forced to Kill to survive
RELEASED TO TV IN 1988 and directed by Tim Burstall, "Nightmare at Bittercreek" stars Tom Skerritt as Ding, an alcoholic trail guide who leads four vacationing women on horseback in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. They unwittingly stumble across a ruthless group of paramilitary Neo-Nazis and engage in a deadly game of cat & mouse in the rugged wilderness. Will they make it out alive? The women are played by Lindsay Wagner, Constance McCashin, Joanna Cassidy and teenaged Janne Mortil.
The DVD cover curiously mis-advertises the movie with images of the KKK, the Confederate flag, a noose and a grizzly bear. NONE of these items are in the movie; the story takes place in the mountains of Northern California, not in the South. This is a dead serious adventure film and, despite the inherent limitations of its TV budget, as well as lame clichés and dated score, is one of the best survival movies I've ever seen.
If you favor films like "The Edge" (1997), "Deliverance" (1972) and "First Blood" (1982) then you'll appreciate "Nightmare at Bittercreek." In terms of technical production it's by far the least of these because it's a TV flick, but in spirit it's nearly as good in its own way and arguably on par. It's similar to the TV movie "Relentless" (1977) with Will Sampson, but significantly more compelling.
Except for the opening in town, practically the entire movie takes place in the rugged high country with magnificent sylvan sceneries, including awesome waterfalls. In addition, the human interest is strong, as the story makes you care for the disillusioned cowboy, the four women and Buster, the guide's dog.
The guerillas are wisely depicted in a vague manner, camouflaged silhouettes in the forestry or malevolent voices on a walkie-talkie. There are scenes of quality suspense and nigh horror, all grounded in reality (except for, like I said, a couple of eye-rolling clichés). For instance, a rivalry with another trail guide (Dwight McFee) is revealed at the beginning, which leads to a tense and believable confrontation, not to mention a knockdown-drag-out brouhaha. The sequence is expertly done and smacks of real life.
I can only attribute the low reviews to nitpicky film snobs who get off on panning low-budget productions. The fools.
THE MOVIE RUNS 92 minutes and was shot in the North Vancouver area. WRITERS: Scott Swanton & Greg McCarty.