Monday, October 31, 2011

Godmonster of Indian Flats

For Halloween, I knew I had to review a film absolutely guaranteed to send chills up and  down your eager spines. Unfortunately for you and your spines, I got lazy, as did director Fredric Hobbs. Well, maybe Hobbs wasn’t exactly lazy when he made Godmonster of Indian Flats (1973)- stoned out of his everlovin’ gourd is more likely. what else could possibly explain a film that alternates being about the dangers of racism and mutant sheep?
Yes, your eyes do not deceive. Our tale begins out west, when dangerous gas seeps out of an abandoned mine and begins to affect a young shepherd’s flock. A ewe gives birth to a decidedly misshapen lamb. This homely creature catches the interest of Professor Clemens, the local college-educated type who just happens to be investigating this precise phenomenon, and is only too happy to open his laboratory to the wee ungulate. 

Now, you would think that a freaky sheep would be enough to carry the plot, but for the next hour or so, the movie violently disagrees. In fact, most of the story deals with a jaunty developer attempting to buy real estate in the small, wild-west obsessed town outside the mine. The conflict? The developer is black, and eeeeeeveryone else is white. Really white. And really racist. Instead of just saying “no, we’re not gonna sell you our land”, they frame him for a crime. When that doesn’t work to their satisfaction, they actually round up a lynching posse. Yeeee-ha!

This stand-off just happens to disrupt the sheep creature who has been incubating in prof Clemens’ lab. (Bet you’d almost forgot about our monster!) The beast escapes and goes on a wild tear through the countryside. The rampaging ruminant terrifies a pack of picnicking children and somehow manages to blow up a gas station before being lassoed by a crowd of cowboys. But really, the fun is just beginning; the endgame here is genuinely explosive.

To be honest, much of Godmonster can be pretty hard to sit through. The problem is, it feels like two very different movies smashed together at high speed. Is the damn thing a meditation on the destructive nature of prejudice, or is it about a marauding sheep monster? These seem like two subjects which should not be sandwiched together. 
Needless to say, the best parts of the film involve the sheep. (What exactly makes it a “godmonster” is never really explained). It’s just plain hilarious to look at. Dopey-eyed and hunchbacked, it shambles around on two stumpy little legs. One of its forelegs is particularly long. In fact it looks quite a bit like a horse’s...nevermind. Basically, this is one non-threatening, goofy ass monster.

Our wooly friend shows his true colors shortly after he escapes from the lab. Mariposa, local hippie chick and Clemens’  helper, catches up with the beast and...dances with it. Yes, that’s right. Together they shuffle and sway and twirl about a sunlit canyon. Really, that’s about as menacing as a fluffy little kitten snuggling in a basket of warm laundry.

So, to sum up: When the sheep is on screen, you will laugh. When just about everything else is going on, you will probably be confused and bored to the point of looking for ripe scabs to pick. Still, if you find yourself in need of some truly lanolin-soaked horror this Halloween, there’s pretty much just one flick you can pick. That reliable ol’ hunk o’ mutton, Godmonster of Indian Flats. Because sometimes, you just have to spell “boo” with a couple of As. 

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