Cry Wilderness comes from that most painful of all movie genres — the earnest family-friendly film with a message. This is the kind of movie that your church youth group would show on a Saturday afternoon after some lessons on Jesus. But see, I grew up Catholic, so my Saturday afternoons were spent watching Hammer films and hoping that my family would go to church that night so I could stay up watching Chiller Theater and sleeping in.
Once you grow up, some of those movies seem cloying and ridiculous. I didn’t encounter Cry Wilderness as a kid. No, I got blasted with both barrels of its strangeness as a fully grown adult.
This is the kind of movie that demands that you be OK with the fact that Bigfoot can show up and visit young Paul Cooper and warn him that his father will die unless he leaves his fancy school behind and, well, cry wilderness.
It’s also a movie where seasoned outdoorsmen have no idea how to properly handle weapons, continually pointing them directly at people, planting the muzzle of rifles into dirt and even running with their fingers directly on the trigger.
There are also mystical Native Americans, a park ranger who never wears his uniform, raccoons who know how to knock on doors, a child who is obsessed with said raccoons to the point where he allows them to get in the kitchen sink and eat, a bad guy principal who is the worst Xerox of William Daniels ever, a school that’s cool with a student wearing a Bigfoot medallion as part of his uniform and moments where the film goes completely out of focus. Make those numerous moments.
Are you cool with seeing Bigfoot’s zipper? How much b roll footage is too much? And are you ready for earnest country rock and a movie that feels like it was made in 1978, not 1987?
Topping it all off is the fact that many of the people in this film were also involved in one of my favorite bits of sheer lunatic filmmaking, The Nightmare Never Ends, which is also part of the even more manic Night Train to Terror.