Billed as a “Blair Witch Project for the cerebral set”, Incident at Loch Ness features legendary director Werner Herzog taking on the legendary Loch Ness Monster. (For the arty-cinema challenged: Some readers may remember Herzog’s fantastic take on the vampire genre with 1979’s Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht, starring Klaus Kinski.)
Unlike most creatures of the dark water, no one has ever accused the Loch Ness Monster of killing anyone. He’s not a scary bogey by any means. So why is the DVD being billed as (among other genres) a horror movie? I dunno, but it’s my solemn duty to review any and all “horror” movies, so here you go.
Actually, the monster is surprisingly destructive in this mostly comedic mockumentary directed by Zak Penn, whose past credits include the abysmal Suspect Zero, and the even worse Elektra. That’s actually pretty scary… Maybe Incident at Loch Ness is a horror film after all!
Needless to say, as the DVD began to play I was torn with mixed emotions adoring Herzog and loathing Penn. The plot of the film is simple: A group of filmmakers head to the Loch Ness in Scotland and it soon becomes obvious that Penn is up to something (that is, to fictionalize what Herzog thinks is a bona fide documentary) — but the cosmos has a few tricks up its sleeve, too.
I have to admit right off that bat that Penn won me over with Incident at Loch Ness. His script, co-written with Herzog, is laugh-out-loud funny and is a dead-on poke at the film industry. He also acts in the movie (as the phony producer of the Herzog-helmed documentary, The Enigma of Loch Ness) and is quite charming. A multilayered film about falsehoods wrapped within cons (listen to the commentary for even more trivia tidbits), it is surprisingly humorous and thought-provoking — I have to give kudos where kudos are due to Penn. But Herzog really is the star, literally and figuratively. He is the movie, and seeing him in it makes me want to catch up on his entire catalogue. (His upcoming documentary — a real one — about fatally mauled grizzly bear activists Timothy Treadwell and Amie Huguenard, is an absolute must-see on my list.)
OK, so how about the monster? He makes an appearance, too — and like the Blair Witch, questions are left as to whether or not he is the genuine article. The “fake” and the “real” Nessie were fashioned with real panache and a sense of fun.
While not quite on par with some other movies and mockumentaries about showbiz (Woody Allen’s Zelig leaps to mind, as does the peerless This Is Spinal Tap), Incident at Loch Ness is right up there with its head above water.
Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson