Small Town Monsters' American Werewolves Provides Frightful And Thought-Provoking Exploration Of The Cryptid Phenomenon

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Each year dozens of encounters with upright canids are reported in North America. Many reports recount a creature that is aggressive, ghastly and disturbing. While many theorize that the dogman is some sort of unidentified species of animal, many believe they were confronted by something else. Something more. A being that bent the very boundaries of reality itself and had stepped into our world from beyond…

Thus opens the prologue to Small Town Monsters’ newest documentary American Werewolves, director Seth Breedlove’s frightful and thought-provoking exploration of the cryptid phenomenon. Eschewing the utilization of folklorists, parapsychologists and psychical researchers common to his other recent paranormal exercises, Breedlove’s latest jaunt into the unknown instead relies solely on nerve-wracking first-hand eyewitness encounters with the vicious wolfmen that allegedly roam the forests and dark bowers of North America to propel the narrative forward.

Well removed from the familiar Hollywood depiction popularized by Lon Chaney Jr. during the early Universal monsters era, details of humanoid bipedal canines stretch into antiquity, from the ancient Greeks (who themselves coined the term lycanthropy), to the Vikings of Scandinavia. In the New World, native culture held a long tradition about such creatures, most notably the shapeshifting ‘skinwalkers’ of lore, and early European explorers to what is now the Midwest buttressed the indigenous beliefs with their own imported myths of loup-garous (literally French for wolf men), Rawhead and Bloody Bones, shadowy folk figures that took on decidedly dangerous roles in colonial days. Far more aggressive than their well-known cryptid kin, the sasquatch, on-screen testimonials of modern confrontations with wolf-like beasts extend back to the 1970’s and venture well into the 21st century, and though the film primarily focuses on the states of Ohio and Kentucky, documented sightings occur annually throughout the United States and Canada.

As with all books, television programs and movies of this sort, no verifiable answers are provided to the existence of lycanthropes in rural America one way or the other, though the questions aroused are plentiful and unsettling. Were a family of four really slaughtered by a dogman near an isolated campground at Land Between the Lakes in Kentucky? Are what observers report hitherto undiscovered specimens of biological origin, or an altogether more spiritual, supernatural or even extraterrestrial force? Like Breedlove’s previous feature, The Mark of the Bell Witch, confusion may linger with the general viewing public as to whether or not they’re watching a found footage cinéma vérité impersonation à la The Blair Witch Project, and as with all examinations of cryptozoological creepy-crawlies, acceptance of werewolves and dogmen as real-world entities ultimately comes down to the personal belief of each individual audience member, though the statements and stories of every eyewitness share a similar hair-raising sincerity that cannot be denied. The retro aesthetics of the film, too, are delightfully eerie, gleefully awash with a deliberate ’80’s VHS feel and matching synth score that evokes that decade’s most notorious paranormal TV shows, Unsolved Mysteries, Sightings and In Search Of… with vivid nostalgic accuracy.

Equal parts distressing, compelling and enjoyable, American Werewolves is required viewing for anyone with an avid interest in cryptozoology or the unexplained. And even for those void of such unorthodox curiosities, the film deserves a look for no other reason than its chilling entertainment value.

I give American Werewolves a 4 (out of 5) on my Fang Scale. Don’t go into the woods alone after dark.

4.0 / 5.0