Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2019
Images from the Internet
MOMO: The Missouri Monster
Directed by Seth Breedlove
Small Town Monsters
82 minutes, 2019
The Mothman of Point Pleasant; the Beast of Whitehall; the Flatwoods Monster; the Bray Road Beast; the Thunderbirds… These, among others, have two commonalities. First of all, they are local monsters like Bigfoot that have people talking about after sightings in regional woods or in the skies. The other is that each is represented in a film by Seth Breedlove.
His latest focus is the Missouri Monster known as Momo, a tall and hairy creature with glowing bug eyes. Oh, and three toes, did I mention that? Supposedly it was seen in the woods scaring the local populace of the riverfront town of Louisiana, MO at Marzolf Hill, in 1972. As the name of Breedlove’s film company states, they are interested in Small Town Monsters, and focus on that. I’m all in as cryptozoology is something akin to oral culture as film recordings tend to be rare of these beasties.
But Breedlove takes it a step further and gives the viewer not just a documentary, but a hybrid of documentary and a recently shot narrative that supposed to be from a 1975 cheesy film about the topic at hand. Y’know that film supposedly of Bigfoot walking through the forest that is obviously fake? It’s kinda like that, but with more fun and cheapness thrown in. It’s the kind of film you may have watched on VHS back in the day, with its grainy look and man-in-hairy-suit motif, but more on that later.
In other words, in it’s interesting style where there are three layers to this: first, we are presented with a “reality television show” called “Blackburn’s Cryptid Casefiles,” where a the host, Lyle Blackburn (playing himself, a real Bigfoot and other exotic creatures expert, writer and musician from Texas) is the wraparound story segueing into other layers as Lyle is shot from several angles though he mostly seems to be looking away from the camera while only looking at one of them. The second is the imaginary 1975 film, and the third is the documentary part where the “real” story lies. This is an appealing meta-look at the events at hand. It gives the director some freedom to “exaggerate” the narrative to make it less “talking heads” and overly dramatize the events.
Out of nowhere though, about halfway through, a new element is added, namely UFOs. Okay, maybe not flying saucers, but definitely lights in the skies that occurred the same time, which the filmmakers of the 1975 film and Blackburn’s show connect them into a creature that comes from the sky via these floating luminaries.
I’d like to break this down into two sections, namely the “1975 film” and the documentary parts. For the “previously unreleased film,” Breedlove takes his – err – love of exploitation cinema and presents us with a really cheesily amusing creature (aka the guy in the hairy suit, played by Ken Rose, who musta been sweating like crazy in that abominable thing… see what I did there?) and an absurd, over-the-top story with some really (purposefully I’m assuming) wooden acting that was quite common in those days in the indie film market (and quite often even today, and not just as an homage as is this one).
This fantastical film breaks up the talking heads of the documentary and keeps the story moving along and, as I said before, it especially works because of that. Also, anyone who lived through those early VHS days and are fans of these kinds of things will be joyous about it. For most of this part, the camera has a filter on it do give it that worn, speckled film look, though other parts don’t, and it looks a bit odd being that digital clear rather than cheap film fuzzy. But actually, I’m grateful too much attention wasn’t focused in that way because I remember how hard it was to see night scenes back in the day, and the viewer can make out what is happening here. For that, I’m grateful.
As for the documentary part, there are interviews with a half dozen or so residents of Louisiana at the time (senior citizens now), some of whom scoff at the story while still reliving it for the camera, and others who realize the importance in local history. Their stories are fun and interesting, and just the right touch of cynical in some cases. What was missing was a living member of the Harrison family that is the focus of much of the sightings to talk about what happened to them, or at least an explanation of why they were not on camera in the form of Blackburn’s retelling. Personally, if I was part of the government of the town, I would put up a monument or billboard, and use it as a tourist attraction because there are more people into cryptozoology than one might guess (Area 51, is an example).
Bigfoot stories, even those who may have come from the skies and have three toes, are fun. The fear of big hairy beasties living in the woods – even those who haven’t been seen in 40 years or so – is as palpable as, say, sharks or killer insects. This is true even though Momo never actually hurt anyone.
Breedlove has hit a different formula for his retelling of local legends, and the stories are improved by that. I’m not sure if this will become more standardized for him, or a one-off, but I certainly enjoy what I’ve seen of his series about creatures that may or may not exist in local legends. Hopefully, that will go on.