Directed by Seth Breedlove
Each year, reports emerge across North America of a cryptid, a creature skulking the marshlands and forests of the country as far-reaching as Alaska. Yet, it is not the expectant Sasquatch or Bigfoot, but an upright canid, a Dogman, and endless reports of American Werewolves. Squaring up to these snarling beasts, Seth Breedlove and Small Town Monsters delve into the fascination, and occasional terror of these beasts, as their latest documentary wastes no time in letting viewers precisely know the world of gnashing, gnarling and ghastly monsters they are in store for.
Simultaneously one of the culture’s most celebrated, and somehow ignored cryptids, Werewolves have terrorised the nightmares of children and adults alike for centuries – from John Landis classics to Lon Chaney Jr.’s iconic beast. Previously unearthing the prophetic wings of Mothman, to the Creatures of the Flatwoods, director and filmmaker Seth Breedlove understands our fascination with the unknown and has a proven track record in unearthing chilling (supposed) first-hand accounts. Though usually capable of asking sceptics to leave preconceptions at the door, American Werewolves does little, if anything, to push back against the cynical.
Where previous Small Town documentaries pertain a smattering of eye-witness accounts, there’s a heavy emphasis on anecdotal evidence and storytelling throughout American Werewolves. And though necessary without any physical evidence to fall back on, it demonstrates the severe difficulty in relying on first-hand accounts from regular people. Some stories have a genuine spine of fear, with tales of massacred dogs, livestock, and hunters, told by people with a genuine sense of either terror or storytelling ability. Others, not so much. They come over as stereotyped, and illogical, and serve nothing more than to pad out the runtime.
What fails to aid is the documentary’s limitations of cinematography – with a handful of stories to tell, most told with a direct narrative to camera device, one kept anonymous, it limits the film’s creative output beyond traditional interview styles, but without the benefit of interaction. Stories are not open, and instead closed recitations of experiences, rather than research or discussion.
Attempting to capitalise on the audience’s indulgence in all things 80’s at the hands of Stranger Things, and though fitting, the sequence changes with neon green fonts on black screens is a weak bridge between stories, Breedlove’s editing perhaps at its worst across his documentary features. There seems to be a substantial lack of content outside of storytelling sequences. Brief flittering moments of scripted Monster movie magic homages with a kitsch iteration of Landis’ Werewolf in London offer a welcome break but do nothing more than remind audiences that there are better Werewolf stories out there.
Easily the weakest of Breedlove’s monster’s gallery, American Werewolves bares little teeth or claws and relegates itself to campfire stories, and though the physical proof is a far-off cry, even an ounce more of the depth of research outside of the regurgitated stories. One of cinemas’ best monsters, and a creature with a paw in every cultural storytelling mythos, Small Town’s latest monster epic documentary fails to garner the same calibre and excitement as their previous creature comforts.
‘Bares Little Teeth or Claw’
American Werewolves is available to stream from July 5th from 1091 Pictures.
For information relating to Small Town Monsters Documentaries other, and upcoming works, please consult their website here.