What is “MOMO: The Missouri Monster”?

by Nick Spacek on September 26, 2019

in Blu-ray/DVD Reviews,Reviews

[Rating: Minor Rock Fist Up]

In the latest installment of the documentary series, Small Town Monsters, MOMO: The Missouri Monster (out September 20 on DVD and VOD), director Seth Breedlove brings a new direction to his exploration of lesser-known American cryptids. While previous outings have seen the series embrace a certain Unsolved Mysteries approach, wherein narration and first-person interviews are interspersed with reenactments, for MOMO, Breedlove has created a feature which stacks meta elements on top of one another.

In Breedlove’s latest, the fictional and factual intertwine in a way which the director describes as “Rashomon meets Creature from Black Lake or The Legend of Boggy Creek.” Real-life writer on the subject of cryptids – creatures whose existence can neither be proven nor discounted – Lyle Blackburn (who is also the narrator for many of Breedlove’s previous films) appears as the host of a television program, Blackburn’s Cryptid Casefiles, which is the program we’re supposedly watching.

This particular episode focuses on MOMO, a “hair-covered, three-toed monstrosity [which] was said to have prowled the forests of Star Hill, near Louisiana, Missouri during the summer of 1972.” The episode and film feature interviews with actual denizens of Louisiana, and explorations of the area wherein the encounters supposedly took place. That’s the real deal.

Where things get hinky and weird is the fact that while these encounters are documented, and Blackburn is a real-life investigator of such legends,  Blackburn’s Cryptid Casefiles isn’t a real TV show, although it does manage to come across as a slightly lower-budget version of programs like the History channel’s MonsterQuest or Syfy’s Destination Truth.

Adding to the weirdness is that the reenactments aren’t just presented as something created for the program, but as coming from a lost 1975 drive-on exploitation feature entitled MOMO: The Missouri Monster. When your fictional reality show features a fake b-movie, you know you’re getting into the weeds of oddity.

The end result is a film which is entertaining on several levels, although not as effective as it might be otherwise. The segments of Blackburn’s ostensible television show are, by virtue of the fact that the writer and researcher is actually interviewing these people, and everything is fairly genuine, work the best. These folks aren’t presented as rubes or hicks, but as people who don’t know what happened, and wish that they did. People saw something out there, and it was enough to result in the sheriff organizing dozens of men to search for it.

That’s the effective part. Now, the less-than-super aspect is the most creative idea. While the concept of presenting the reenactment segments as coming from a long-lost exploitation film is clever, and might allow for some acting issues or poor special effects to slide on by, the unfortunate fact is that the supposed ’75 MOMO: The Missouri Monster looks too good. While the first segment from the fake film looks just like a ’70s cheapy, replete with awkward camera angles, wooden dialogue, and a costume only surpassed by Godmonster of Indian Flats, the rest of it features CGI which is readily apparent as CGI.

At any point, Breedlove could’ve just made the purported UFOs using pie tins and some clip lights, but by trying to go a little above that, the illusion falls apart, and it’s just another bad film. Had the director really embraced the possibilities offered by recreating everything as the penny-pinching producers would’ve done it back in the day, his grindhouse homage would’ve been far more fun.

In the end, it’s an experiment which doesn’t quite bear positive results, but the exercise is interesting in theory. Seth Breedlove still knows how to make a documentary which manages to avoid all of the pitfalls embraced by so many other cryptid explorers, such as trying to make the movie more about those making the movie, rather than just telling an interesting tale. The end result is that MOMO: The Missouri Monster is a fun, mildly entertaining, and actually informative film.

Nick is a self-described “rock star journalist,” which is strange, considering he’s married with two kids and three cats. This is just further proof that you can’t trust anyone online. In addition to his work for Scene-Stealers, Nick can be found bitching about music elsewhere on the Internet at his blog, Rock Star Journalist, and the Pitch’s Wayward Blog.

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