WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS!
When I was growing up, I was so much more receptive towards the existence of paranormal phenomena, cryptids, and things that went bump in the night. Nessie lurked at the bottom of Loch Ness, THE AMITYVILLE HORROR was a true story, and Bigfoot and its ilk were most definitely stomping around the heavily-forested portions of the United States. I watched Unsolved Mysteries, reruns of In Search Of…, and eagerly devoured books filled with ghost stories and eyewitness accounts of Bigfeet, UFOs, and sea serpents.
But now that I’m an adult, I no longer put much stock in tales of missing links, ghosts, and monsters. I mean sure, I want to believe, but in this age of increased technological visibility where everyone has a camera, and satellites watch us from miles above the Earth, it has become increasingly difficult to believe that such creatures exist. But it is fun to speculate, and always interesting to hear tales of legendary creatures like MOMO: THE MISSOURI MONSTER.
Momo (the shortened form of MissOuri MOnster) hails from the small town of Louisiana, Missouri, which sits alongside the Mississippi River. The creature was allegedly seen my numerous people in the Summer of 1972, and would forever become a part of local legend that persists to this day. In particular, the foul-smelling, three-toed, seven-foot tall hominid terrorized the Harrisons, a family that lived near Marzolf Hill (aka Star Hill). Their tales of a hirsute beast (and lights in the sky) created a sort of mass hysteria in the otherwise peaceful town.
To calm the populace, the local Chief of Police, Shelby Ward, scoured Star Hill with a group of armed men and found no trace of any creature, but that didn’t stop outsiders from visiting. Hoping to catch a glimpse of Momo, cryptozoologists (and even UFO experts) descended upon Louisiana. But as quickly as the mysterious beast had appeared, it suddenly vanished, leaving many to wonder if the Harrisons had lied, were the victims of a prank, or if Momo was real but not of this Earth.
Nearly fifty years after the “Summer of Momo,” Lyle Blackburn (author, Rue Morgue columnist, musician, and cryptid enthusiast) ventures to Louisiana as part of his “Cryptid Casefiles” series to shed some light on the short-lived invasion of the Missouri Monster. Blackburn’s portion of MOMO is done in pure documentary style: He interviews locals who share their personal experiences (and opinions), or recount the stories they have heard. And while conducting his investigation, the film cuts back and forth to a “previously unreleased” 1975 film entitled MOMO: THE MISSOURI MONSTER.
Directed by Seth Breedlove (who did nine cryptid docs prior to this one), MOMO is a cool little film that hearkens back to “Bigfoot-sploitation” classics like THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK and THE CREATURE FROM BLACK LAKE. It also never existed until this year. (That’s right Vault Dwellers – MOMO is a faux film!) With an estimated budget of sixteen grand (according to IMDB), and a relatively small cast and crew, Breedlove produced a fun narrative about a hairy invader from outer space.
Though shot on digital, MOMO: THE MISSOURI MONSTER was film-looked to give it a 70s grindhouse feel: The footage looks grainy and a bit washed out, and specks and scratches were added to complete the effect. Coupled with the atmospheric soundtrack composed by Brandon Dalo, the illusion of MOMO’s “drive-in movie origins” is fairly convincing, even during scenes utilizing green screen and digital effects! As for Momo itself, it is (thankfully) brought to life via an actor (Ken Rose) in a monster suit!
Unfortunately, as good as the production values are, there isn’t a whole lot of meat to MOMO: THE MISSOURI MONSTER, and I can’t honestly fault the filmmakers for that. It’s just the result of a finite number of Momo stories, and the fact that many of the people who experienced the disturbances firsthand are no longer with us. (As of 2008, Edgar Harrison, his wife Betty, and his son Lewis, who were all at the epicenter of the strange events, are no longer with us.)
Still, Lyle Blackburn makes do with his interview subjects, who are comprised of Momo skeptics (who simultaneously vouch for the integrity of the Harrison family), Matt Huntington – Chronicler of the Strange, and Snookie Ward, the daughter of Louisiana’s former Momo-hunting police chief. But the most interesting interviewee of the bunch has to be Gail Suddarth. As Momo fever ramped up in town, she claims to have created the infamous three-toed Momo-print discovered on her family farm that drew media attention and even fooled experts!
While the documentary portions of this Small Town Monsters production are well done, it’s truly Seth Breedlove’s simulated creature feature that won me over in the end. MOMO: THE MISSOURI MONSTER offers up an extraterrestrial origin for the beast, who is characterized as equal parts curious and aggressive. The creature makes a general nuisance of itself as it stalks the Harrison family, assaults a pair of young picnickers (stealing a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the process), and offends many a nose with its fetid stench!
As MOMO builds to its conclusion, Edgar Harrison (Adam Duggan) ventures up to Marzolf Hill one night with Chief Ward (Cliff Barackman) and a group of armed volunteers, to flush out Momo. Undaunted by strange phenomena (e.g. lights in the sky, animalistic roars, and a monstrous voice warning them to “Stay out of my woods!”) the men continue their search. But in the end it is Edgar who stumbles across their quarry after recklessly charging into the forest. Having abandoned the others, Edgar comes face to face with Momo leading to final confrontation that will decide the fate of the town, and his family!
Currently I have not seen any of the other cryptid documentaries created by the Small Town Monsters team (which include investigations into THE BRAY ROAD BEAST, THE FLATWOODS MONSTER, THE MOTHMAN OF POINT PLEASANT, and THE BOGGY CREEK MONSTER!), but if they are on par with MOMO: THE MISSOURI MONSTER then I’ll gladly give them a watch! Seth Breedlove’s documentary/docudrama combo is very polished, and offers up some interesting historical perspective on the town and its furry claim to fame. Will it make a Momo-believer out of you? Probably not. But as I stated earlier, it’s always fun to speculate!
Though I’m not likely to revisit MOMO: THE MISSOURI MONSTER any time soon, I do very much recommend it (particularly to cryptozoology enthusiasts and fans of Bigfoot cinema) and hereby give this indie documentary a rating of: