Louisiana, Missouri is like most small towns. It’s quiet, peaceful, and rich with history. But a small part of that history is exactly while the film crew of Small Town Monsters decided to make it the subject of their latest film; MoMo: The Missouri Monster. And this ain’t your typical run-of-the-mill documentary of talking heads and fantastical stories from yesteryear. Filmmaker, Seth Breedlove, and his creative team did a monster-mash of epic proportions, creating a hybrid of a documentary and a cringe-worthy monster movie that would make even the Mystery Science Theater crew blush… on purpose that is!
There’s distinct layers to this highly original film that when peeled back, show a much bigger picture than a mere monster terrorizing a small town. But we’ll get to that. First, a little about MoMo him… or herself. In the early 1970s, a strange creature was sighted off the riverbanks of the Mississippi. It was extremely tall, very hairy, and emitted a horrendous odor. Its straggly, black hair covered its entire face, except for what many witnesses reported as glowing, beady, red eyes. There were several sightings of the creature throughout 1971, but the real terror seemed to occur in in the summer of 1972. And it began with two young women heading out to a picnic.
This is where Breedlove’s film completely drops you in to a 1970s monster movie in the best of ways. He’s hired several well known figures in the paranormal and horror communities to play the two women who first encounter the smelly, hairy beast. Elizabeth Saint and Janet Jay play Mary and Joan, respectively. From the very start of this “monster movie,” we are treated to over-the-top acting, cheesy dialogue, and extreme camera angles that culminate in to a funny, yet somewhat scary first introduction to MoMo. After this scene, we realize we’re actually in a television that is cutting between different channels, all covering the MoMo lore. This is where our main host for the evening makes his first appearance.
For anyone familiar with the crypto-research world, you will certainly recognize the main host of the documentary section of the film; Lyle Blackburn. But instead of serving merely as a narrator or host, he is cleverly used as a meta version of himself, hosting a television program called “Blackburn’s Cryptid Case Files”. Rocking his ghoulish southern rock attire, Blackburn introduces us to the legends of MoMo and goes around town interviewing both locals of Louisiana and another familiar face in both the paranormal and ufological world, Michael Huntington. Huntington, a Missouri resident and writer of the weird, expertly runs us through some of the most famous encounters with MoMo. This inevitably leads us to the core of the film, an All-American family who seemed to be at the center of the MoMo encounters.
We are thrown back in to the monster movie where we are introduced to the Harrison family. The two young Harrison boys encounter MoMo who, in one scene, disturbingly holds the lifeless corpse of a dog. Terrified, the boys tell their mother, Betty, played by Sara Heddleston, and she notifies the patriarch of the family, Edgar, played by Adam Duggan. What plays out is a cat-and-mouse game where Edgar Harrison is trying to keep his family safe and wrestling with the fact that a dangerous creature could possibly be hunting them. This is when the tables turn and the hunter becomes the hunted. Edgar enlists the help of almost two dozen men to head in to the woods to find MoMo. This is where we are introduced to some other familiar faces in the form of Animal Planet’s Cliff Barackman and James “Bobo” Fay. Will they find the elusive MoMo and put a stop to him?
For those UFO buffs out there, like myself, there’s a little something in this film for us, too. And the special effects by Santino Vitale during these UFO scenes are stunningly beautiful to look at. It was refreshing to see Breedlove include this aspect of high strangeness in the film, as many filmmakers would stay in one lane. But here, we now question if different phenomena are at play. And what it might tell us about MoMo and his origins. With a wonderful score by Brandon Dalo driving the narrative, and a slew of vibrant illustrations by Sam Shearon, Matt Harris, Travis Hill, and Brian Serway, the film never drags, and the art work blends seamlessly with the voiceover we are hearing from the locals in town.
As the story unfolds, it’s impossible to not cringe at the purposefully overwritten script and cardboard acting. But this is all intentional, giving this stylized hybridization film a unique flare unlike anything we’ve seen from Small Town Monsters before. The dedication of the entire creative team, cast, and crew is palpable. As a UFO guy, I can admit that the passion by cryptozoologists, monster hunters, and the “Bigfoot Community” is very special and envious. That passion unfolds beautifully in this project.
Perhaps the most endearing part of this film is not the creature feature aspect, the interviews with locals, or even the retro feel that Breedlove brings to the table. It’s the lasting impact that an encounter with the unknown can have. Whether its the cold touch of a disembodied spirit, the cosmic surge of a UFO in the skies, or in this case, a three-toed hairy beast with red eyes, it drops into our lives, usually with no warning, and it reminds us that sometimes there’s still so more in the world to discover and experience. Whether we like it or not. Stories are the most powerful thing we have in every culture and society. No matter where you come from or where you’re going, stories fuel our imaginations, our emotions, and our journeys moving forward. Whether the town of Louisiana embraces or rejects MoMo as real or not, Blackburn reminds us that it almost doesn’t matter. MoMo was surely real to those who saw him. And for the rest us, we now have a fun, scary, and heartfelt film from Small Town Monsters that has immortalized this hauntingly unique hominid in the most memorable of ways.
Momo: The Missouri Monster will be available on DVD as well as VOD September 20th. Check the Small Town Monsters website for details. Watch the official trailer below!