As most of you know, I am an inveterate podcast listener and I could not help but hear about the folks over at Small Town Monsters and the series of films they are making about classic Sasquatch encounters. I have listened to the interviews with interest and last night (15 May) I finally had a chance to go on Vimeo and rent the first in this film series.
I am not a fan of the “let’s run around in the woods, scare ourselves silly and do ridiculous things to attract Sasquatch’s attention” genre. I watch the show that must not be named when there is a locale that I want to see and I can tolerate 45 minutes of people trying to pass off coyote howls and owl calls as Sasquatch vocalizations. I am not totally against this mis-named show – it does raise awareness of Sasquatch and make people think about the creature – but I would think that people who spend as much time in the woods as these folks do would have better woodcraft. I suppose it is simply a matter of generating suspense for viewers whose idea of the great outdoors is their backyard but I find it irritating after the first episode or two.
Having said that, I can assure you that Minerva Monster does not succumb to the temptation to copy the “successful” formula. This movie is a straight up, serious documentary with no narrator about a classic Sasquatch sighting that happened in and around the Cayton property in Minerva, Ohio area in the summer of 1978. The entire story is told from the perspective of people who were there and who witnessed the events or their aftermath. Even the background on the town of Minerva is handled by the mayor and a local historian so that, often, the viewer feels as though he or she is simply sitting in a room with the person on camera, hearing their story.
I enjoyed the fact that there was no attempt to sell a particular viewpoint. The cameras recorded whatever the witnesses told them no matter how outlandish. The most blatant example of this occurred when testimony was presented that indicated that the ‘monster’ was seen in the company of two large cats! Anyone trying to present the bipedal ape or relict hominid angle would have cut this testimony but the director, Seth Breedlove, leaves it in and let’s the audience parse out what they make of it.
Another good example of this insistence on witness voice is the fact that no one in the film comes out and says that the Minerva Monster was a Sasquatch (or Bigfoot). Some people say that they looked into the Sasquatch phenomenon after the episodes but most of the people in the film are of the opinion that something was there, something was seen but they really have no idea what it was. I found this willingness to not try to explain the witness sightings and the findings most refreshing.
There were a number of other aspects of the film that were well done. The closest that the documentary comes to computer animation is a series of drawings about events that are being discussed but which could not, of course, be recorded. I believe these may be renderings from the talented artist who did the movie posters, Sam Shearon, but I am not certain on this point. The production values are quite good for a small production shot on a tight budget. As you would expect, there is nothing fancy in the camera work and sound but everything is clear and the only glitches with sound come from outside sources that could not be screened. The background footage of the areas being discussed was useful in helping me visualize what the witnesses were talking about. I would have liked to see a little more of the Cayton’s property and how it relates to the surrounding area but, again, given the limited resources for the film, editing decisions had to be made.
I would whole-heartedly recommend this documentary to anyone interested in the Sasquatch phenomenon and an in-depth presentation of a case that created a storm of media attention. Not only does the film cover the sighting itself, it also talks about the aftermath of the sighting. The Caytons were faced with “yahoos” with pick up trucks full of beer and guns wanting to go on their land to hunt the creature, people blocking the street where they lived hoping for a sighting and subtle but pervasive ridicule in the town. We often forget that sighting of an unknown anything can change people’s lives and not always for the better.
As noted, the video is available for purchase or rent through Vimeo On Demand but if, like me, you are impressed with the film, then you can purchase a DVD here.