Eye For Film >> Movies >> American Werewolves (2022) Film Review
Reviewed by: Antoni Konieczny
Low-budget projects documenting paranormal activities, cryptids, and supernatural mysteries, tend to follow worn-out storytelling and visual conventions. As a rule of thumb, few of these are compelling enough to significantly influence new audiences’ beliefs regarding the subjects the films document. Seth Breedlove’s American Werewolves does not push the envelope of the medium, either. However, the focus on the traumas that the witnesses sustained and the tangents the story tends to go off on, make the feature stand out from the crowd.
The film’s premise is simple - to chronicle accounts of persons who encountered what they believe were dogmen or werewolves. Consequently, filmmakers rely little on experts. It’s clear that the creators recognise the complexity of the lycanthrope lore, but they only provide their audience with basic information, including Greek, Nordic, and Native mythologies. With the essential background introduced, the focus shifts to small-town folklore. Such an emphasis serves the film well as it renders the creature all the more concrete.
Ultimately, though, the effectiveness of the sub-genre American Werewolves belongs to depends on how compelling individual testimonies are. A standout among these is the story of a man chased by a creature across a cornfield. Perhaps more fascinating than the events the witnesses describe, however, is the insight into their attempts at giving shape to the source of terror and making sense of these terrifying encounters.
In terms of how these accounts are framed, it is also refreshing to see filmmakers avoid clichéd recreations. Instead, they complement talking heads with an eerie score and spooky werewolf imagery which lend the stories a similar mood that the surrounding darkness would lend to ghost stories told by a campfire. When it comes to how the interviews and the B-roll are shot, staged, and lit, this is captured in Breedlove’s acknowledgment that the film “plays out as a visual love letter to the tv shows [he] watched on [his] grandma’s living room TV.” Indeed, the old-fashioned stylistic appears to be a conscious choice rather than a product of creative sloppiness. That said, those searching for innovative documentary techniques may wish to look elsewhere.
Interestingly, the creators back the oral accounts with barely anything besides references to specific locations. There is certainly a case to be made in defence of this choice - it puts personal accounts at the forefront and leaves room for free interpretation. On the downside, mentions of conspiracy theories relating to cover-ups tend to muddle the narrative.
American Werewolves is unlikely to convert anyone into a cryptid-believer, but it succeeds where many of its kind fail: as an exercise in nail-biting storytelling.Reviewed on: 04 Jul 2022