Friday, 7 December 2018

ELUSIVE - BRITISH CRYPTIDS

Great Britain, The United Kingdom, That Perfidious Albion! It's a nation steeped in great deeds and historical accomplishments. Sitting on the northwestern tip of mainland Europe, physically related to Its continental cousins and yet set apart from them, since its diluvian censure of the area now known as Doggerlandthat once lay between the Weald in south-eastern England and the Artois in northern France.

This contemporary paradise, housing 66. 2 million people, 80% of whom live in a trifling 6.8 % of the land that is dedicated to urban sprawl, is often misrepresented and often thought of by its city slickers, as a concrete kingdom. However, the stiff reality of the fallacy of this fabled island metropolis was raised to the ground, by the findings, taken from the UK National Ecosystem Assessment(NEA) in 2012.

So, why this perfunctory preparation? It is simply because much of the objection to the existence of terrestrial cryptids in these glorious isles is based upon two fatally flawed objections. The first being: How could a large cryptid animal (if it exists elsewhere in the world) get to an island that is cut off by the sea? And the second being: How could this large animal survive here, largely undetected, in a country almost completely covered in urban settlements? Both arguments now being settled, by the discovery of a human civilisation and animal artefacts, in the now submerged, Doggerland and the damning figures of the aforementioned NEA assessment, that have left the myth of urban Britain, for want of a better word, 'sprawling!'

So, with plausible foundations laid, and any dare to doubt disparaged, let us now come to the current search for this mysterious monster of the British Isles, an animal not too dissimilar in description from other Bigfoot-like creatures around the world and supported by a wealthy vessel of veracious witness reports; that would seem no different, to the towering mountain of man-ape missals, in any typical North American monster documentary and adding a balanced view of the possible plausibility of this search, is exactly what Christoper Turner's new documentary: Elusive - British Cryptids, seeks to do!

The councillors couch is in full flow here, and exhibits that Chris is a seasoned documentary maker and philosophically a believer in balanced treatment and barebones revelation, as he seeks to interview witnesses and researchers alike, to ask those difficult questions, that the faithful always fail to think of. In doing so, he has created with this film, a portal, (pun intended!) Into the reality of the trauma and tragedy, that witnesses of the wonderous and as yet, unknown animals of this world, go through when trying to interpret what even they find hard to believe. His interview with Deborah Hatswell, a teenage witness of the British Bigfoot, now turned researcher, is particularly raw and exposes the psychological footprint of fear, that is often manifested in the reliving of traumatic events. Other witnesses too, retell their tales with word perfect precision, confirming the fixidity and imprinting of their encounters, on to their subconscious minds.

What, we further have been given here, in this illuminating look into the world of British Cryptozoology, or primarily, the British Bigfoot (and to a lesser extent, the Werewolf) is a glaring and incomparable comparison, between the barely recognisable worlds inhabited by North American Bigfoot researchers and their British counterparts. Who, in stark contrast, seem to occupy the barren and unforgiving landscape of the minority denomination, of a much larger and more established religion. Those devotees of the British Bigfoot phenomenon, who must work, not only against the natural scepticism of the ordinary world to the existence of 'bigfoot-like' creatures, must also contend with the disdain of fortean apologists, portal pushing paranormalists and the self-aggrandising idea of the woo, to fight for the idea of a natural animal,that is simply awaiting taxonomic assignment!

Again, Chris is attentive to all these ideas, giving them all room to breathe free air and yet remaining candid enough to confess his own preferred prejudice. Simultaneously, bringing together the flesh and blood believers and whimsical woo adherents within the same room, to thrash it out over a cup of tea, without trading blows or bellows! One has to be a good listener to be a good documentarian. and it would certainly seem that our director, has good ears!

I loved this documentary, for its honest portrayal of some very real people, trying to explain, an admittedly fantastic phenomenon, that has for reasons of experience or 'interest', moulded their lives and for its depiction of the joy & wonder of people rediscovering a homegrown interest in the natural world.

The age of discovery and exploration is not yet dead, and sometimes our greatest adventure lies literally, in our own backyard!

Elusive - British Cryptids - is currently available on Vimeo and DVD 



Written by Andrew McGrath - Author of Beasts of Britain


Saturday, 16 June 2018

ON THE TRAIL OF...CHAMP

As a cryptozoology fan I have naturally been aware of Small Town Monsters - Aleksandar Petakov and Seth Breedlove for some time now, but strangely had never previously seen any of their productions. After all, the life of an aspiring cryptozoology author, researcher, lecturer, filmmaker and dad who works and commutes to the city of London daily, is, to put it mildly, a busy one! ;) However, after deciding to start this movie blog, I was lucky enough to get an invite from the guys themselves to preview and review this awesome sounding docus-series, so, here it goes!

On the Trail of... Champ, the new five episode mini-series is for want of a better word, a who's who of Champ research; featuring many of the star players, from eyewitness Sandra Mansi (RIP), to full time researcher and Champ law creator- Katy Elizabeth, as well as many other awesome players - Scott Mardis, William Dranginis et al. All of whom are featured, in this intimate and yet somehow epic portrayal of the 'mysterious' creature that is Champ.

This picturesque journey, shines a spotlight on those who have been fortunate enough to see these mysterious creatures, as well as those other special breeds of human, who have been enticed, enamoured and thereafter obsessed, with making the discovery of these elusive creatures their life calling. The series seamlessly glides through the historical bedrock of local legend and synchronously weaves the witness reports along a loom line of the practical research, theory and evidence gathering of those hardcore Champ devotees, that are delightfully trapped at the lake, in an open prison, from which they have no desire to escape!

Without giving too much away, each episode elucidates key components of the search for champ, throughout the seasons, in this very large (120 miles long) lake, that occupies many different environments, including caves, islands, bays and swamps, in which these creatures could thrive in near isolation, (especially if they're nocturnal, as is suspected.) It also shows the cost of the human effort involved in this research, and how few researchers there really are dedicated to studying the species as well as what is really required to be a Champ researcher.

Conjecture is thankfully missing in this documentary and a well thought out common sense approach to witness descriptions and researchers theories are presented in the matter of fact manner, one would expect to find watching, 'David Attenborough', when delivering his analysis of the habits of the mountain gorilla or explaining away some new species found in our ocean depths.

Viewers will find themselves entranced from the opening of the first episode, right through to the last, in this classically styled, yet original, mini series; and, as a lover of lake monster lore first and foremost myself, I confess to being in the middle of my third viewing before I even started to write this review.

It is to be expected that more 'On The Trail of...' documentaries will be made in the near future, including one about Bigfoot, I am told; and for my part, I feel as though this body of work could be the catalyst to energise and reignite cryptozoology in film. A genre, for which people everywhere, hold a secret  place in their hearts, with a hopeful promise that: 'The age of discovery is not yet dead....for who knows what we'll find tomorrow?'

'On the Trail of… Champ' -  the new five episode mini-series, is available here




Written by Andrew McGrath, Author of Beasts of Britain








Monday, 11 June 2018

THE BACK 80 - A MODERN DAY BIGFOOT ENCOUNTER

'In the heart of mid-America, among the forests and streams, something terrifying lurks. During the summer of 2013, a woman’s world is turned upside down after seeing a creature cross the road in front of her one afternoon. She soon realizes that she is not alone on her own property and struggles to separate the truth from her own obsession. After some digging, she finds others in town who have similar stories to tell. Her quest for answers takes her to the only place these creatures could live…the abandoned, gated woods of the back eighty.'


This poignant and emotive documentary tells a disquieting tale about the experiences of Bigfoot witness Suzanne Ferancek, who had several encounters between 2013 - 14, around what is commonly known as the Back 80 - an 80 acre area of heavy forest near Loudenville, Ohio.

Suzanne's first sighting occurred after she had pulled over on Township Road 211, to photograph some horses. It was here that she witnessed a large, bipedal  'stringy haired' animal, leap, 'superman-like', across the road ahead, in a way that would be impossible for those normal mortals among us, or any bear out there, to physically replicate! 

Her description of the creature bears all the hallmarks of a classic 'Road-Squatch' sighting, in its bipedal presentation, hair covered body and inhuman athleticism, in clearing the road (in this case in a single bound!) It also corroborates many other descriptive sightings of what has come to be known as the 'Ohio Grassman', in the 5th most Squatchy state in the USA!

The directors carefully rebuild the telling of this, now concluded, tale, in a way that makes the viewer feel as though they are living the sightings in real time, alongside the witness. 
The documentary feels eerie and dark and sums up the post-traumatic seclusion and reconciliation with normality, that many witnesses of the undiscovered and unknown animals of this world, have to go through, in rewriting reality. To add to this, Suzanne's exploration of related sightings in the area, brings home the reality of her precarious situation, sharing her property with what she postulates is a lone male bigfoot, that has seemingly staked a claim to the territory around her neighbourhood. 

The film features a very chilling recreation of a close encounter Suzanne had on her property one night in 2014, whilst sitting out on her porch typing away on her laptop and Her re-enactment here,  of her retreat into her home, after 
hearing large footsteps and a deep growl coming from behind her house, leaves you feeling that you are there with her. It should probably not, in my opinion,  be watched alone at home, without an axe-proof blanket or similar Squatch-proof comforter of some kind, near to hand.

As a musician, I have to admit that I wasn’t completely sold on all of the eerie sound effects, as I felt the story was compelling enough without this overemphasis of atmosphere; but it doesn't detract from t
he excellent storytelling of Twisted Tree Productions,  Alan Megargle & Jesse Morgan; and there are also other nice pieces of music to enjoy throughout the film. 

To sum up this film in one word, I would say that it's 're-watchable' and one can find oneself, easily immersed in its easy and original style.
The Back 80 is available to rent or buy here




Written by Andrew McGrath, Author of Beasts of Britain

ELUSIVE - BRITISH CRYPTIDS

Great Britain, The United Kingdom, That Perfidious Albion! It's a nation steeped in great deeds and historical accomplishments. Sitting...