Saturday, 16 June 2018


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


'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


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