Bloodlines: The Jersey Devil Curse
Dir. Seth Breedlove (2022)
A documentary discussing the Jersey Devil, a cryptid from, you guessed it, New Jersey that has terrified local residents for decades.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
We’ve discussed one of Seth Breedlove’s cryptid documentaries here before (American Werewolves), and I’m always down to watch more discussions of bizarre mythical creatures that live amongst us. The fascination with cryptids, the term for creatures rumored to exist but for which no evidence currently has been found, is interesting, and the creatures that are the subjects of these legends are some of the most enduring local folklore in America. The Jersey Devil, rumored to stalk the Pine Barrens of southern New Jersey, is potentially terrifying, looking anywhere from a man-sized horse-demon combination to something the size of a border collie that just so happens to have cloven hooves. And, of course, it always has wings, regardless of its other features. One of the people in this documentary describes it as a “Pegasus with a meth addiction,” which is all kinds of terrifying. Point is, this creature is the stuff of nightmares, yet no one can come to a firm agreement on whether it exists at all. Breedlove does his best to discuss the topic in his unique style, a combination between Discovery Channel-esque interviews and voiceover reenactments and dramatic vignettes.
Now it may come as a surprise to my readers that I am a firm believer in most types of cryptids: the Chupacabra does, indeed, roam Mexico and the American Southwest, the Loch Ness Monster is 100% a Plesiosaur left over from the Mesozoic Era, and Bigfoot stalks my own state with cautious curiosity of the growing urbanization around him. The Jersey Devil, however, never struck me as something that seemed likely to exist, my opinion owing largely to the dissimilarity of its description from known creatures elsewhere. Is it possible? Sure. Is it likely? Ehhh, I have an easier time believing in a slightly larger monkey-creature when gorillas already exist and the possibility that one of the dinosaurs didn’t die off with the rest of them. The woods are vast and largely unexplored and unmapped, and the ocean is almost entirely foreign to even the most ardent seafarers. But the Jersey Devil is an actual, honest-to-God monster, a creature that feels more like it was created from our own imagination rather than a real amalgamation that would look like a lab-created behemoth. After watching Breedlove’s documentary…
Yeah, I still don’t believe in this one. That being said, Breedlove does his damnedest to convince us, providing an incredibly watchable documentary that was an absolute blast. As my colleague Gorey Bits said in his American Werewolves review, Small Town Monsters, the production company behind both movies, produces its films like a cryptid-based episode of Unsolved Mysteries (just without the creepy music that gave me nightmares as a kid.) Some of the stories are convincing, and they’re similar enough in detail that it’s easy to believe that these people saw something. In this way, the Jersey Devil legend is no different than what makes Bigfoot and Nessie so convincing: how can this many people be wrong or crazy? At a certain point, it’s difficult for me to believe that everyone with one of these tales is just lying their ass off, as many of the people behind the stories have no reason or incentive to make this stuff up. Is there some kind of societally-induced delusions shared amongst the populace? Are people telling tall tales to fool their friends? Is there really a demon-goat-deer-Pegasus out there scaring vacationers?
The truth is, we don’t know, and probably never will. Breedlove does a fantastic job of presenting his case, delivering competent experts and fair-minded critics in a way that make for a compelling watch. Unlike the Discover Channel, whose cryptid documentaries always tease a resolution but never deliver, Bloodlines: The Jersey Devil Curse never promises an answer and instead just provides us with reasons why it’s ok if we believe. While the documentary does move a bit slow at times and, as Gorey Bits said in critique of Breedlove’s other work, the vignettes would at times be better served as re-enactments of the stories being told rather than just independent shorts, it’s still a fascinating discourse about a local legend that is one of the scarier monsters rumored to be roaming the less-populated areas of our country.
Who this movie is for: Cryptid believers, Horror documentary fans, Teresa Giudice
Bottom line: Seth Breedlove and Small Town Monsters delivers another cryptid-based documentary that is absolutely worth a watch for believers and skeptics alike. If you’re a fan of Unsolved Mysteries-style documentaries, this one will be right up your alley. If you’re a believer, you won’t find a lot to dissuade you from your position. If you’re not, you’ll at least walk away with a better understanding of the myths behind the monster. Either way, this one is definitely worth a watch for fans of creepy documentaries. Check it out on VOD starting November 15th.