Dir. Ward Hiney (2023)
A new documentary from Small Town Monsters investigates recent werewolf sightings in Western Pennsylvania.
I'm a big fan of Small Town Monsters, the documentary team that has produced cryptid docs like The Dogman Triangle, American Werewolves, and Bloodlines: The Jersey Devil Curse. They approach their films with a healthy, but not concrete, skepticism, allowing the people who have experiences with these creatures to tell their story without any sort of mockery or disbelief while also proposing alternate theories and following leads as they come. This time, director Ward Hiney, who had been hearing of werewolf sightings in his native Pennsylvania, takes the helm in researching the phenomena and interviewing believers.
As someone who generally believes in cryptids, or at least believes that there's something out there that has yet to be explained, these types of documentaries are a lot of fun. It's interesting to hear the stories of the true believers, the people who have completely bought into both their own experiences and those of others. Werewolves Unearthed explores the Shenango Valley, a picturesque locale stretching from Northwestern Pennsylvania to Eastern Ohio that runs along the Shenango and Beaver Rivers. The doc discusses the history of Shenango, including the legends of the people who died after refusing to leave when the government took the land under imminent domain. The supposedly haunted area is rife for tales of cryptids, with alleged sightings of both Sasquatch and the Dogman.
Small Town Monsters is a fantastic group, telling their stories through a unique blend of interviews and dramatic reenactments and translations. The creepy depictions of the creatures are incredibly well-done, artistic renderings of creatures that viewers may never experience personally. The supernatural bent to the doc may come across as incredulous for some, but it does help to lend a mysterious ambience to the proceedings in a way that helps to tell the story more fully. Werewolves are, by their nature, terrifying, and when STM and Hiney let us see the beasts, they're pretty effectively illustrated.
One of the downsides of a documentary like this, however, is that there's no actual proof of anything. Most of what STM has to go on are the stories of locals, at times secondhand. There's nothing in this documentary, or any others that they've made for that matter, that is going to make you believe in cryptids if you didn't already come in with your mind made up. And to be honest, it never really feels like they're trying to prove their existence. The documentaries made by Small Town Monsters are done to show this quirky and unique part of the American folktale, a mythology created by having such an enormous, and enormously unexplored, country. As long as there are vast expanses with little to no population, these stories will endure.
Werewolves Unearthed discuss the legends of the werewolves themselves, from the transformation process to the appearances of the dogmen. It also delves deeply into regional legends and the reluctance of the people to discuss the sightings, a fairly convenient excuse for a relative lack of interviewees. It is an interesting doc nonetheless, and it's a must-see for cryptid believers. If you're not into the concept of mysterious creatures without scientific taxonomies, however, you probably won't appreciate this one.
Who this movie is for: Cryptid documentary fans, Crytpozoologists, Large canines
Bottom line: Small Town Monsters are, for my money, the premier cryptid documentarians working today. They're pumping out content at a prolific rate, with numerous documentaries discussing various creatures releasing regularly. Werewolves Unleashed is an interesting and entertaining documentary about werewolves in Western Pennsylvania, and it's an excellent watch for fans of this sort of doc. If you're into cryptids and you haven't checked out their stuff, I highly recommend subscribing to their YouTube channel and visiting their webpage at SmallTownMonsters.com.