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SKINWALKER: THE HOWL OF THE ROUGAROU
Much Bayou! Such Cryptid! Wow!

SKINWALKER: THE HOWL OF THE ROUGAROU-Down by the crawdads of the bayou waters in Louisiana lives a dark and fearsome monster…er, well, maybe. He could be there to take your blood because of his abysmal curse…or just, like, ask for his stuff back. He could be there to hunt you down in the dead of night, deep in the deserted swamps of the South…or maybe he’s just there to knock on your door and stare at you for a while.

Whatever his reason and rhyme, we know one thing – he is the new subject of Seth Breedlove’s Small Town Monsters series, SKINWALKER: THE HOWL OF THE ROUGAROU.

And I am thrilled to officially be “That Guy” of our website:  I am gleefully the “Small Town Monsters Guy”. (Takes a very awkward bow) I know this because I was the first go-to of our boss who barely remembers my name, let alone my area of the horror genre I typically haunt. So, when he sent me the screener and said, “knock yourself out”, well…it’s already on my business card, let’s say.

this is a picture jm brannyk drew and it's like perfect. it deserves an award. it's of the rougarou monster and it is wonderful.

SKINWALKER: THE HOWL OF THE ROUGAROU – The Plot:

We head back to the typical Small Town Monsters set-up, focusing on the state of Louisiana and its history, hopping into small pockets of Americana along the way. The story of the ROUGAROU comes from a blend of legends from Native American and French settlers (ahem, not so unlike our folklore up here in Detroit). It tells of a story of a half-man, half-wolf…and that’s about as consistent as it gets.

From there, they branch into different variations, including local legends, personal anecdotes, and archetypal themes of the monster. In one of the eye-witness reports, she had collected some Native American artifacts and the ROUGAROU visited her at night to politely ask her to return them. 

this is another picture jm brannyk drew and it's like the best thing ever. but it's the rougarou asking for its stuff back politely.

Another spoke of being babysat and the creature knocking on the door and stepping inside the house to just kinda…stare at everyone for a few minutes before leaving. 

Others talk about the ROUGAROU asking people to hurt it to break the curse…

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Honestly, I feel bad for it. I kinda like it. It’s basically a very large EEK! The Cat. There’s really no account of it actually hurting anybody. There’s one account where it might have been headless (?) and scared some kids, but even in the documentary, they basically admit, “Eh, the Bayou is full of weird monsters and stuff, it could have been something else.” 

The ROUGAROU just needs some friends, I think.

Thoughts:

THIS. THIS, my friends, is my Small Town Monsters jam. It checked my boxes. The effects were good (creature design was way creepier than my goofy drawings would suggest). There were still STM staples throughout, including colorful local characters and stories, local histories, art of the creature, and beloved Lyle Blackburn as narrator. 

It somewhat veered away from the ROUGAROU story towards the middle with some ghost stories and other creatures of the area, but brought it back together again nicely (honestly, those could have been cut for better flow, but it wasn’t a big deal).

But in entirety, SKINWALKER was sweet and full of heart and full of amazing shots of the area and its people.

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Brainroll Juice:

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again since I’m here and you’re here – Breedlove has a special knack at capturing a visual love letter to Americana via cryptids. Seriously, from the beginning and throughout, the real story of SKINWALKER: THE HOWL OF THE ROUGAROU isn’t so much the ROUGAROU, but the state and its people. It’s about the levees. It’s about the literal foundation of Louisiana and its people, both Native and settled. It’s about change, both climate and culturally. 

He has an incredible talent at focusing on this without any hint of exploitation. He does this out of love and tremendous care; and it shows in each movie, and SKINWALKER is no different. The true message isn’t about a monster, but about community and supporting these small pockets of America. And what a beautiful message that is.

SKINWALKER: THE HOWL OF THE ROUGAROU – Bottomline:

A fantastic addition to the Small Town Monster Series and full of great campfire stories of the bayou werewolf who may or may not politely knock on your door to stare at you.

another picture jm brannyk drew and it's of the rougarou looking at someone but it's a very very clever homage to aliens because brannyk is clever
4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

Skinwalker: The Howl of the Rougarou will be available to purchase or rent on September 14th on a number of platforms from 1091 Pictures, including iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, Vudu and FandangoNOW. Small Town Monsters will also release a special edition Blu-ray ($18.99) and DVD ($14.99) from their official store.

https://www.smalltownmonsters.com/shop/preorder-howl-of-the-rougarou

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When not ravaging through the wilds of Detroit with Jellybeans the Cat, J.M. Brannyk (a.k.a. Boxhuman) reviews mostly supernatural and slasher films from the 70's-90's and is dubiously HauntedMTL's Voice of Reason. Aside from writing, Brannyk dips into the podcasts, and is the composer of many of HauntedMTL's podcast themes.

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Movies n TV

Fallout, The Target

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Episode two of Amazon Prime’s Fallout was equal parts funny and bloody. This almost always leads to a good time.

The story

We begin this episode with the birth of some puppies that look like they’ve had a rough start to life. Each one is weighed, with the ones who fall short being incinerated.

One pup who is just below the correct weight gets a bit of a thumb on their scale. The scientist weighing them, Wilzig, writes down the proper weight. He later takes the puppy home to raise instead of putting them into what looks like an unforgiving training program.

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Eventually, we see Wilzig put some blue glowing thing into his neck. When a soldier comes for him, Dog attacks the soldier, and the two escape.

Ella Purnell in Fallout.

We go from there to the wilderness, where Lucy is recovering from the last episode and enjoying a campfire at night. Wilzig and Dog come out of the shadows, saving Lucy from a bug monster. Wilzig tells Lucy she should go home. And if she’s not going to go home, she needs to evolve.

The next day Lucy finds her way to a town called Filly. As a Pennsylvanian, it hurts me to spell it that way. Lucy is entranced by this town, though clearly put off by the fact that no one is very nice here.

She eventually finds her way to a shop run by a delightful woman named Ma June. Ma doesn’t seem particularly interested in helping Lucy. Or, frankly, having Lucy in her shop.

Or in her town.

Eventually, Wilzig is tracked to this same shop, being tracked by The Ghoul. This is our final primary character. Lucy defends Wilzig, being aided at the last moment by Maximus.

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Maximus, by the way, has been having a terrible time. After finally becoming a squire he’s disappointed to find that his knight, Knight Titus, is a terrible person.

Fortunately, Maximus doesn’t have to put up with Titus for long. After Titus gets the bright idea to go hunting, he’s attacked by a mutated bear. Maximus freezes, unable to save him. Then, well, he decides not to save him.

It was Titus’s idea to go hunt the bear, after all.

What worked

Walton Goggins in Fallout.

The first thing I want to draw attention to is the shootout scene at Filly. This scene checked every box a fight scene should check. It was fun to watch, with great effects. But it also gave us insight into the characters. Lucy is a decent fighter and has a strong moral compass. The Ghoul is callus and desensitized to death. And Maximus continues to be, well, sort of bad at this whole fighting thing. But with enough moral fortitude that we have a hard time blaming him.

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the dog. Who’s name, as far as I’ve been able to ascertain, is just Dog. Which is fine. He doesn’t need to have a name to be a very good boy. He’s sweet, loyal, and fearless.

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Also, puppies. Puppies are always great.

Finally, I’d like to shine a spotlight on Lucy’s reaction to the world at large. She is both amazed and terrified by everything. And while she certainly doesn’t want to be rude, she also doesn’t want to be taken advantage of. The best example of this is when she stops to ask for directions with a bright smile and a gun.

Once again, I don’t have anything bad to say about this episode. It was funny, dark, and fun to watch. I’m very much looking forward to the rest of the season. 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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Movies n TV

Fallout, The End

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Launching with worldwide excitement, Fallout is based on the extremely popular game series of the same name. Fans of the series have waited with anticipation and trepidation to see if the Prime series would live up to the game.

Having now watched the first episode I can say that, so far, it’s successful.

The story

Our story begins with a children’s birthday party. A performer is there with his daughter, giving horse rides and taking pictures with the kids.

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As much as the adults try to focus on the party and the kids, it’s impossible to ignore the looming threat of war that’s on everyone’s mind.

Of course, it’s during this party that war comes, and the bombs drop.

We then cut to after the war and into one of the vaults established to protect humankind and the American Way. For future reference, this is Vault 33. We meet Lucy, our first main character, who’s petitioning to be married to a man from Vault 32 to ensure DNA diversity.

On the wedding night, though, Lucy and the rest of Vault 33 are met with a horrible surprise. The group they let in is not in fact from Vault 32, but is instead a team of raiders from the surface. The raiders kill a lot of the vault dwellers and kidnap Lucy’s father.

We are then introduced to our second main character, Maximus. He is in training to become a Knight in the Brotherhood of Steel. And, well, he’s not doing great.

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Things get worse when his best friend Dane becomes a squire before him. But when Dane is hurt, Maximus gets their spot.

Aaron Moten in Fallout.

We then go back to Lucy, who has decided to leave the vault and find her dad. Of course, the council of her vault doesn’t want her to go. So she is aided by her brother Norm and cousin Chet in a wild escape.

What worked

The first thing that deserves attention is the exceptional character work. Our three main characters are fleshed out and relatable right away. We feel sympathetic for The Ghoul before he’s even introduced as such. We love Lucy’s nativity and selflessness. And we love Maximus for his honesty and passion for his cause.

While these characters are their own people, they also exhibit the three responses we might expect to see in a post-apocalyptic world. We have the hopeful optimist who doesn’t understand how bad things are. We have the aspiring hero who wants to make the world better by force. And we have the self-serving individual who’s given up on the rest of humanity and is only focused on surviving.

Another thing I enjoyed about this episode was the balance of humor and gore. Because there was certainly enough blood and guts for even the most hardcore horror lover. We had a violent sabotage, a brawl with raiders, and even several nuclear bombs.

But there were a lot of funny moments as well. Usually from Lucy. Her overall goodwill and fearless gumption are absolutely hilarious, especially given the horrors she’s facing. It never ceases to amuse me.

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Ella Purnell in Fallout

Both of these aspects are done perfectly. The jokes land and the bloody scenes pull no punches. It was delightful.

All in all, this was an exciting start to a much-anticipated series. Here’s hoping they’re able to stick the landing.

For more tv shows based on video games, check out my review of Witcher. 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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Movies n TV

American Horror Story Delicate, Ave Hestia

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Episode seven of American Horror Story Delicate was a classic AHS flashback episode. If you were excited to see what Preecher had to say to Anna at the end of the last episode, I’m sorry to say that you will not get that satisfaction. However, we did learn all sorts of other fascinating things about the strange coven hunting Anna. And, we learned all sorts of things we didn’t know about Dex’s first wife, Adeline.

The story

We begin our story with a woman giving birth alone in a barn. When it becomes clear that she’s not going to be able to deliver vaginally, she pulls out a knife and cuts her stomach open to pull out her children.

For whatever reason, this is when the coven of witches decides to make themselves known.

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Ashlie Atkinson in American Horror Story.

We then cut to 2013, when Dex was still married to Adeline. In true Dex fashion, he’s surprised her with a puppy.

While that sounds great in theory, dogs are something a couple should talk about, not gift each other with as a surprise. An adult would know that. A trust fund boy like Dex does not.

Adeline owns a vegan restaurant called Ave Hestia. Love that name. She seems to be living a great life. She has a career she’s passionate about, friends who love her, and a husband she seems kind of fond of.

Maybe that’s why she didn’t want a puppy. She already had one.

Of course, things aren’t as good as they appear. We soon find out that Adeline was one of those babies we saw at the start of the episode. The other baby was Sonia, the painter.

Annabelle Dexter-Jones in American Horror Story.

And yes, both of these characters are played by Annabelle Dexter-Jones.

Adeline has stepped away from their family, and whatever dark things they do. But the family isn’t happy with her decision. And if she isn’t going to come back willingly, they’re going to make her.

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What worked

To start with, I loved the character, Adeline. She is fierce, she is fearless, and relentless. I feel like this would have been a far different story if Adeline had been our main character. It was astounding to see her interact with the same people Anna has, and get a completely different response. It’s clear now, how much everyone around Anna resents her for simply not being Adeline.

I also appreciated that there was just a shocking amount of blood in this episode. From the start when Adeline and Sonia are born, to the climactic end of Adeline, this episode is just drenched in blood.

Finally, I’m fascinated by the changes in this season from the book it’s based on. Because absolutely none of this was in the book. Compared to this, the book is heartwarming.

The book is kind of heartwarming even without the comparison.

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But I love the fact that, even with just two episodes left in the season, I have no idea what’s going to happen. I do not know what Anna is carrying. I do not know if she’s going to survive this. I do not know what these people want with her.

But I can’t wait to find out.

What didn’t work

All that being said, it is a bit frustrating to have no forward momentum in this episode. This was all backstory, and it felt like there wasn’t enough backstory to fill a full forty minutes. Because of that, it dragged. There were a lot of scenes that just didn’t need to be as long as they were. It felt like they could have cut that down considerably, and had some time to check in with our main characters at either the start or the end of the episode.

There are only two episodes left in the season, and I can honestly say I have no idea what’s going to happen. But so far the story has been dark, bloody, and provocative. So I hope they can manage to end it on a high note.

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4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

If you’re a fan of my work, please check out my latest story, Nova, on Paper Beats World. New chapters launch every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

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