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Welcome to another episode of ‘Brannyk talks about Small Town Monsters’! We’ve explored the Joisey Devilaliens giving boo boos to cowstotally Bigfoota big ol’ stinky doggo, your tea-spilling ghost-witch, and an alien Bigfoot with a hankering for a good peanut butter sandwich. We have a new screener from Small Town Monsters.

And unfortunately, I spoke too soon in my last dogman review because Jesus Christ, Werewolves Unleashed is really something else. And I do mean Jesus Christ literally because this documentary (spoilers) ends in a prayer for more evidence and content.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s first figure out the plot and go from there because I have a lot to say.

A guy praying for evidence

The Plot of Werewolves Unearthed:

So, this dogman/werewolf documentary is not under the hands of Seth Breedlove, but Ward Hiney. And the PR blurb for Werewolves Unearthed is “[a] recent rash of werewolf sightings in Pennsylvania have grabbed the attention of documentarian Ward Hiney. In order to get the truth behind these ongoing encounters, he enlisted journalist and ardent skeptic Chad Christy”.

And, okay, for one, I was so confused because they kept calling it the Ohio valley, so I never got a clear indication of where the heck we actually, as opposed to most STM. Oh, Pennsylvania, the most vampiric state of the United States.

For two, I had no idea that Chad Christy was supposed to be a skeptic because there wasn’t really any indication of that. He didn’t really say anything? Like, if you watch X-Files, you know who the skeptic is right off the bat. The hot redhead. Obviously. But I legitimately didn’t understand that having a skeptic on-board was part of the premise until after the documentary. I had no clue he was a “skeptic” at all.

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And three, “recent rash” of werewolf sightings? Okay, let’s just go into my thoughts, because, woof, I have many.

Thoughts on Werewolves Unearthed:

This documentary is a mess. Between heavily focusing on unreliable witnesses for most of the documentary; practically begging for people to come forward in the “recent rash” of werewolf sighting; waffling between werewolves, dogmen, ghosts, bigfoot, cults and metaphysics; and grasping at any straw that could be considered content; this documentary doesn’t feel like Small Town Monsters at all. There is no heart to it. There is no love of the small towns and their history. It’s loose ramblings of stories and looking for anything that could be construed as evidence.

A beleaguered man trying to attempt the plot of this documentary.

There is an art to documentaries, especially when dealing with the supernatural or cryptids. You lean too far to one side and it looks like crackpot conspiracies. You lean too much the other and it looks exploitative and sensationalized. It’s a real balance to get stories without leaning too far into either. And Seth Breedlove has become very, very good at this. His documentaries are honest and sincere. They highlight small towns and their monsters. People are the focus, not even necessarily the monsters.

Unfortunately, that style of documentary does not transfer with Hiney. The focus gets muddled as he struggles to find any content for his documentary that should have been a generous thirty minutes long and no more. And the lack of content becomes more apparent as the documentary stretches, to the point of the director calling someone and saying on camera that there’s not a lot of evidence or people to interview.

A stickman image of the director on the phone asking for more evidence, but then the phone cuts out and he has the guy call him back. Like, come on, man.
A real scene from Werewolves Unearthed

To the viewer, that looks shoddy and, to be frank, boring. It feels like the research and planning was put together on a Sunday afternoon and they just went with it. The interviews were heavy with one couple who (as an actual skeptic here) seemed sincere but also unreliable. The word “research” was thrown around a lot, but without any kind of evidence or explanation. And even though I loved her to bits, the former owner of a metaphysics store had a bizarre tale of a supposed werewolf who worked at Walmart.

A werewolf working at WalMURT and howling.

It wasn’t so much a documentary of dogmen or werewolves, but of ghosts, portals, cults, Harry and the Hendersons, bigfoot, and spiritualism. Oh, and the kitchen sink because why not.

Brainroll Juice on Werewolves Unearthed:

As I prefaced in the opening, hold tight, because it’s about to get preachy.

I was not expecting Werewolves Unearthed to be so…religious. In fact, I don’t think it should have been. When I come for werewolves, I don’t come for church. Especially not Small Town Monsters.

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As previously stated, Seth Breedlove allows the documentary to be about the people. Sometimes there’s a religious or spiritual component, but that never comes from Breedlove. He is there to document what he finds and stays generally neutral. Yes, we understand he believes in cryptids. Yes, he is very passionate about it. But he allows the viewer to see these “monsters” from different sides. Is Momo a space alien? Or perhaps he’s just a delightful scamp who steals your peanutbutter sandwich? You get to decide by the story he weaves.

Unfortunately, Hiney doesn’t allow for that as we are given a three minute scene of him praying to God and Jesus for evidence. I wish that were a joke and I wish I was lying. But I’m not. It’s a heavy dose of religion that left an awful taste in my mouth.

I was okay with being bored. And being frustrated. Heck, I was okay at slowly falling asleep as I watched this.

But the prayer at the end was so pretentious and just…not the Small Town Monsters I know and love. It wasn’t about the people. It wasn’t about the culture of history of these small rural towns. And it wasn’t the myths and legends that still fascinate us. It was about Ward Hiney. It was the Ward Hiney Show.

And I am not all right with that.

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Bottomline:

Avoid this one. Not in the spirit of Small Town Monsters. Preachy and rambling. Unfortunately the first of others to come from Ward Hiney. 1 out of 5 stars (1 / 5)

The feature length documentary will be available on Amazon Prime Video and YouTube on October 1. Following a TVOD release, Werewolves Unearthed will bow on Tubi. A special 4K, ad-free version will also be available for Small Town Monsters YouTube subscribers.

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.

Movies n TV

Suburban Screams, Kelly

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Launched in October of 2023, Suburban Screams is the latest project by acclaimed horror master John Carpenter. It’s a true crime/unsolved mystery series covering events that have terrified people living in, you guessed it, the suburbs.

The story

Our first episode, titled Kelly, is the story of two roommates named Dan and Joey. The actual Dan and Joey tell the story from their own perspective, interspersed with dramatic reenactments. This did feel very much like an episode of Unsolved Mysteries.

One night when Dan and Joey have their girlfriends over, they decide to play with an Ouija board. Since they don’t have one, Dan makes one on a pizza box, complete with a planchette. This is, of course, when things go terribly wrong.

Still from Suburban Screams, Kelly.

Honestly, I have never heard anyone say, “I had a great time with that Ouija board, I’m really glad we did that.”

The couples make contact with a spirit named Kelly. This is very upsetting to Dan’s girlfriend May, as she had a cousin named Kelly who went missing and is presumed dead.

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Dan then finds himself haunted by Kelly. He throws up water, finds his kitchen chairs stacked on the table, and is followed around by a haunting song. Dan feels like he won’t find peace until he helps Kelly find peace.

What worked

There was a lot to enjoy in this first episode. Specifically, I loved the horror visuals. Dan’s vision was very creepy, as an example. And I loved the shots of the body floating down the river. These images were eerie and upsetting.

The storytelling from Dan and Joey was also well done. While I have my doubts about the validity of this story, these two men believe wholeheartedly in what they’re saying. I certainly believe that they experienced something disturbing. Either that or they are some fantastic actors.

What didn’t work

That being said, some things rubbed me the wrong way in this episode.

I’d like to start with the herbs Joey burned during the Ouija session. It looked like sage, or maybe sweetgrass.

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As some of you might know, I am a practicing witch. So I do feel the need to point out that if you want to open a door and invite spirits in, you probably don’t want to be burning sage or sweetgrass as those are going to negate any spiritual activity. This was for sure the action of someone who does not know what the hell they are doing. It just irritated me.

Also, maybe don’t throw open a door indiscriminately to the spirit world. Just saying.

I also didn’t love the acting by Ben Walton-Jones, who played Dan. While it wasn’t a terrible job, the character felt overacted. I don’t know how he had room for that pizza, since he was chewing the scenery most of the episode.

Honestly, this episode felt a little underproduced. When I saw John Carpenter’s name, I was expecting something with some real production value. Great acting, great effects, great music. None of those were in effect here. I’m not sure where their budget went, because it didn’t go to any of the things it should have.

Is it true?

So that brings us to the big question. Do I think this story is true?

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Well, it is verifiable that Kelly Lynn Fitzpatrick was a young woman who unfortunately was found dead in 1999 in Quebec. The rest of the story, so far as I can find, is up to speculation.

Do I believe someone could contact the dead on an Ouija board they made out of a pizza box? Yes, I do. Because Dan made it with his own hands it might have worked better than a store-bought board. But do I think he was haunted to this extent by the spirit of Kelly?

Well, I would say that I believe this about as much as I believe the story of the Amityville house. Something certainly happened here, but I am sure that the details shared in this episode of Suburban Screams are highly overblown.

In the end, while I did have fun watching this episode, this fun was tainted. I would have enjoyed it more if it was presented as a fictional story loosely based on real-life events. Because that is almost certainly what it was.

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3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

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Movies n TV

Fallout, The Beginning

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We’ve now reached the end of Fallout, season one. As I mentioned during the last review, I was heartily concerned that this show, like so many others, was going to drop the ball at the finale and ruin an entire season.

Thankfully, that wasn’t the case. This episode was everything it needed to be and more.

Let’s discuss.

The story

We begin our story with Maximus returning to the Brotherhood of Steel compound. He has a head, which he is claiming is the real head of Wilzig.

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I don’t know why he thought that was going to work.

Of course, it doesn’t. The elder cleric is about to kill Maximus until Dane says that they hurt their foot.

Because of this, the Brotherhood is sent out to get the head. Or rather, what’s inside of it. They head to the city run by Moldaver. This happens to be the same place Lucy and The Ghoul are headed.

Still from Amazon Prime's Fallout.

There, Lucy does manage to find her father. What she ends up finding is so much more than she wanted to find.

What worked

The first thing I have to discuss is how seamlessly the storylines of the series combined.

Each of our four main characters has been on their own journey. Lucy is trying to save her father. Maximus wants to become a knight. The Ghoul wants to find his family. Norm wants to know what’s going on in Vault 31.

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I sure wasn’t expecting all of these stories to come together in the way that they did. And to preserve the ending, I don’t dare say more. I will only say that yes, all four stories tie in perfectly with one another. By the end, two characters end up having the very same goal.

As I hinted before, I did not see the twist ending coming.

Ella Purnell in Fallout.

Yes, we might have guessed some things from the last episode. We of course guessed that Lucy’s dad was involved in some nefarious and probably sci-fi way. But the way this story twists at the end is nothing short of serpent-like. Which is why I cannot go into too much detail here. If you haven’t seen it yet, you need to experience it blind.

Finally, I can give the Fallout season finale the most important praise I can ever give a finale. It did its number one job, getting us excited for season two. We have answers, but now we have new and more exciting questions. And even better, we have a desire to see vengeance done.

What didn’t work

Now that the season is done, though, I can bring up something that bothered me through all eight episodes.

I don’t buy Lucy and Maximus’s relationship.

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Maybe because it’s rushed. Maybe because the two actors don’t have a lot of chemistry. Maybe it’s because I’m not sure even now either character could tell you a single thing about the other. There is just no spark between the two. So their love story feels tacked on. I honestly feel like their love story could have been removed from the show entirely and it would have no negative impact.

I also didn’t buy Dane’s confession. This is a minor spoiler, but it comes up early in the episode. Dane confesses that they hurt their foot so that they wouldn’t have to go into the wastelands.

And at first, I kept expecting Maximus to thank them later. I honestly thought that they were just lying to save Maximus’s life. But no, as it turns out, they were not.

But it just doesn’t make sense. The motivations don’t jive. I honestly think it would have been better for the story if they had lied to save Maximus’s life.

At least then there’d be one other Brother of Steel who had some nobility.

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In the end, this first season of Fallout was everything I could ask for. So far as I can tell, it was everything fans of the Fallout franchise could ask for. There wasn’t a bad episode in the bunch. Honestly, the only real complaint I had was that the season was so short.

I’ll be counting down the days to season two, and I hope you’ll be joining me then. Because war, war never changes.

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

If you like my work, you can check out my latest science fiction/horror novel, Nova, launching on May 17th. Pre-orders are available now on Amazon.

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Movies n TV

Fallout, The Radio

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Episode seven of Amazon’s Fallout is the penultimate episode. This is often when a series goes off the rails and starts to mess things up. After being burned so often recently, I was apprehensive when this episode began.

Thankfully, this was a fear that did not come to pass. And so far, Fallout’s finale is doing just fine.

Lana the dog in Fallout.

The story

A lot happened in this episode, so we’re just going to skim over some of the more important storylines. We’ll start with Lucy and Maximus, in Vault 4. Lucy has discovered what she believes is a secret collection of monsters. But of course, it turns out that it’s simply people that the vault dwellers discovered and are trying to help heal. But her meddling around was enough for them to kick her out of the vault. With two weeks’ worth of food and water, of course.

But Maximus assumes they’re going to do something much worse. And so he steals their power coil to fight through the perfectly innocent people and save Lucy.

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Meanwhile, we dive further into The Ghoul’s past, when he was still Western star Cooper.

After attending a Communist meeting, he’s approached by Lee Moldaver. She suggests that Vault Tech is hiding something, something terrible. And she tells Cooper that his wife Barbara knows more about this than she’s letting on. Moldaver gets Cooper to bug Barbara’s Pip Boy, and listen in on an important meeting.

Poor Cooper hears far more than he wants to.

War, war never changes.

What worked

I would like to first point out that this was one of the funniest episodes so far. I mean, it got incredibly tragic and sad by the end. But it also had some great laugh-out-loud moments. This should be a surprise to no one, with such an array of comedians guest starring. Chris Parnell was in the last episode as well but is now joined by the incredibly funny Fred Armisen as DJ Carl. This is of course not his first foray into the funny and spooky world, as he also played Uncle Fester in Wednesday.

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Most of what makes this episode funny is the character’s understated and deadpan responses to wild situations. When Maximus returns the energy coil and is greeted by a simple thank you. When Thaddeus gets an arrow through his neck, and slowly realizes that hey, he might be a ghoul. These were hilarious because they could have been truly dark moments. But because this world is so dark, and the characters have already been through so much, they’re simply done. They take all of this in stride because of course that’s what’s happening. It’s par for the course for them.

Aaron Moten and Ella Purnell in Fallout.

On the other hand, we’ve finally seen the full extent of The Ghoul/Cooper’s past. And it’s so much worse than we could have imagined. I assumed that he’d lost his beloved wife and daughter in the atomic blasts two hundred years ago, somehow not dying with them and instead turning into a literal and figurative monster. The truth is so much worse. I’ll do my best not to spoil the ending. But I will say this. There is nothing more painful than mourning someone and hating them at the same time. And it’s easy to see how Cooper turned into The Ghoul. That sort of pain could drive anyone mad.

This balance between comedy and tragedy is one of the reasons why this episode worked so well. It’s one of the reasons why the series is working so well. It manages to combine the core tenets of theater in a way that never compromises the strengths of either. The eventual downfall of Thaddeus is a great example of this because it’s both tragic and funny. We’ve seen what happens to ghouls, and it’s a horrible end. But as he’s hardly been a sympathetic character, we can all get a good laugh at his predicament as well.

The sheer amount of good old-fashioned gore doesn’t hurt either, of course.

What didn’t work

All that being said, there was one thing that bothered me about this episode. And it was the reveal of Vault 4’s big secret.

Honestly, I was expecting the Vault 4 storyline to go way darker. I wanted it to go way darker. While I’ve never played these games myself, I know enough about the story to say that these vaults are not the bastions of safety and morality that they have so far been portrayed as. And while that has certainly been alluded to, we haven’t seen it.

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We haven’t seen the depravity in these vaults. And it’s there. But maybe we just haven’t gotten to it yet.

In the end, The Radio did exactly what it needed to do. It set us up to have most of our questions answered in the season finale. And I can’t wait to see how it all ends.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

If you like my work, you can check out my latest science fiction/horror novel, Nova, launching on May 17th. Pre-orders are available now on Amazon.

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