Movie Review: ‘Momo: The Missouri Monster’

Review by Jay Bowman

This is the second film from director Seth Breedlove I’ve had the chance to review, so I had to battle set expectations beforehand. The previous Breedlove offer I was privy to, Terror in the Skies, was a fun albeit strangely paced documentary about the history of flying cryptids in the American Midwest. Momo is another monster documentary, but with a twist: it uses a fictional television show to interview real people and a “lost” 70’s B-movie to both explore and embellish the actual history of the alleged monster.

First, a bit about the monster. Momo is an obscure Bigfoot-esque, three-toed hairy creature that was spotted along the Mississippi River area, with the most prolific sightings occurring in the small town of Louisiana, Missouri. These sightings lasted between 1971 and 1973ish before coming to a halt and the townsfolk more or less moving on, exploiting the brief stint of Momomania for marketing purposes every so often.

And now, the movie itself. The choice of framing device is peculiar, though admittedly clever at first. The documentary proper is presented as an episode of “Blackburn’s Cryptid Casefiles” wherein a man with a nice hat investigates the legends behind monster sightings and the movies based off of them. Within this show are clips from a Momo movie that doesn’t exist but is presented in the style of a drive-in cash grab monster movie of the 70s that went unreleased. When our fake television host isn’t interviewing actual citizens of the area with connections to the Momo story, we’re treated with faux cinematic cheese recreating the alleged events as reported to have happened, complete with grain, weird color saturation, and poor acting.

The first movie segment is legitimately fun in just how authentic it feels to grindhouse movies of old. Unfortunately, the actual documentary portion of the film isn’t very entertaining at all. Some of the folks interviewed don’t think much of the monster sightings of yesteryear (indeed, most seem to reject the idea that Momo was anything out of the ordinary entirely). We get a great image of what the town was like with some of its history, but that’s not why my butt is in the seat. So we keep cutting back to the fake film and it becomes apparent that the joke of mock b-movie runs dry pretty fast.

The formula more often than not works like this: interviewees describe something, maybe a newspaper clipping is put on the screen briefly, and a film clip is shown dramatizing the event. Once in awhile Blackburn debunks an embellishment of the movie (odd, considering we know this whole thing is metafiction run amok at this point). Well before the movie ends you’ll realize why they went with a framing device that naturally created so much redundancy: there wasn’t enough material about Momo to make a decent documentary or a feature film, hence why one had to be padded out with the other.

The ending of Terror in the Skies made a point I feel it managed to miss in its execution: the people who tell the stories that become ingrained in folklore can become just as important as the beasts themselves. Blackburn’s closing narration leaves us with another nugget of wisdom that has the same level of truth but doesn’t square with everything leading up to it: that these schlock monster movies play a vital role in keeping local legends alive long after the locals themselves have stopped caring. That’s a nice observation, but it would have had more oomph had this felt like an homage to the likes of Boggy Creek (or if a cult Momo movie actually existed somewhere). Instead, it feels like one last attempt to salvage an underwhelming final product.

Believe it or not, I really enjoy what Breedlove and Small Town Monsters are doing in exploring these monster stories. I’m a fan of the low budget approach, and if major studios want to keep blowing billions of dollars trying to reinvent the monster wheel, it’s nice to have people out there keeping the true believer niche alive with their work. I just don’t feel like there was enough meat on this particular bone to warrant anything more than a short. If there was, it sadly wasn’t on the screen.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.