New Horror Releases: Momo: The Missouri Monster (2019) - Reviewed

Momo: The Missouri Monster is a cross between a '70s-style B-movie and a documentary about the same material. In 1972, a group of citizens in the town of Louisiana, Missouri claimed to have seen some kind of large, Bigfoot-esque, creature in the woods. The film-within-the-film dramatizes the events as though it were made on the cheap a few years later to capitalize on Momo’s momentary popularity. The documentary portion features interviews with people about what happened back then as a way of seeking truth beneath the legend. Taken together, it mythologizes and deconstructs its subject matter at the same time. It is an interesting approach that is entertaining, even if (or maybe because) it never finds any answers.

It jumps back and forth from a monster hunting show investigating various Momo sightings to a “lost” 1975 drive-in movie sensationalizing the story. The documentary sees host Lyle Blackburn talk to locals about the legend of Momo. The movie follows Edgar Harrison, whose family were the first ones to see the monster and who became obsessed with figuring out what was going on. The massive discrepancies between the two sections are kind of the point, however it can be a little unfocused with its multiple aims.

The documentary section (titled Blackburn’s Cryptid Casefiles) is a respectful look at the effect the Momo story had on Louisiana, as well as its lasting impact. It is excited, but skeptical. Blackburn makes for a fine host, allowing the interviewees to tell it the way they see it. This stuff is refreshing because of how matter of fact they are. To them it is just part of the town’s past, instead of its defining characteristic. There is nothing individually fascinating here, yet it is a cool look at a place with a strange claim to fame.

The horror section comes off as an attempt to have fun with that style as well as take shots at the way movies exploit real life to milk a few bucks out of consumers. It is much more successful at the former. The style is captured fantastically. It is obvious the filmmakers have love for those low budget monster thrillers. That comes out in the deliberately cheesy dialogue and Momo’s costume design. He is a huge creature, with wild black fur and glowing eyes. It is a bit silly in close-up, but you know if you actually saw that thing lurking behind some trees, it would scare the crap out of you. It is enjoyable in the way it takes elements of the legend and twists them into sci-fi.

The issues come from the unclear criticisms at exaggerating true events for a monster movie. Nearly every time Momo switches from fiction to fact, Blackburn makes it a point to remark on the ridiculous inaccuracies we just saw. The two halves intentionally paint very different pictures: one of a terrifying monster, the other of an odd presence that briefly captivated a town. While there are several positive aspects to these contradictions, it sometimes becomes an awkward combination. 

In the end, I cannot completely explain how they comment on each other, or why the filmmakers went out of their way to highlight the differences they chose to create, leaving me slightly frustrated. It is a fun idea that is a little less than the sum of its parts. What it does add up to is still a pretty good time.

--Ben Pivoz