Gryphon Productions // 2002 // 100 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Kristin Munson (Retired) // March 13th, 2008
Ordinary people on an extraordinary mission.
Cryptozoology is the study of hidden animals, the ones forgotten or denied by
science. "Serious" scientists
might dismiss Ogopogo and Sasquatch as modern folklore, but they also poo-poohed the idea of the giant squid until Japanese scientists caught one on video -- and brought back an 18-foot tentacle as proof.
Monster Hunters is a fun peek into the world of cryptozoology, a world where amateurs and experts work side by side, looking to prove the fantastic. It may seem far-fetched, but maybe cartographers weren't so wrong when they marked their maps with Hic monstra sunt: "Here are monsters."
There's been many a TV special on sea monsters and hairy ape-men, but Monster Hunters takes a unique approach. Instead of sit-down interviews and eyewitness testimony, the film crew actually follows believers into the woods and water to track their beastie of choice, filling you in on the history and evidence of each cryptid as you go.
The disc presents a nice mix of monsters, each with its own 15-20 minute segment:
* "The Jersey Devil"
* "Englands's Phantom Leopards"
* "Tasmanian Tiger"
By focusing on the lesser-known cousins of familiar monsters -- showcasing the Yowie instead of Bigfoot, swapping Cadborosaurus for the Loch Ness Monster -- Monster Hunters offers more variety than the standard monster show, even if it is just two of those television specials stuck together. On the other hand, suspending disbelief and letting the doc's human subjects lead the way also means certain facts go unchallenged. The described cry of the Jersey Devil sounds a lot like a fisher cat, an animal that has been sighted in New Jersey, but that never comes up in the narration.
Segments are supported with home video, expedition footage, and many illustrations of the mystery creatures, some more fanciful than others. Then again, a four-legged animal with kangaroo legs and a mouth that opens as wide as a bear trap sounds absurd, but there's no doubt the tasmanian tiger was real. The only question cryptozoloogists are trying to answer is whether it's truly extinct or just really good at hide & go seek.
However, each section of the show is only as strong as the sanity of its hunter, and before you can say "stop being on my side, you're making my side look stupid," some of these people confirm they're a toy submarine short of a fake Nessie photo. There's the Aussies who use their Yowie search as excuse to run around the Outback in army gear and play with knives, and the woman who'd like to literally get her hands on a chupacabra (and presumably love it and squeeze it and call it George). In fact, the entire chupacabra section enters the Twilight Zone when the chosen group of hunters claims the goat-sucking fiend is tied in with UFOs and reveals the expedition's direction is being determined, not by any scientific method, but psychic visions.
Even if some of the hunters are less than credible, they do enable the filmmakers to capture some amazing footage of the Australian bush and South American mountains, all in beautiful widescreen. The transfer is 20,000 leagues better than the version aired on TLC, and the only beef I have with the visuals is that the filmmakers went a little overboard on the negative exposure effects. The disc's stereo is nice, but nothing special. For a show about monsters, there are very few crackling branches or weird noises skulking at the edge of the speakers. The DVD's only extra is a stills gallery with lots of pictures of people pointing and some of the cryptid art used in the program, but the unusually artistic menu design deserves a special mention. Still photos framed by a collage of griffins, vines, and reptilian birds give a creepy atmosphere to something that could have easily looked cheesy.
Clairvoyant-led alien hunts? Really?
Everybody loves a good mystery; it adds spice and a sense of wonder to our ultra-connected world. Our ancestors had folklore and mythology; we have things that go bump in the night. Whether you're a skeptic, a true believer, or merely curious, Monster Hunters has something to feed your opinion. It's an atypical distraction for cryptid fans and a good starting point for the budding cryptozoologist, sure to nurture the inner child that's still delighted and terrified at the thought of monsters.
If a verdict is declared in the woods, and no one can find it, does it exist?
Review content copyright © 2008 Kristin Munson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Gryphon Productions
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Stills Gallery
* Official Site