History Channel // 2008 // 611 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard (Retired) // May 28th, 2008
"Witnesses around the world report seeing monsters. Are they real or imagined? Science searches for answers on Monster Quest."
"What's that coming over the hill? Is it a monster? Is it a monster?" -- Monster by The Automatic.
Cryptozoology; the study of hidden animals, is MonsterQuest's raison d'être. Setting out to prove or disprove the existence of mythical creatures such as Sasquatch or Swamp Beast, scientists use modern techniques in DNA testing, photo analysis, and field research to seek out the truth behind these legendary beings.
MonsterQuest: The Complete Season One contains four discs, featuring investigations into the following cryptids:
* "America's Loch Ness Monster"
* "Sasquatch Attack?"
* "Gigantic Squid Found?"
* "Mutant Canines"
* "Lions in the Backyard"
* "Gigantic Killer Fish"
* "Swamp Beast"
* "Russia's Killer Apemen"
* "Unidentified Flying Creatures"
* "The Real Hobbit"
* "American Werewolf"
Imagine, if you will, a world where Stalin presides over us all, having conquered the planet with his army of apemen, a human/ape hybrid created from a group of willing female volunteers and an ape named Tarzan. In this world gone mad, to quote Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, "We won't spank the monkey, the monkey will spank us." As farfetched as this may sound, MonsterQuest: The Complete Season One reveals that Russian scientists did indeed work on such a project -- and there you were expecting the show to consist solely of footage of supposed Bigfoot encounters.
Though Bigfoot does of course make an appearance or two, it is the manner in which MonsterQuest: The Complete Season One deals with each subject that makes it such riveting viewing. Combining eyewitness accounts with photographic and video "evidence," active field research, and scientific analysis results in a series that's both informative and thoroughly entertaining, with episodes often building to an exciting climax as we await the results of the investigation.
Ranging from the well-known to the obscure, from the bizarre to the all too real, MonsterQuest: The Complete Season One is just as enjoyable when it's dealing with the actual capture of a giant squid in Mexico's Sea of Cortez, as it is when investigating the phenomena that is Rods, a strange flying creature said to be able to travel through dimensions.
Each episode generally consists of the same basic components: we'll get a history on the creature in question, eyewitness accounts, any documented evidence, and, finally, an active attempt to find evidence as to whether the creature in question ever existed.
It is the field research that so often proves to be the key to success for MonsterQuest: The Complete Season One. Sure it's easy to laugh at some of the tales being recounted by eyewitnesses (one or two clearly being the work of a deranged mind), but when the show sends a group of scientists out to investigate these claims, the results are often startling. Chief amongst these is the "Sasquatch Attack?" episode. Placing a "screw board" (a large wooden board, with screws sticking out) at the doorway of a cabin, reputedly the site of numerous attacks by Sasquatch, the scientists return to discover a bloody stain on the board. Further examination finds both hair and body tissue on the screws. Not only does the size of the bloodied area point to a creature with a footprint some 18 inches in length; the DNA sample reveals whatever it was that stood on the board was human, but for one unknown genome. It makes for some fascinating viewing, often making you question your preconceived notions on the subject.
In a somewhat brave move, MonsterQuest: The Complete Season One, refuses to give a definitive answer, as to whether the cryptid-of-the-week actually exists or not. Instead the show presents well-balanced arguments both for and against the existence of each creature, often presenting other possibilities for the supposed sightings, and leaves the viewer to make their own mind up.
The only extra, presented on the disc, is a behind-the-scenes featurette. Mostly consisting of crew members talking about their experiences out in the wild, it fails to really add anything to the experience and tends to get a little repetitive.
The 1.78:1 transfer is clean and sharp, with vibrant colors. The stereo soundtrack does its job, but is flat and lacking any real oomph.
A number of the episodes, particularly "Russia's Killer Apemen," have an annoying tendency to repeat the same footage over and over and over and, well, you get the picture. I understand that this is mainly down to a lack of available footage on the subject being dealt with, but seriously, apes marching through Red Square in full battle gear have invaded my dreams, thanks to the frequency of the same CGI sequence being shown.
The "Russia's Killer Apemen" episode also features some fairly distressing footage of a head transplant operation being performed on a monkey. Though the footage is never graphic, I certainly found it hard to watch, particularly the footage of the monkey post-operation. The narrator does give fair warning before the footage is shown, but it should be pointed out that, though the show is great family entertainment, this one scene is perhaps not suitable for the younger viewers.
A show the whole family can enjoy together, MonsterQuest: The Complete Season One sets out to entertain and succeeds, but, thanks to the scientific angle put on it, it also has plenty of depth and will engross anyone whose appetite for monsters has been whetted by movies like The Host or Cloverfield.
Something appears to be lurking in the bushes...could it be? Yes, it's a not guilty verdict.
Review content copyright © 2008 Paul Pritchard; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: History Channel
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 611 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Behind the Scenes
* Official Site