American Werewolves review: what’s watching you in the dark?

American Werewolves - chase mankind Courtesy Justin Cook PR
American Werewolves - chase mankind Courtesy Justin Cook PR /

Werewolves are among the most iconic monsters of popular culture, who’ve terrified and enthralled audiences for generations as we try to piece together a realistic portrait of the creatures from legends and hearsay. American Werewolves, a documentary from Small Town Monsters, explores frightening encounters with the Dogman who stalks the forests and hunts at night in rural America. Directed by Seth Breedlove and produced by Heather Moser, American Werewolves devotes its runtime to sharing the stories of eyewitnesses who came face-to-face with an ancient and mysterious evil.

The interviews with the eyewitnesses are where the documentary shines. It might not be for everyone, but I found myself thoroughly creeped out listening to the stories of people who encountered something monstrous in the dark that their rational minds nearly couldn’t fathom. Even though I’m a horror fan and I’ve been one for most of my life, I’m still creeped out by the dark and I find myself wondering: “what’s watching me? What’s hiding in the shadows biding its time to strike?” American Werewolves answers these questions, and the answers are deeply unsettling. Unlike previous entries in the Small Town Monsters series that rely on experts and investigators, American Werewolves allots most of its runtime to sharing the experiences of everyday people whose stories may never be told otherwise.

American Werewolves
American Werewolves- Courtesy Justin Cook PR /

There are a couple of standout stories in the documentary, including from one man who discovered the torn and bloody clothes of a young woman he later learned vanished without a trace. The police never came to investigate when the man called them in a panic, and he still bears the guilt and sadness over her disappearance, which he attributed to the Dogman. A woman revealed that when she was a teenager, she and her friends encountered a werewolf-like creature one night in the woods, who staggered around more like a kangaroo than a wolf. Another man revealed he was out for a jog when a creature began matching his pace and chased him all the way into town, where he sought refuge at a friend’s house.

All of these interviewees have different stories and different takeaways from their encounters, but one thing that remains common is the fear and uncertainty each person is left with. I never got the impression that these people were grandstanding or enjoying their “15 minutes of fame.” They were left shaken by their experiences, and it’s not hard to imagine why. Even if the thing they encountered wasn’t a werewolf, the fear they experienced was real, and the documentary does a fantastic job of conveying that.

American Werewolves adds flavor to its runtime with its small-town gothic atmosphere, surreal music, and creepy shots of werewolves partially hidden by fog and shadow. There’s not much American Werewolves can show onscreen, since the creatures in question are still mostly rooted in legend, but it does what it can with the subject material. The documentary also touches on the history of werewolf folklore, including the origins of the word lycanthropy from ancient Greece, the traditions of the Vikings who would don wolf fur in battle almost as if they were channeling the spirits of the wolves themselves, and the cultural and traditional beliefs surrounding wolves from the Native Americans.

If monster hunting and stories of encounters with the supernatural are your things, I think you’ll appreciate what American Werewolves has to offer. Many of the eyewitness accounts they feature are scary and feel almost like a ghost story from summer camp. If you’re looking for something a little more scientific and concrete, you might have to look elsewhere. It’s easy to dismiss the stories in the documentary as pure fiction, but none of us truly knows what’s waiting for us in the dark. Venture out if you dare, just beware the Dogman.

American Werewolves debuts on major streaming platforms on July 5th.

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