By KEVIN HOOVER
Starring Aaron Deese, Shannon LeGro and Lyle Blackburn
Written and directed by Seth Breedlove
Small Town Monsters
Seth Breedlove and the team at Small Town Monsters have a handle on exactly who their audience is, and they serve it well year after year with their masterfully produced cryptid documentaries. It’s an appreciative fanbase, too, as viewers with an insatiable thirst for all things werewolves and mothmen show up in force for the yearly crowdfunding campaign the studio hosts and frequently obliterates within hours of going live. Their most recent release, THE DOGMAN TRIANGLE: WEREWOLVES IN THE LONE STAR STATE, explores Texas’ iteration of the biped lycanthrope with the tried-and-true Small Town Monsters’ approach that should appease cryptid enthusiasts and ensure those that pledged their funds to this year’s slate of films that theirs was money well spent.
Texas is no stranger to unexplained phenomena, but when author Aaron Deese took notice of a trio of werewolf sightings over a stretch of 700 miles in which each occurrence shared similarities, he set out to explore what he believed would be ripe for a podcast episode. Christening the area the “Dogman Triangle,” Deese’s research unearthed a mystery so richly ensconced in werewolf lore that a simple podcast episode wouldn’t suffice. His work would be published as The Texas Dogman Triangle (Small Town Monsters Publishing), which also serves as the basis for this film.
While Small Town Monster’s films are threaded through narration and reenactments, THE DOGMAN TRIANGLE takes an over-the-shoulder approach with Deese and fellow researcher Shannon LeGro as they visit witnesses and locations involved with dogman sightings. Witness stories are shored up with expert analysis by cryptozoological experts, including U.K. scribe Nick Redfern, Ken Gerhard, and RUE MORGUE’s (and Texas’) own Lyle Blackburn. As one would expect, first-hand accounts and anecdotal evidence make up the lion’s share of the discussion at large, but sufficient time is spent explaining the history behind the biped. “Dogman” isn’t just a mere rebranding of the garden-variety werewolf; It’s a genus all its own, bereft of the supernatural qualities inherent to other canine cryptids such as Louisiana’s shapeshifting Rougarou. The film’s onboard history lesson provides essential context that bolsters the argument for the creature’s existence while attempting to lay bare its behavioral motivations.
One challenge Breedlove and company run into when trying to explain the unexplainable is the lack of concrete evidence, especially visual proof. It’s a barrier the production team sidesteps by offering graphical renditions, animations, and costumed actors, informed by legend and witness retellings that provide a necessary framework for viewers to truly appreciate the cryptid’s physical traits. Reading a simple “tale-of-the-tape” characteristic breakdown isn’t nearly as effective as hearing a resident state that what they saw stood nine feet tall on two legs, accompanied by an illustration depicting the same thing in a scaled environment. And live-action shots never feel cheap or hokey. Sure, it’s an actor in a rubber mask, but camera angles never belie that. Instead, the filmmakers choose to frame these shots in a way that makes the illusion seem menacing and aptly brief.
DOGMAN TRIANGLE is self-aware. It doesn’t attempt to shove its subject in the face of skeptics and then chastise those who choose not to buy what it’s selling. Even preeminent cryptozoologist Ken Gerhard states that he doesn’t burn a lot of daylight thinking about the Texas Dogman. For every attempt made to prove the existence of the creature, there’s a counterpoint that offers up bears or sarcoptic mange-afflicted dogs as alternative explanations. The filmmakers show their hand and then let viewers decide exactly what they want to do with the information. In understanding that discussions about such phenomena can be sensitive, Small Town Monsters excels in treating the subject matter (and those involved) in a considerate manner. For those who’ve had their very real lives touched by dogmen encounters, Deese, LeGro and the entire production team treat these individuals with no less respect than if they were discussing delicate personal affairs.
Does the Texas Dogman exist? THE DOGMAN TRIANGLE: WEREWOLVES IN THE LONE STAR STATE certainly argues a compelling case. The cryptid enthusiasts among us will find plenty in Aaron Deese’s companion film to further the notion that werewolves do indeed share our world. However, for the doubting Thomas with an open mind and 74 minutes to spare, Small Town Monster’s latest is a well-executed documentary that helps to remind us that when it comes to watching scary movies, there’s fun to be had in the grey area between fact and fiction.
The Dogman Triangle: Werewolves in the Lone Star State is now available on major streaming platforms, including Amazon Prime.