Cryptid. Scripted.

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R.J. Carter's picture

"The plot of Cryptid: The Swamp Beast is fiction based on real sightings and weird events, but it’s a story nonetheless. Some of the people are actors, others are local people who help carry the narrative. But the show also features actual eyewitness interviews and experts weighing in throughout the dramatization that give the series real-world context." This is how the History Channel website describes the new cryptozoology adventure, capitalizing on the success of shows like Animal Planet's Finding Bigfoot (who persistently remains unfound) and their infamous hoax, Mermaids: The New Evidence, as well as adding to the ever-growing cache of Louisiana-based reality-like shows, like their own hit series Swamp People.

The series is filmed very much like a reality one, as the cameras follows a team of animal control specialists, and one deputy sheriff, through a small Louisiana town where animal mutilations have people wondering about a rogue bear. The lead investigator is the skeptic, who begins to get rattled when things start to get strange. His partner is already a believer in the legends of the Rougarou -- a sort of werewolf creature that spun off from the French loup garou stories -- and you can see the nervousness all over him. The distaff portion of the team is the one with all the tech and traps, who begins to get rattled after she extracts the blurry photos from her mangled game camera.

Of course, it wouldn't be the south if there weren't some crazy redneckery happening. The cattle mutilations are first blamed on a nearby family, whom all the "interviewees" declare to be no good. When the deputy sheriff first visits to question the family about having seen anything strange, the over-the-fence conversation immediately turns into an unsettling confrontation that paints the law officer as a shade braver than Barney Fife. In the next episode, the animal control agents encounter a hanging display of dead pets, and bring in a hatchet-waving crazy woman who babbles warnings that they don't know what they're doing.

Oh, and there's grave robbery. But what would an undocumented swamp animal want with some guy's skull? (Being Louisiana, maybe the Rougarou heard the dead man had be "crypted" and was looking for a mate?)

It's all too fantastic to be real. And yet, there's no doubt a contingent of people will be glued to their sets, looking for clues to the Rougarou, waiting for it to make another blurry appearance they can point to as evidence. As a series about monster hunters, this would make an almost passable fiction show. But the reality documentary nature of it slows it down, and given the normally investigative nature of the channel (even when they're airing Ancient Astronauts) there's bound to be a certain Orson Welles' "War of the Worlds" broadcast quality to it. While the premise is entertaining, the delivery of it is too flat at times in an effort to maintain the "just doing our normal jobs" nature of the characters.

Grade: 
C+