Monday, September 13, 2021

Skinwalker: The Howl of the Rougarou, from Small Town Monsters

It is Louisiana's native variety of wolfman, so presumably it would taste great blackened with Cajun spices. Unfortunately, according to traditional lore, if you kill one, you assume its curse. Sometimes it is a predator of souls and other times it is a guardian of the natural bayou environment, but either way, you do not want to tangle with one, according to the eye-witnesses in Seth Breedlove’s Skinwalker: The Howl of the Rougarou, which releases tomorrow on VOD and DVD (from Breedlove’s Small Town Monsters).

It has a canine head, but walks on two legs, haunting the swamps, particularly the wetlands of Terrebonne Parrish. Rougarou mythology is inherently tied to the legends of the Houma people but it also explicitly reflects the influence of the Francophone Cajuns. Its very name evolved from the French “loup-garou.” However, the Louisiana Rougarou continued to incorporate mythos of other cultures, such as those of the Micmac people (with whom the Cajuns had been closely allied with), as well as Italian and Haitian immigrants to New Orleans.

The best part of
Skinwalker is the way Breedlove and co-writer-researcher Heather Moser trace all the various cultural strands that make the Rougarou so distinctively Louisianan. They also recruited some wonderfully colorful local storytellers to give their personal Rougarou testimony. After listening to them, you’ll be apt to see the Rougarou yourself, if you ever find yourself in bayou country late at night, especially if you are up to no good.

Like Breedlove’s
Mark of the Bell Witch, Skinwalker is a cut above the average paranormal “documentary,” due to its facility for presenting the underlying folkloric material. This isn’t the kind of film you would ever watch in a theater, but it is leagues superior to most of uncanny programming you find on Discovery+. Frankly, they ought to make a deal with Breedlove’s STM to bring their regional Americana monster project to the streaming service.

Of course,
Skinwalker has the further added advantage of the bayou country setting, including the infamous Bayou Sale Road, which is considered Louisiana’s answer to New York’s Buckout Road. There is no doubting some crazy stuff has gone on out there in Bayou country. Whether it really was the Rougarou or not, hardly matters.

Skinwalker, Breedlove and company vividly explore all the diverse cultural influences that make the state and its werewolf so unique. They also echo the concerns regarding coastal wetlands erosion, to the point of risking repetitiveness. However, the big dog is always one fascinating cat. Recommended for monster hunters and admirers of Louisiana folklore, Skinwalker: The Howl of the Rougarou releases tomorrow (9/14) on VOD.