On the Trail of UFOs: Dark Sky
Directed by Seth Breedlove | Small Town Monsters
West Virginia is a state that is well-known for its wide array of stories of high-strangeness. Mothman may be the most famous anomaly from the Mountain State, but it’s not the only one. The Flatwoods Monster terrorized Braxton County in 1952. Bigfoot sightings abound in Appalachia, as well as reports of a similar creature, called “white Thing” or Sheepsquatch. Other cryptids, such as the chupacabra and Grafton Monster have also been spotted there. Ghost stories are part and parcel of Appalachian Mountain folklore. And of course, West Virginia has over a century of UFO sightings. And that’s exactly where the Small Town Monsters team heads in their latest UFO documentary.
Take Me Home
On the Trail of UFOs returns, but switches out its previous episodic format for a more self-contained, cinematic approach. Shannon LeGro (host of the Into the Fray podcast) returns as host & narrator, and joins the crew as they investigate UFO encounters, past and present. Other STM mainstays are here as well, including Mark Matzke and Heather Moser. Even Seth Breedlove makes a few on-camera appearances.
Dark Sky deftly uses its nearly 90-minute runtime to focus solely on West Virginia. And I suppose if you’re going to spotlight on one state for a UFO documentary, this should be the one. It would be hard to discuss West Virginia without mentioning Mothman or the Flatwoods Monster. And they are mentioned here, but in a fairly limited capacity. Small Town Monsters has already done comprehensive documentaries on both. The Flatwoods Monster: A Legacy of Fear is a wonderfully sober take on the bizarre alien creatire, while STM has actually done a few documentaries on Mothman.
The main thrust of Dark Sky, however, is on lesser-known encounters. Now, anyone who knows me knows that these are the kinds of stories that I truly love. The famous incidents have their place, and are important. There’s no questioning that. But I feel like these little-told stories from locals hold far more weight, ultimately. And one of the strengths of Small Town Monsters films is that they always highlight these eyewitnesses. Tales that haven’t been told and retold and retold again for years on the various TV shows. And Dark Sky is chock full of intriguing stories of strange objects in the skies.
Cold & Coal
One aspect of the Mothman phenomenon is examined in a bit more detail here: the enigmatic being known as Indrid Cold. This entity, made famous in John Keel’s book “The Mothman Prophecies,” most notably interacted with Point Pleasant resident Woodrow Derenberger. Cold seems to be either an alien, one of the Men in Black, or a version of the Grinning Man. Perhaps he’s all three? Either way, Dark Sky explores an intriguing possibility that Indrid Cold may not have limited his contact only to residents of West Virginia…
Another interesting correlation explored here is the apparent connection between UFO sightings and coal mines. West Virginia has abundant coal deposits as its natural resource, and as such, has a long history of coal mining. Apparently, many of the UFO sightings in West Virginia seem to happen very near to old or current coal mines. Some stories even claim that these craft or lights were seen entering or exiting the ground, or the mines themselves. It’s a strange link, to be sure. I sort of understand UFOs buzzing around nuclear power plants. But why would an intergalactic civilization be interested in a fossil fuel? High strangeness, indeed.
Keep Watching the Skies
Dark Sky is everything we’ve come to love about a Small Town Monsters production. Stellar cinematography, strong writing, a haunting musical score, and a rational, level-headed, and balanced approach to the subject matter. What really struck me in this entry, though, were the recreations. I’ve watched many a UFO documentary in my time, and these are perhaps some of the best, if not the best, recreations I’ve seen. Some of the recreations are animations, and these look fantastic. Stylish, creepy, and just very cool. But where they really shine are the hybrid CGI/real footage shots. The CGI here is fantastic, and is blended so well with the actual footage that the end result is a completely authentic looking UFO video. Amazing stuff, and really helps put the viewer in the moment to understand the sighting.
The STM team itself has an apparent sighting of a UFO while investigating, and they capture it all on video. Shot at night, the footage is unsurprisingly not very compelling or impressive. A moving light in the night sky. Then it seems to disappear. A UFO shooting off at warp speed? Or simply a plane, banking so that its headlights can no longer be seen? Hard to say. But as most experiencers will tell you, the strangeness of an actual incident usually cannot be conveyed sufficiently by photos or video. It’s usually a “you had to have been there” situation. And LeGro tells us as much here. A cool moment, to be sure. Yet as always, we’re left with more questions than answers. I do wish they had spent a bit more time on this, though. I do love those personal stories…
On the Trail of UFOs: Dark Sky proves once again that Small Town Monsters is no longer trying to set the bar for good paranormal documentaries. They are the bar. Serious, intelligent, and unbiased examinations of these truly out of this world encounters has been needed for far too long now. Breedlove and STM have shown that not only can that be done, but it can be done well, and done consistently. Dark Sky is yet another great addition to the STM library: engrossing witness accounts, perplexing revelations, and recreations realistic enough to make big Hollywood studios do a double take. And it’s a perfect companion piece to aforementioned STM flicks. Check it out when you can, as it’s already available on most streaming services.