Review: Skinwalker: The Howl of the Rougarou

Written and directed by Seth Breedlove, co-written by Heather Moser, nearly 400 years since the origins of the legend of the Rougarou first began to circulate, people are encountering the creature once again. The truth behind these vicious, horrifying brushes with the unknown will make your blood run cold. Does the Rougarou still stalk the swamps of southern Louisiana?

With a film like this, you’d probably be expecting something fairly outlandish; diving into unbelievable details of experiences and theories on the Rougarou and yet, in a very pleasantly surprising turn of events, that’s not what this is. In actuality it turns out to be an exploration of cultural heritage and local lore, it traverses the different interpretations and how the legends have evolved over the years. One of the most surprising things about it is how it also takes conservation and environmentalism into account, looking ahead to what will become of the culture and community when climate change inevitably destroys their homes.

It may not work for someone who just wants to hear crazy stories about werewolves but it’s honestly interesting and has a multitude of different perspectives, all of which feel genuine and unexpectedly reasonable. It does extremely well to create a tone of history and culture over straight supernatural, conspiracy and horror. It’s a fairly rare example of a film trying to embrace a local history rather than exploit it for entertainment.

The direction and editing styles are fairly familiar, especially with a very typical American narration but they do still use a nice variety when exploring different stories. There’s a mixed use of created footage and animation, giving each person’s tale a more unique spin, to play against the similarities between them. Making it so that it doesn’t feel as though you’re hearing the same, if slightly different, tale over and over, it keeps a forward momentum.

There’s a surprisingly calm energy to it for a story about werewolf lore, it does have an uptake in dramatic energy as time goes on but you can feel that it’s intention is more cultural than melodrama. Its atmosphere is certainly helped by a great use of landscape shots, it makes the most of what the area has to offer aesthetically.

Skinwalker: The Howl of the Rougarou is a refreshing spin on tales of local lore. It embraces a rich cultural history of supernatural beliefs, as well as asking interesting questions about their longevity given the deteriorating environment. There are some ways it could shake things up a little with its overall style which feels very reminiscent of those that have come before but it’s still solid. It’s entertaining, easy to watch and surprisingly genuine.

Verdict: ✯✯✯½

Available September 14th on VOD, Blu-ray & DVD from 1091 Pictures.

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