By Steph Cannon
Small Town Monsters is back with their latest investigative documentary, and this time they’re taking a look at one of the oldest and most feared monsters of all time with Bloodlines: The Jersey Devil Curse. The filmmaking team has been creating their popular movie and web series since 2015, taking a deep dive into some of the most notorious urban legends and folktales that have been ingrained in society for centuries.
Chances are, no matter what part of America you grew up in, you were aware of at least one urban legend that was deeply rooted in the local culture. For the citizens of the Northeast, and more specifically the areas surrounding the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, no tale is more well-known than that of the Jersey Devil. What are its origins, and how far back do they go? Is there any truth to the accounts of sightings and attacks? Bloodlines aims to answer all of these questions, and more, with an informative, intriguing look at the Jersey Devil’s extensive history.
The docudrama creates an engaging formula by combining interviews with local experts and historians, and dramatic re-enactments of some of the more infamous run-ins with the winged creature. Part of the fun of these types of documentaries is the delicate balance of fact and fiction, and the blurred lines in between. SMT isn’t out to convince you one way or another on the actuality of the claims, they’re simply presenting you with the evidence at hand, and the recounts from those who insist they’ve experienced sightings.
Those sightings, incidentally, date back to the time of Native Americans in the region, and span all the way up to current declarations. Unlike other folktales, where the description of the monster in question can vary from person to person, the narrative and detail of the Jersey Devil has remained virtually the same. With its cloven hooves, expansive wingspan, and eerie red eyes, the demonic creature has allegedly terrorized, maimed, and killed New Jersey residents who dare venture into the wooded Pine Barrens.
As would be expected with a story that is centuries old, its origins are varied and complex, and Bloodlines covers the more compelling versions with period-appropriate segments involving actors. It touches on the influx of encounters that happened during the turn of the 20th century, and the ensuing hysteria and panic from citizens, who went so far as to close schools for fear their children would be harmed. The theory behind the sudden rise in instances, and the reasons for it, is an enthralling piece of U.S. history. There’s also the amusing look into the fact that the Jersey Devils hockey team was named after the monster itself by vote of the general population.
The SMT folks definitely know what they’re doing when it comes to putting together an entertaining and informative piece on folklore and the beliefs that go with it, and it shows well in this documentary. From ancient tales stemming during the birth of our country, to the link the Jersey Devil had during the Satanic Panic of the 1980’s, this film offers up a plethora of knowledge and details.
There’s an easy flow to the overall layout and production value that helps in keeping your attention. Just when it begins to feel as though it’s lingering too long on one storyline, it pulls out of it to add in real-life interviews to re-center. Overall, it’s a worthy watch to gain knowledge of one of the most famous and timeless American folktales. Whether you’re a firm believer in the existence of the Jersey Devil, or a hardened skeptic, you’re bound to find interesting tidbits throughout this film.
Bloodlines: The Jersey Devil Curse debuts on major streaming platforms on November 15th, from 1091 Pictures, including iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, Vudu and FandangoNOW.