Fresh out of college, I used to conduct and produce interviews for public radio stations. And one thing one quickly picks up on from such a job is an instinctual skepticism when chatting up say, the head of MUFON, the Mutual UFO Network of “researchers” and enthusiasts (located in Lincolnton, N.C., at the time) or a North Dakota Native American college professor and his son who talk about being abducted by aliens.
One has to be on guard against the logical fallacies people use to make cases for something that lacks concrete proof, and yet has thrived in Conspiracy-minded America for the better part of a century. Because the last thing you want to come off as is a gullible rube.
Such worries never seem to cross the brow of “investigators” and co-hosts of these “On the Trail of UFOs” documentaries, Shannon Legro and Seth Breedlove. They take in every bit of hearsay, some of it backed up by under-credentialed “experts” with the authoritative “many people say” or “there’ve been reports” when describing “hollowed out mountain” UFO or “top secret government bases” where the “black helicopters” hide.
In “Night Visitors,” they speak with “experts” whose idea of “well-documented” isn’t backed up by any source they cite. The filmmakers blend in animated recreations of UFO “visits” and “events” with grainy footage of lights in the night sky purportedly captured by eyewitnesses, without distinguishing between the two or even making note of which is which.
Perhaps they had copyright issues dealing with such material, and if they’d spent the cash they blew on a slick, sci-fi “truth is out there” score, this wouldn’t have been a problem.
And that’s shame, because the thing is, someone or something is mutilating livestock and apparently has made it a habit of hitting this small King family cattle ranch in the San Luis Valley of Colorado repeatedly over the years. There’s been a lot of reporting on such incidents, with explanations, as Legro and folks she interviews here claim, ranging from occult rituals to “government experiments” to aliens.
Even taking into account the range of much more logical and plausible reasons — animal attacks to neighbors’ revenge, gruesome farm country pranks to insurance fraud — we still don’t know what’s happening. And the waters have been so muddied by the unsubstantiated and unsubstantiable that the Wikipedia page on the topic is a self-admitted “fringe theories” mess.
“Night Visitors” lapses into humorless/charmless self-parody as the “experts” are limited to fellow true believers in the “high strangeness” of this corner of Colorado, a place that Breedlove and Legro compare to their West Virginia “investigations” of “cryptids” like the Mothman, in earlier films.
I hesitate to toss the label “charlatans” at these two Youtube-ready amateurs. But in never seeking genuine, credentialed academic experts who might offer real pushback to their “far out” or “farther out” solutions to mysteries, by never expressing any skepticism at that what they’re being told is just self-aggrandizing causal fallacies delivered by “fake” authorities, they are, at best, “gullible rubes” selling cow patty theories of cattle mutilations to other gullible rubes.
And where’s that all end up? In a DC pizza parlor, where the suckers seek the nexus of a Big Conspiracy fomented by obvious con artists and hustlers who have preyed on the naive and dull witted since time immemorial.
It’s all harmless “X-Files” fun until people get hurt, a treasonous con artist hustles the suckers into electing him and reality reveals just how poor at parsing fact-from-BS you have to be to consider snake oil salesmen “authorities” on anything. “Critical thinking” never figures into it. Any of it.
There’s a reason learning how to identify fallacious arguments is called “healthy skepticism.” It’s healthy, and it’ll make you demand proof from obvious frauds who have no interest or ability providing that.
Rating: unrated, some graphic cattle mutilation imagery
Cast: Shannon Legro, Seth Breedlove, others
Credits: Scripted and directed by Seth Breedlove. A 1091 release.
Running time: 1:21