Three years after Montauk Chronicles was screened in its original form, filmmaker Christopher Garetano has released the final, perfected version of his long-awaited documentary.
The film takes an in-depth, unbiased and terrifying look at the mysteries surrounding the defunct Camp Hero Air Force base, often called Area 51 East, in Montauk and the alleged secret government experiments in time travel, mind control and teleportation; alien technology; child abduction, abuses and much more said to have occurred there.
Garetano’s beautifully filmed and flawlessly narrated exploration of what has been called “The Montauk Project”—after Preston Nichols and Peter Moon’s book of the same name—took him down a dark path and, the director says, he was left questioning everything he ever believed, down to the very fabric of reality.
When his journey into the Camp Hero legend began, Garetano had just finished Horror Business, a documentary about guerrilla horror filmmakers and what makes them pursue their chosen career. During production, he followed several independent filmmakers as they created their movies and discussed the genre. Toward the end, a producer of one of those films, “a total conspiracy nut,” suggested Garetano look into Montauk.
Initially, he wasn’t very interested, but Garetano eventually found himself saying, “Let’s see what happens.” And soon he was traveling thousands of miles to interview the most outspoken proliferators of Montauk lore, including Nichols, author of The Montauk Project: Experiments in Time, and Al Bielek and Stewart Swerdlow, who also allege witnessing, participating in and even overseeing the clandestine government programs described in the book.
Wholly skeptical at first, Garetano says speaking with these men began to convince him their experiences could actually be real.
“If you wanted to create a lie, wouldn’t you make it palatable for people?” he asks, pointing out that the stories were so far fetched and outrageous they became believable. In total, the filmmaker interviewed Nichols for three days in 2006 and another two in 2013, and he spent four days with Swerdlow in 2006 and four more in 2013, though he only used the 2013 footage of both men. He also spoke with Bielek for two days in 2006, but Bielek had already suffered two strokes by then and he died in 2011 before Garetano could interview him again.
“The things [Bielek] said in 2006 seemed bats__t crazy,” the director says, “but then they came true.” Garetano recalls scoffing at Bielek’s claims of underground magnetic “leviton trains” taking him from California to Montauk in two hours—only to hear Tesla CEO Elon Musk later describe almost the exact same thing, calling it the Hyperloop, in 2013.
After six years of interviews, investigation and filming, Garetano showed his first version of Montauk Chronicles in 2011 and 2012, including a screening at Gurney’s in Montauk, but he quickly became dissatisfied with the film and scrapped the entire thing. “What I wanted to do was start fresh,” Garetano says. “I had to get through the first one to get to what I just finished.”
Back to the drawing board, Garetano delved even deeper into the project—and soon his life began unraveling around him. “I put thousands of hours into it…I wasn’t a weekend warrior,” he says of the project, noting that he pushed forward through financial and personal struggles, possibly justifiable paranoia and the frustration of trying to contain this infinite Pandora’s box of information into a digestible feature-length movie.
“It’s an endless road,” Garetano says recalling the last 10 years of nonstop work. “You can’t wrap it up in a tiny bow…My life was in shambles because of this.”
But Garetano was determined to see his vision through, and to present the most thorough, well-researched version of the story he could. And the final cut, which is an entirely new film, is packed with startling interviews and striking footage featuring lush dramatic recreations and haunting images from Camp Hero as it stands today. Unfortunately, the filmmaker’s biggest problem was trying to find concrete evidence of his subjects’ wild claims. “All I really have is what these guys are saying,” Garetano admits, acknowledging that he has yet to find any artifacts, pictures or physical evidence proving any of their stories are true. “You can’t nail it all—we have these three guys, that’s it, that’s all you have.”
Still, something deep down told Garetano that they were telling some version of the truth. “If you start to cross check some of this stuff, some of it checks out,” he says, and new information is coming up all the time.
Since completing the film, for example, Garetano learned that a metal alloy was sent to Camp Hero after it was supposed to be shut down. While the tidbit isn’t super-fantastical, he says it’s odd. “It’s always like this—a tiny piece of evidence” Garetano says, “that breaks the whole thing open.”
Just as he was finishing his new Montauk Chronicles film, a Long Island man claiming to have been abducted and subjected to experimentation approached Garetano with his story. What followed ended up being the final moments of the movie.
“There was something about him—what he was describing was from a man who didn’t invent this, but someone who witnessed it,” Garetano says, noting that the man’s tale seemed “larger, more tightly-woven and complex than his character [was capable of fabricating].” At the filmmaker’s request, the man took him back to Montauk to find the hatch where he was brought into a subterranean lab. And to Garetano’s surprise, it was there hidden in the woods and sealed with concrete.
The scene makes for a compelling conclusion and leaves the viewer exactly where Garetano now finds himself—thirsty for more and fully prepared to jump down the rabbit hole, wherever it may lead.
Montauk Chronicles, which is getting quite a bit of attention since its release—including a Best Documentary award at the 2015 Philip K. Dick Science Fiction Film Festival—is really just the first chapter of a longer investigation. Garetano is already putting together research for a sequel, titled Ghosts of Montauk.
In the meantime, the filmmaker is hosting a series about the world’s mysteries for a major television network, and he will begin shooting his next film, Bigfoot: Monster Chronicles Volume 1, which Garetano says is going to be “the most epic movie on the elusive creature to date.”
Montauk Chronicles is available now on Blu-Ray and DVD, with loads of extras, through the film’s website, montaukchronicles.com. Watch the trailer below.