If Guy Maddin made a monster movie, it would probably look a lot like Lake Michigan Monster. But he didn’t make it, it’s the debut feature from Ryland Brickson Cole Tews, shot for $7,000 and screening at Fantasia 2019 as part of Fantasia Underground.
Shot in gloriously grainy black and white, Lake Michigan Monster is the story of Captain Seafield (Ryland Brickson Cole Tews) who’s father was killed before his very eyes by a creature from the “shallow depths” of Lake Michigan. Or so he says, the Captain has the occasional problem keeping his stories straight. He assembles “The Team Of The Century” weapons expert Sean Shaughnessy (Erick West), “sonar individual” Nedge Pepsi (Beulah Peters), and former N.A.V.Y. , Nautical Athletes and Venture Yunit, officer Dick Flynn (Daniel Long).
Of course, things don’t go according to plans, especially when the plans are ass half-assed as these. And with names like “Operation Naughty Lady,” and “Operation Master Baiters” you can guess how bad they are. They lead to death, impregnation, and a desperate final underwater assault on the monster’s lair.
Lake Michigan Monster is an absurd, self-referencing, throw everything at the audience and hope they laugh kind of film. Those kinds of films are hard to pull off and something of an acquired taste even when they do work.
There are some good chuckles, such as a parody of Bergman’s The Seventh Seal where the Captain plays checkers with Death. But much of Lake Michigan Monster is just too silly for my tastes. There are also several moments that appear to be jokes but left me totally lost. I’m assuming they’re local Milwaukee references.
Credit has to be given to Tews and co-writer Mike Cheslik for their imagination and ability to pull off technical miracles in their many other roles on the film. There are some genuinely impressive shots in Lake Michigan Monster. In particular, much of the final act. It has an incredibly trippy look to it, with a brilliantly animated monster.
If you like this kind of film, you’ll probably love Lake Michigan Monster. I was amused but was much more impressed with the film’s technical accomplishments than its jokes. You can check for festival dates near you on its Facebook page.