Cinema/TV, Film Notes

Fantasia Film Festival review – Lake Michigan Monster

My notes on Lake Michigan Monster, which has screened at the Fantasia Film Festival.


A black-and-white micro budget skit, this exists somewhere on a spectrum between Robert Altman’s Popeye and Larry Blamire’s Lost Skeleton of Cadavra – though, in the end credits, filmmaker Ryland Tews acknowledges Guy Maddin as an inspiration too.  The extravagantly bearded Captain Seafield (Tews) – who seems to be a Great Lakes equivalent to the UK’s frozen fish commercial pitchman Cap’n Birdseye – claims that a monster ate his father, but can’t convince the authorities.  He assembles a crew of inept experts on a aquacryptid hunt – aggressive weapons expert Sean Shaughnessy (Erick West), discharged sailor Dick Flynn (Daniel Long) and ‘sonar individual’ Nedge Pepsi (Beulah Peters) – and deploys them on a tiny lakeshore with minimal equipment on a series of stratagems with pompous and argued-over caption titles (Operation Nauty Lady, Operation Eggscuse Me Time to Die, etc) that include smashing a monster egg (upsetting Dick, who might have fertilised it and become the monster’s baby daddy) and having everyone switch their costumes around and imitate one another.  Eventually, the whole crew have to take a trip to an underlake world for reasons that aren’t too easy to follow – but allow a crazy film to get even more demented in the last act.  Even at 78 minutes, its relentlessness is patience-straining – and, appropriately, the moments of drier wit (Peters is the funniest of the crew and does the least gurning) play better than the splashier, wetter knockabout.  It’s not a film to be too hard on – and may be the most defiantly regional, location-specific American creature feature since The Milpitas Monster (1976).  If you trawl online for reviews, you’ll find significant enthusiasm from the Wisconsin press, who note the landmarks, in-jokes, references and particular accents.  Lake Monsters, of course, aren’t famous for travelling, and the same may be true of this … but it raises a couple of chuckles between stretches of what-the-hell-is-this-all-about befuddlement.  Written by editor/effects man Mike Cheslik and director/star Ryland Brickson Cole Tews.


The Fantasia International Film Festival listing.




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