Published on March 18th, 2021 | by Richard Gary0
Lake Michigan Monster
Guy Maddin meets Ingmar Bergman meets Terry Gilliam meets…oh, hell, just go and watch this bonkers lo-fi monster movie. It’s a hoot and a half.
This film is a trip-and-a-half. Almost like a Terry Gilliam fever dream, we are introduced to Capt. Seafield (director Ryland Brickson Cole Tews) who explains that his dear ole dad was killed by the titular creature, and gathers a crew together to find and kill it. There is snarky weapons expert Sean Shaughnessy (Erick West, Ryland’s friend), Sonar “individual” Nedge Pepsi (Beulah Peters, Ryland’s girlfriend), and former Naval Officer Dick Flynn (Daniel Long, Ryland’s childhood friend), or as Seafield calls them, “The Team of the Century.”
There is more to the cast, but many of them are actually related to the director, such as his father playing his pirate-clad brother Ashcroft (Wayne Tews, who wrote and sang the theme song, and also created a lot of the cool props), and his 87-year-old grandmother playing his wife, Martha (Lucille Tews). The cool-yet-chincey-in-a-good-way looking sea hag monster is played by the director, Ryland, that looks a bit like The She-Creature (1956).
Of course, things don’t go as planned, as if there were a real plan, though that not-real plan gets played out more than once, leading to a mutiny of sorts. I will not give away much of the story, such as it is, and will instead revel in its insanity. Through what looks like it may be Paper Mache masks, scenery and monsters, along with the graphics, Tews’ vision is brought to life, in its own twisted world within our world.
There are some amazing set pieces, mostly either on or under the water, in Milwaukee (beer plays a key role in this, as should be, as beer could be what made Milwaukee famous), the North Point Light Station (lighthouse), or on the Lake X-press ferry. The whole third act’s setting is ridiculous at best, which is part of what makes its charm.
The film is shot in contrast and grainy black and white with “film scratches” added in to “age” it. Even so, there is a lot of animation work going on; when it was filmed it was with a green screen to add texture and said computer graphics.
There are three ways to watch this film. The first is get shitfaced and to just mock it like you’re on “Mystery Science Theater 3000”; have a blast! The second is to see it straight, pay attention to the humor and catch the lines the stoners are bound to miss, and feel righteously smug (my category). Third is to just think it’s a stupid mess and turn it off after five minutes as you would with the likes of Monty Python and complain that “SNL” hasn’t been funny since John Belushi left.
Perhaps this is the evil plan for the first feature film for the four-named director to take over the world, by using a cast whose first acting credit is as a member of the Team of the Century. Sort of a human version of Python’s “Confuse a Cat” sketch. For me, I found it quite amusing, knowing I would be watching it again to dig for the jokes I missed, and I’m guessing there are a few. There are some influences here and there, such as Guy Maddin, and there is a bit of the good Capt. playing checkers with a ghost a la Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal (1957).
This would be a great double bill with spiritually out there by-the-beautiful-sea cousin Subferatu (2020), which would make a great double bill some rainy night in Georgia, or Wisconsin, or anywhere else.