BY DAKOTA DAHL
Starring Ryland Brickson Cole Tews, Erick West, Beulah Peters and Daniel Long
Written by Mike Cheslik and Ryland Brickson Cole Tews
Directed by Ryland Brickson Cole Tews
Arrow Video Channel
Captain Seafield has a problem outside of his own perpetual drunkenness: The Lake Michigan Monster has killed his father. Now it’s up to him to assemble “The Team of the Century” to hunt down the monster and exact his somewhat muddled and ill-defined revenge. What unfurls is a mind-bending jaunt into the slapstick world of an Alcoholic Ahab as he wrestles with creatures, family, betrayal and fish sticks. LAKE MICHIGAN MONSTER is what would happen if Monty Python directed The Lighthouse while on PCP.
The over-the-top and frankly unhinged antics of Seafield are captured perfectly by writer/director Ryland Tews, who seems to have based the character off the pirate painting that starts off every Spongebob episode. He’s undeservedly confident, perpetually cowardly, consistently incorrect, and definitely lying about a number of things (if not everything.)
Joining his crack(ed) team is Sean Shaughnessy (Erick West) who is a weapons expert, walking arsenal and terrible shot. Another addition is the voice of reason and “sonar expert” Nedge Pepsi (Beulah Peters) who’s occasional level headedness is always overridden by Seafield’s antics. Rounding out the team is Dick Flynn (Daniel Long,) vague sailor type and perpetual punching bag.
As the child-like schemes to catch the creature predictably fail, the lunacy begins to really ramp up. What starts as a simple monster hunt quickly leaps into a frothing whirlpool of ghost armies, talking decapitated heads and grenade fights. If this sounds like disjointed nonsense, don’t worry, there’s a thread of logic throughout the whole thing, the logic of a cartoonish fever-dream. If you’re familiar with films like The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra then you’ll have no problem suspending your belief here.
Every actor perfectly captures the tone of the film, knowing when to under or over react, depending on what will be funniest for the scene and keep the audience off balance. The scenes are openly shot in various nautical themed museums, a joke that eventually gets a satisfying, tongue-in-cheek pay off.
Outside of the top-tier surreal comedy writing, the real star of the LAKE MICHIGAN MONSTER are the practical special effects, which are intentionally low tech and cheesy, but executed with such precision that they circle all the way around to spectacular again. Animations, green-screen, wirework, make-up and creature design all come together as a parody of creature feature of old while also being an ultimate example of masterful special effects. I was genuinely blown away by how utterly impressive the special effects were, using an expertise missing from even blockbuster titles.
While it maintains a veneer of a cheaply made indie film, there’s nothing amateurish about LAKE MICHIGAN MONSTER, which delivers awesome special effects, memorable characters and a bizarrely lovable plot that demands multiple viewings.
LAKE MICHIGAN MONSTER is out now on Arrow Video Channel.