Ryland Tews as Captain Seafield
Erick West as Sean Shaughnessy
Beula Peters as Nedge Pepsi
Daniel Long as Dick Flynn
Wayne Tews as Ashcroft
Written & Directed by Ryland Brickson Cole Tews
Lake Michigan Monster Review:
The aquatic genre has long been the home for the horror and swashbuckling genres with everything from Jaws to Pirates of the Caribbean to Robert Eggers’ recent masterpiece The Lighthouse, but every once in a while we find ourselves treated to a more comedic affair, be it SpongeBob SquarePants or The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. The latest exercise in oceanic comedy, Lake Michigan Monster, may not take itself nearly as seriously as Wes Anderson’s Life Aquatic or go quite as cartoonish as the film franchise of Nickelodeon’s long-running animated series, but it does feel like a beautiful melding of the two that results in a wild ride.
The eccentric Captain Seafield hires a crew of specialists to help him plot revenge against the creature that killed his father. After several failed attempts, Seafield is forced to take matters into his own drunken hands. What began as a simple case of man versus beast soon plunges down a rabbit hole of mysterious unknowns and Lovecraftian hijinks.
Shot in black-and-white, the film has a look akin to the wacky world of the Stephen Hillenburg-created Bikini Bottom while also feeling very reminiscent of the surreal and fantastical realm of practical effects perfected by Georges Méliès in the early days of cinema and it proves to be the film’s biggest draw and also its biggest flaw. From the numerous Dutch angles to the rapid-fire speed of the editing in every scene, it certainly keep the pace of the film moving in mostly solid fashion and works well for the timing of a number of jokes and set pieces, but it also can create a rather nauseating and exhausting feeling in the viewer as they try to keep up with the characters and dialogue on screen as they race through the proceedings.
Thankfully, though, even when the overall editing and directorial style of the film may prove tiresome, the bizarre and quirky characters the story centers on and the world in which they all exist is unique and an absolute joy to revel in. While it may have been nice to see a tad more development of the central crew, it’s not really necessary of a detraction from the film’s overall quality as everybody still feels like a fully-realized individual with the revelations regarding their pasts and personalities nicely scattered throughout the story to keep audiences compelled and keep everyone from feeling like rote or one-note characters. Not to mention, many of the things we learn about the characters over the course of the story helps add further laughs to the proceedings, from familial ties to shocking secrets regarding the team’s leader Captain Seafield.
The visual effects of the film also prove to be incredible and effective, definitely those of a lower-budget project but rather than try to make some big-budget set pieces with no money, writer/director/star Ryland Brickson Cole Tews and company display their proficiency in making the most of their money. The visual trickery used to make the ghost armies seen in the latter half of the film seem transparent is superb, the more practical effects of the titular beast in its handful of appearances look bizarre and effective and the sinking of a ship in the film may look bad on a technical scale, but fits perfectly in the tone of the rest of the film to make it work.
Lake Michigan Monster is a nice break from the constant aquatic horror ventures and though some of its editing and pacing may feel a bit exhausting in moments and it could benefit from a slightly longer runtime, it still proves to be a zany, unique and hilarious ride sure to please audiences of all kind.