In the field of cryptozoology, the search for and study of animals whose existence or survival is disputed or unsubstantiated, there are some standout creatures: the Loch Ness Monster, the Yeti, and the Chupacabra to name an infamous few. Well, by fabulously named writer and director Ryland Brickson Cole Tews’s account, the Lake Michigan Monster should be added to that pantheon of fictional/ heretofore unseen critters. Much in the same vein as the wonderfully ridiculous The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, this black and white D.I.Y. love letter to B-grade 1950s monster movies pits a motley crew of misfits against said creature to entertaining results.
Milwaukee is not usually high on the list of accursed or haunted locales, but it is here that Tews sets his caper — specifically in the North Point Lighthouse on Lake Michigan’s shores. Captain Seafield (Tews), a bearded man-bunned fellow in a Love Boat captain’s hat, is seeking vengeance much like Captain Quint before him. The Lake Michigan Monster unceremoniously killed his father, so Seafield gathers together a not so dream team at the lighthouse composed of a weapons expert, sonar technician, and a nautical expert of some nature to find and destroy this ungodly horror. Their series of poorly sketched out plans — superbly code-named “Operation Annihilation,” “Operation Master Baiters,” “Operation Naughty Lady,” and the like — fail to capture the monster but not for lack of trying.
“…an unfortunate team member is impregnated by the monster, and another meets an inglorious end…”
However, in the course of one of the schemes, an unfortunate team member is impregnated by the monster, and another meets an inglorious end. The captain and his remaining crew, if I’m following the story correctly, must — in an inspired, psychedelic, dreamlike sequence — journey to the catacombs beneath the waves where both monster and the dead await their revenge. To reveal any more would be to spoil the fun.
Self-winking parody is one of the hardest genres to pull off. So, my hat is off to Tews and his band of merry pranksters. The films’ ridiculously limited budget, anemic/ scenery-chewing acting, grainy 16mm film stock, Dollar Store special effects and weaponry, and chop-socky editing all work to the film’s advantage to create an aesthetic that would make Ed Wood proud.
If Stephen Hillenburg, the creator of Spongebob Squarepants (R.I.P.), took all the drugs and decided to create a Halloween episode of the eponymous series, it would look a lot like Lake Michigan Monster (which has been banned in the other four jealous Great Lakes). So, I encourage you to follow the filmmaker’s lead — grab a bottle of rum (or two), gather together some of your idiot friends, cast off your high-brow cinematic pretensions, and cue up this 78 minutes of nonsensical nautical mayhem.