Written by Becky Darke
The first feature from writer/director Ryland Brickson Cole Tews is a stylised, imaginative and exceedingly daft film that wears its low-budget and charm on its sleeve.
At the heart of Lake Michigan Monster is that age-old genre premise of paternal revenge, plus a hefty dose of aquatic violence and mystery. Captain Shipfield (Tews), an eccentric Milwaukee man playing make-believe as a wealthy mariner, forms a band of adventurers to hunt the monster who killed his father.
The film’s aesthetic is hyper-low budget – at points it’s all gaffer tape and marker pens – balanced with impressive visual flourishes that call up everything from silent cinema to pop-art.
Tews pays homage to black and white classics like The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), Psycho (1960), The Seventh Seal (1957) and Eraserhead (1977), and I was also reminded of Clerks (1994), Sin City (2005), Here Comes Hell (2019) and… The Powerpuff Girls (1998-2005).
It’s a small cast of likeable characters, which keeps the action focussed. There’s Captain Shipfield’s old-ass wife Martha (Lucille Tews) and his brother Ashcroft (Wayne Tews), plus his motley crew, made up of sonar individual Nedge Pepsi (Beulah Peters), former NAVY officer Dick Flynn (Daniel Long) and weapons expert Sean Shaughnessy (Erick West).
The screenplay skips lightly between gleeful nonsense and hard-boiled dialogue, and is occasionally laugh-out-loud funny. A Lynchian dream sequence, a bit of fourth wall-breaking and a couple of musical numbers complete the package.
There are even one or two effective creeps and jumps, and the film climaxes with an epic battle of men, ghosts and the formidable titular monster. And checkers. Because why bring it to the beach if you’re not going to play?
Lake Michigan Monster is a highly entertaining DIY romp to be enjoyed alongside your fish sticks and bourbon.
Verdict: 4 out of 5