Blu-ray Review: Lake Michigan Monster



When the digital cinema revolution happened, we were promised so much. The biggest promise was that small budget films could look like big Hollywood studio blockbusters. But as the digital revolution progressed and 35mm film vanished from the scene, the movies that came to the theaters still looked the same. The low budget films looked low budget and the big Hollywood production looked huge. But there have been exceptions proving that a plucky gang of kids with a dream, a wild script and a decent computer system can push filmmaking without making the production budget soar is possible. Lake Michigan Monster is one of the fun exceptions. This tale of an outrageous captain and lake monster goes completely overboard for a bizarre 78 minutes of black and white nautical mayhem.

Seafield (Ryland Brickson Cole Tews) has had the shock of his life. His father and him were one the boat fishing late one night when the old man was killed by a monster. Normally this is considered a sea monster, but they were on Lake Michigan near Milwaukee. Seafield can’t allow this monster to lurk under the waves so he puts together a crack crew with Sean Shaughnessy (Erick West) for weapons, Nedge Pepsi (Beulah Peters) on the sonar and ex-officer Dick Flynn (Daniel Long) of N.A.V.Y. This quartet seems eager to discover the truth about the monster and then wipe it off the face of the Earth. But Seafield’s story of what happened and his life keeps changing. What really happened in the water that night and how far off shore was Seafield and his father when the attack occurred? His crack crew begins to crack as they get deeper into their search for the monster. There are so many lies that get exposed over the course of the film as if this is the largest fish tale caught in Lake Michigan.

Lake Michigan Monster is so engrossing. Director Ryland Brickson Cole Tews creates a fantastical tale that maintains it’s comical edge for the entire movie. It’s joyfully over the top. He and his small crew have made a hilarious film. Even the finale when we meet the Lake Michigan Monster pays off. Visually the film is a treat as they shot it in black and white, doctored up the image to look like it was an ancient movie and used plenty of special effects to keep your eyes glued to the screen. This film should be an inspiration to anyone with a desire to make a low budget action film on a shoestring. You can make your type of comedy. If you merged Chris Elliot’s Cabin Boy with Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic, you still haven’t touched the fish tale that is Lake Michigan Monster. Bake up a box of fishsticks and prepare for swashbuckling when you press play on the Blu-ray player.

The video is 1.78:1 anamorphic. The black and white transfer is doctored up to look like it’s been run through projector for decades. This adds to the enjoyment of the film instead of the usual frustrations of a crummy transfer. The audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and PCM 2.0 stereo soundtracks. The surround like you feel like your in the Lake Michigan Monster’s lair. The movie is subtitled in English.

Audio Commentaries included two featuring writer/director/actor Ryland Tewls and actors Daniel Long, Beulah Peters, Erick West and editor Mike Cheslik. What’s the difference? Well one has the sober and the second has them drunk. A third commentary has critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Emma Westwood discuss the film.

Effects Breakdown (9:51) comparison of the film’s underwater sequence, including storyboards and pre-composited footage. Thrilling to see what you can do with a lot of green cloth.

Dear Old Captain Seafield (5:15) is the the Captain Seafield theme song, performed by the Seafield Monster Sextet. Its such a great sea song. Best song for a watery show since the theme to Gilligan’s Island.

Interview in a Cabin (9:03) meets up with Ryland Tews and Daniel Long at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Tews and Long are enjoying their time at the festival. He was saving up money to move to Los Angeles and decided to make his own movie in Milwaukee.

Interview in a Bar (12:43) serves up a chat with the cast and crew at the Beloit International Film Festival. It’s a cold day in Wisconsin.

Interview by a Fire (23:58) is a toasty conversation with Mike Cheslik on Mark Borchardt’s Cinema Fireside radio show.

The first season (22:13) and pilot episode of L.I.P.S. (7:18) is Ryland Tews and Mike Cheslik’s hybrid animation/live action sci-fi comedy web series. It’s equally as strange as Lake Michigan Monster.

Theatrical trailer (2:04) focuses on avenging the father’s death. There’s also high praise from filmmaker Guy Maddin There’s also the promotional intros they made for when the film started running on the Arrow Video channel. Best is his tips on how to make your own no budget film.

Behind the scenes photos (14:30) shows what they went through to make such nautical nonsense.

Reversible sleeve featuring original artwork by Jade Watring and newly commissioned artwork by Colin Murdoch.

Arrow Video presents Lake Michigan Monster. Directed by: Ryland Brickson Cole Tews. Screenplay by: Hideo Oguni. Starring: Ryland Brickson Cole Tews, Erick West, Beulah Peters, Daniel Long, Wayne Tews, Steve Hoelter and Lucille Tews. Running Time: 78 minutes. Released: November 3, 2020.

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