Director: Ryland Brickson Cole Tews
Notable Cast: Ryland Brickson Cole Tews, Erick West, Beluah Peters, Daniel Long, Wayne Tews
Absurdist humor is one of those genres that has largely died out in feature-length film, particularly of the mainstream variety. Occasionally, one will seep through the cracks in indie cinema, but rarely does it find legs with a larger audience and garners a wide release – even on home video. Yet, Arrow Video have graced us with a wide Blu Ray release of Lake Michigan Monster, a film perpetually on the edge of falling from absurdist to pure horrifying surrealism. With style to spare, this little low budget creature feature has such an often perplexingly intense energy that it’s hard not to just join in on the sprint to whatever next level of insanity that the film is spiraling toward.
As with so much comedy that leans towards nonsense, Lake Michigan Monster is a film that can be hard to follow if an audience to dedicated to ‘Understanding’ what is going on in the film. It’s a film best taken like the tiny kayak that our protagonists utilize to wade out 6 feet into Lake Michigan to hunt the beast – a launching pad for a descent into madness on plans that have no logic.
The film starts off throwing its audience right into the middle, introducing the “team” immediately and hoping that the story will unfurl naturally from that point. The team is comprised of broad stroke characters, played with pure tongue in cheek, but also without any sense of wink, wink – which is key to making absurdist humor work as it establishes clear rules and concepts only to regularly break them. The performances are blissful and when the narrative takes them down tangents, including an argument about how the word ‘pair’ should be used, the chemistry between the cast is evident in spades. It’s a relative shame that most of them are sidelined for a majority of the third act, leaving our lead protagonist Captain Seafield to his own nightmarish devices, but the film’s style more than allows for the strange places it goes to work.
Of course, the style of Lake Michigan Monster needs to be addressed. Looking simultaneously like an old scratchy documentary from 50 years ago and one that has a ‘fake’ green screen CGI visual slant, the film loves to toy with extremes. Gloriously shot in black and white with tons of cartoonish effects, including sound effects that appear as words on screen, director Ryland Brickson Cole Tews (who also plays Seafield) brings a lot of distinctive visuals to the mix. Often times it feels like a combination of an Adult Swim skit mixed with The Lighthouse and that is only a compliment.
It should also be noted that, while Lake Michigan Monster works at a breakneck pace of jokes, visual gags, and irrationality, the third act takes a strangely nightmarish tone that shifts into darker territory. The film doesn’t abandon the humor, in fact, I’m tempted to say that the humor is even more potent as the balance makes the jokes feel stronger, but there is a cosmic surrealism that seeps into the style and narrative that makes the third act a truly fascinating spin on the usual approach of the genre. If this film was a serious one, the term Lovecraftian could easily be thrown around.
It’s not often that we review comedies here on the site, but Lake Michigan Monster makes the cut. It’s a fantastic piece of genre work, taking an often-overlooked subgenre and injecting a monstrous amount of energy and outlandish humor that freshens all of it up. The performances are delightfully off beat, the style pops, and the third act effectively shifts everything darker to end the film on a punchy note. Lake Michigan Monster is a definite surprise for the year.
ARROW VIDEO FEATURES:
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
- Original lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and PCM 2.0 stereo soundtracks
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Two cast and crew audio commentaries featuring writer/director/actor Ryland Tews and actors Daniel Long, Beulah Peters, Erick West and editor Mike Cheslik one sober, one drunk!
- Critics audio commentary with Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Emma Westwood
- Effects Breakdown comparison of the film s underwater sequence, including storyboards and pre-composited footage
- Dear Old Captain Seafield the Captain Seafield theme song, performed by the Seafield Monster Sextet
- Interview in a Cabin interview with Ryland Tews and Daniel Long at the Fantasia International Film Festival
- Interview in a Bar interviews with the cast and crew at the Beloit International Film Festival
- Interview by a Fire interview with Mike Cheslik on Mark Borchardt s Cinema Fireside radio show
- The first season and pilot episode of L.I.P.S., Ryland Tews and Mike Cheslik s hybrid animation/live action sci-fi comedy web series
- Theatrical trailer
- Behind the scenes photos
- Reversible sleeve featuring original artwork by Jade Watring and newly commissioned artwork by Colin Murdoch
- FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Barry Forshaw