Lake Michigan Monster – Fantasia 2019 Review

From Loch Ness to Moby Dick, we’ve all been sensitized to the campy world of mythical nautical monsters. Sung with proclamations of infamous glory, alongside the very same ballads and shanties, there’s something pure about retellings of fabled fiction, that makes it so instantaneously likable. The content of these “stories” aren’t necessarily good per-say, but the folklore and historical backdrop behind these stories of Ye Olde makes for a jolly good time; especially if your aiming to mock the subject directly. In it’s short 78 minute run-time, the latest under-seen indie gem Lake Michigan Monster, is a film that religiously respects these core values. Unbelievably campy and outrageous with its physical comedy and quippy banter, there’s something special in looking back at a time of superstition and monster-fueled paranoia. 

Replicating similar dialects and accents from the days of B-Movie reels and Universal Horror flicks, the low budget appeal of Lake Michigan Monster is one that specifically originates from the key cast players, and their tremendous dedication to their strenuous budget. It’s admirable to see a collective group of people try their damn hardest to deliver a product that ultimately serves as an oddball love letter of sorts. However, throughout Lake Michigan Monster, I can’t help but feel that the end result of a hard days work was wasted on what can be best described as a feature length, overlong Saturday Night Live skit. 

The first 30 minutes of the feature, showed some genuine dedication towards creating a spoof that feels fresh and original; with plenty of incredibly fun and goofy sight gags, that combine perfectly with the film’s nonsensical initial conflicts. Yet after the arousing setup, the film loses steam, where it dumps the majority of its pre-existing ideas and concepts, and tries something thematically separate and jarring from the start-up appeal. There’s some solid jokes sprinkled throughout, including a plot device that involves a cult of ghosts, whom of which religiously pray in a shabby catacomb; but the frantic pacing of its second half does wear off some of the pre-developed joy and giddy childish raw feeling that emits from this film. 

There’s some fun to be had with Lake Michigan Monster; especially with the under-mentioned inclusion of it’s visual aesthetic. There’s some incredibly lively black and white shots presented here, that utilize symmetry and forced perspective to create an illusion that’s larger than life. It reminds me of the “do it in post” film-making ideology (which was recently utilized in this year’s Diamantino), where there’s no boundaries to certain creative limits as long as you think forward and keep on editing. Lake Michigan Monster can be best described as a spoof on 50’s B-Movie flicks, that feels like it was directed by Guy Maddin, and written by the Monty Python collective. It’s occasionally humorous, but ultimately ends up becoming a one dimensional and flat dedication piece.

Lake Michigan Monster screened at this year’s Fantasia Film Festival. The film is currently seeking international distribution.

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