Lake Michigan Monster
directed by Directed by Rylan Brixton Cole Tews
starring Rylan Brixton Cole Tews, Erick West, Beulah Peters, Daniel Long
MVD Video / Arrow
Who knows what lurks under the blue waves of Lake Michigan? This inland sea is one of the most dangerous bodies of water in the world, and a small team of specialist’s risks all seeking to exterminate a deadly sea monster. Captain Seafield (Tews) assembles his task force of specialist for the hunt. First, we meet Weapons Specialist First Class Shaun Shaughnessy (Erik West), then the nerdy sonar operator Nedge Pepsi (Beulah Peters). Next on board is Nautical Athlete Dick Flynn (Daniel Long). The operation sets up camp on a sandy Lake Michigan beach in Bayside, WI and the warriors swim out in the cold blue waters almost 50 feet from shore, then dive to a depth of almost a fathom in search of the monster. And like all good nautical monsters, Mr. Monster takes offense to the disturbance and the hunter becomes the hunted. Captain Seafield himself is the monster’s target, and they chase though the depths in a clever and surprisingly effective special effects sequence. After a climatic underwater battle, the team does what all seafarers do: They retire to one of Milwaukee’s thousand of bars and tell lies about past “Big Ones That Got Away.” Arrgggg…Bartender! Another round!
As low budget films go, this is a gem. Tews stretches the budget by employing actors with their own props and costumes. His dad tosses in some carpentry for the set build and fabricates a nice-looking SONAR. Tews’ high school has Green Screen capability and a modern editing suite, so that’s free. Best of all, if you shoot early enough in the morning, you can avoid all those notorious Milwaukee County Filming Fees. The plot is simple, but it gives the actors a deep blue canvas to work on. Everybody in the cast ends up under water, and having swum in Lake Michigan’s icy depths, I can report this is a seriously committed crew. And while the whole shebang is campy fun, you never lean back and think: “Well, THAT’S ridiculous. “ It IS but only in retrospect. Tews makes a low budget film that works way better than it ought to. And while its never serious, it keeps up the façade for the entire film.
Backing up this marine madness is an extensive set of supporting material. The green screen process is shown in detail, and there are several commentary tracks, including the “Drunk Commentary.” They roll the camera, and everyone starts out with a few bottles of Milwaukee’s finest. By mid film, they struggle to speak clearly and all the juicy details flow. Director Tews spent less on this film than what Spielberg spent on one day’s craft table, but Tews’ money was much better spent.