Blu-ray: Highly Recommended
4 Stars out of 5
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List Price 39.95
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Release Date: November 3rd, 2020
Movie Release Year: 2018
Release Country: United States
COLLAPSE INFO -

Lake Michigan Monster

Review Date January 14th, 2021 by
Overview -

Lake Michigan Monster is an unhinged nautical fairy tale that uses plenty of visual tinkering to achieve a unique style that looks like Guy Maddin directing Spongebob Squarepants. The story follows the arrogant Captain Seafield as he assembles specialists for his “Team of the Century” to hunt down the sea monster who killed his father on the shores of Lake Michigan. The technical ingenuity and frenzied creativity transform this amusing feature into a cult oddity destined to become a great midnight movie. Arrow Video provides an outstanding A/V package for this release complete with a boatload of special features. Highly Recommended

OVERALL
Highly Recommended
  • TECH SPECS & RELEASE DETAILS
    Technical Specs: Blu-ray Disc
    Video Resolution/Codec: 1080p AVC/MPEG-4
    Black & White
    Length:78
    Release Country:United States
    Aspect Ratio(s):1.78:1
    English Descriptive Audio:
    English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
    English: LPCM 2.0
    Subtitles/Captions: English SDH
    Special Features:
    • 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
    Movie Studio: Arrow Video
    Release Date: November 3rd, 2020

Story Review Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

4 Stars out of 5

“Yeah we know, it’s the name of the movie.”

Operation Annihilation: Captain Seafield (Ryland Tews) assembles a team of specialists for his “Team of the Century'' to hunt down the Lake Michigan sea monster who killed his father. The team includes weapons expert Sean Shaughnessy (Erick West), sonar specialist Nedge Pepsi (Beaulah Peters), and Navy recruit Dick Flynn (Daniel Long). Once the anxious team reaches the sandy beaches of Lake Michigan it becomes clear that their leader isn’t telling the whole story. Captain Seafield and his team wage war against the monster in a series of missions with hilarious names like “Operation Nauty Lady”, “Operation Master Baiters”, and “Operation EGGscuse me, time to die!” When one of the team suffers at the hands of the monster Seafield must come clean and stick to at least one of his tall tales. 

Combining a fever dream pace with the wit and camp of DANGER 5 this adventure film culls inspiration from 50/60s sci-fi horror seasoned with a dash of Troma and MST3K. Frankly, this film is outta control (and I love it). The Georges Méliès inspired visual effects are the anchor for the film’s humor which provides a satisfying relief to practical effect fans. Director Ryland Tews hurls everything but the kitchen sink at the film. Combining animation, miniature work, CGI, grain/dirt/damage effects, and location after location Lake Michigan Monster puts every penny of its budget to good use in its lean 78-minute runtime.

Outside of the visual appeal of the film Lake Michigan Monster has a threadbare story propelled by the comedic momentum which nosedives into musical numbers or nonsequiturs constantly. In one scene Seafield pleads with the team to attempt another mission but their exchange turns into a
"Who’s on First?" bit over the correct use of “Pear” vs “Pair”. Not all of the jokes land but thanks to the performances and pacing it doesn’t matter that much. Thankfully we get a proper sea shanty titled “Dear Old Captain Seafield” which is the most satisfying musical number of the feature. 

Writer/Director Ryland Tews is a tour de force. His performance as the arrogant, silly, and downright obnoxious Captain Seafield is mesmerizing. Whether summoning an underwater ghost army or snacking on some fish sticks the sheer commitment to the performance is a sight to behold. Supporting cast performances from Daniel Long, Beaulah Peters, and Erick West as the team are all funny and memorable. Their ability to keep up with Tews’ insane setups and snappy banter makes this more than a one-man show. 

Lake Michigan Monster is an unhinged nautical fairy tale that I consider a true achievement in low budget filmmaking. You never see any technical limitations inhibiting the oddly grandiose storytelling techniques which showcase the imagination and inventiveness of the feature. Cult-hungry cinephiles looking for the next hidden gem should look no further than this utterly weird and bizarre film.  

Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Lake Michigan Monster arrives on Blu-ray thanks to Arrow Video. The BD-50 disc is housed in a typical transparent keepcase with reversible artwork and insert booklet. After loading the disc you’re treated to the Main Menu screen with scenes playing behind typical navigation options. Listen for the sea shanty “Dear Old Captain Seafield” and you’ll know you’ve made it. 

  • TECH SPECS & RELEASE DETAILS
    Technical Specs:
    Blu-ray Disc
    Video Resolution/Codec:
    1080p AVC/MPEG-4
    Black & White
    Length:78
    Release Country:United States
    Aspect Ratio(s):
    1.78:1
    Audio Formats:

    English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
    English: LPCM 2.0
    Subtitles/Captions:
    English SDH
    Special Features:

    • 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
    Movie Studio: Arrow Video
    Release Date: November 3rd, 2020

Video Review

4 Stars out of 5

Lake MIchigan Monster arrives on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.78:1. Though shot digitally the image quality of the black and white film contains layers of effects meant to give the film the appearance of a damaged film print. The effort adds an intense patina to the presentation resulting in a truly unique experience. 

Contrast levels are stable but black levels hold on for dear life. Due to so much artistic tinkering with the image some scenes are so dark even the actor’s faces are obscured with shadows. Fine detail is apparent on facial features, costuming, and set design when specific scenes allow. Judging the presentation here is difficult due to all the stylized layers but there is so much activity within the image that whatever slights are noticeable doesn’t matter for this no-budget feature.  

Audio Review

3.5 Stars out of 5

The DTS 5.1 audio track handles whatever Lake Michigan Monster can throw at us. An optional 2.0 track is included as well. Dialogue heavy with plenty of effects and musical interludes, the audio track bursts at the seams to handle the mayhem. Surround channels handle the proceedings confidently placing you squarely in the Team of the Century. LFE wakes up a few times to handle some intense moments of montage and sea battling but never overstays its welcome. 

Special Features

4.5 Stars out of 5

Arrow has loaded this release with plenty of bonus material to keep interested audiences glued to their screens. I recommend going through all three audio commentaries before hitting up the interviews and the VFX breakdown featurette.  

  • Sober Audio Commentary: Cast and Crew w/ Ryland Tews, Daniel Long, Beulah Peters, Erick West, and editor Mike Cheslik
  • Drunk Audio Commentary: Ryland Tews, Daniel Long, Beulah Peters, Erick West, and editor Mike Cheslik.
  • Critics Audio Commentary: Australian critics Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Emma Westwood
  • Effects Breakdown (HD 9:51) A split-screen with the various shots that are combined for the underwater fight sequences. 
  • Dear Old Captain Seafield (HD 5:15 ) The Captain Seafield theme song performed by the Seafield Monster Sextet in a lyric music video. 
  • Interview in a Cabin (HD 9:03) interview with Ryland Tews and Daniel Long at the Fantasia International Film Festival in 2019. 
  • Interview in a Bar (HD 12:43) interviews with the cast and crew at the Beloit Wisconsin International Film Festival
  • Interview by a Fire (HD 23:58)Audio interview with Mike Cheslik on Mark Borchardt’s Cinema Fireside radio show 
  • L.I.P.S. - 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. Pilot Episode (HD 7:15, DD 2.0) Season One (HD 22:13, DD 2.0)
  • Arrow Video Channel Promo Videos
  • Call to Action (HD 1:51) Director urges you to see the movie. Live on your screen (whenever you hit play). 
  • Filmmaking Guide (HD 3:05) Director offers a hilarious guide to no-budget indie filmmaking. 
  • Manufacturer’s Guarantee (HD 0:52) Director guarantees that everything you are about to see is real. Guaranteed. 
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD 2:04)
  • Behind the Scenes Photos (HD 14:30) Slideshow detailing the hilarious behind the scenes work on the film. 
  • Insert Booklet featuring new writing on the film by Barry Forshaw

Final Thoughts

Lake Michigan Monster is a bizarre nautical fairy tale that utilizes an interesting visual aesthetic to lure audiences into the depths of its weird characters and monster mythology. Naturally, I had an absolute blast watching the film and can’t wait to see more from Ryland and company. The Blu-ray looks fantastic given all the digital tinkering involved. Arrow Video has provided a solid A/V presentation here with a boatload of special features sure to please fans of the film. Support indie film and fill that gap in your cult collection. Highly Recommended. 

  • TECH SPECS & RELEASE DETAILS
    Technical Specs:
    Blu-ray Disc
    Video Resolution/Codec:
    1080p AVC/MPEG-4
    Black & White
    Length:78
    Release Country:United States
    Aspect Ratio(s):
    1.78:1
    Audio Formats:

    English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
    English: LPCM 2.0
    Subtitles/Captions:
    English SDH
    Special Features:

    • 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
    Movie Studio: Arrow Video
    Release Date: November 3rd, 2020