Creature Feature Fun

By: Madelyn Ritrosky

Recipe for two campy concoctions sure to make you scream…with bloodcurdling laughter:

2 cups Creature from the Black Lagoon
2 cups Leave it to Beaver
1 cup Star Trek
1 cup Invasion of the Body Snatchers
1 cup Halloween
1 cup Father Knows Best
1 cup Star Wars

Blend thoroughly the “nerdy, 1950s scientist as imagined through the lens of William Shatner and James Bond.” Toss in one half-baked musical interlude each. Sprinkle with generous helping of iconic ‘50s soundtracks. Mix well in classic black & white.

The tongue-in-cheek, self-reflexive sci-fi/horror of The Monster of Phantom Lake and It Came From Another World! are served.

Brought to you by chefs Christopher R. Mihm and Josh Craig.

(photo left: Christopher R. Mihm (left) and Josh Craig (right) at a screening of The Monster of Phantom Lake.)

I told writer-director Christopher Mihm that I like the way his films play on a variety of generic conventions, especially emblematic representations of the 1950s. He responded, “If nothing else, I think it shows that I've seen far too many old sci-fi & horror films… I am a HUGE sci-fi fan.”

But, of course, it is exactly that kind of intimate knowledge – that of a true fan who knows the subtleties and ponders the complexities – that allows a filmmaker to play on classic images in creative ways. That’s what Mihm and lead actor-producer Craig give us with their first two feature films.

The Monster of Phantom Lake (2006) and It Came From Another World! (2007) are currently screening at specialty film festivals, but they are also available on DVD through Mihm’s and Craig’s Shadow Creek Studios in Minneapolis.

Two of those film festivals are coming up in August 2007. There is the Twin Cities Underground Film Festival (August 4-5) and The Big Damn Film Festival in Indianapolis (August 16-19). Mihm is a co-founder/co-director for both of these festivals.

The Big Damn Film Festival is a sort of traveling film festival. Each month for the calendar year 2007, there is a Big Damn Film Festival in a different large Midwestern city. August is Indianapolis. For each city/festival, audience choice awards are given.

In every Big Damn festival so far this year, The Monster of Phantom Lake has won an audience award – that’s six and counting. It Came From Another World! has won two. That’s quite an accomplishment. They are both fun genre send-ups.

I was even more impressed when Mihm revealed that the films were made for $2,500 apiece. They save money when the director is also the writer, producer, editor, songwriter, etc. And the lead actor is producer, second unit director, set design, etc.

Mihm made sure to note that the films are winning strictly on their own merits. “I am a co-director and co-founder. I know, sounds suspicious that the co-director's films are doing so well at his own film festival, but I will swear on a stack of bibles (or whatever religious text you want) that I DO NOT invite people and I do not vote. I simply, literally, encourage people to see it and we've been winning on our merits alone.”

The Big Damn Film Festival was started because of filmmaker frustration with existing festivals. The website says, “As filmmakers ourselves, we know how hard it can be to break into the film festival scene…. Our one true goal is to change that.”

Shadow Creek Studios is a sponsor of the Twin Cities festival, where films will earn a shot at DVD distribution through Shadow Creek. Mihm says, “We are now self-sustaining at Shadow Creek because it is a small subsidiary of a much larger company, Braun Media Services, which specializes in specialty DVDs like self-help and fitness.”

Looks like their movie menu is growing, perhaps it’s even “unstoppable”…