Monster haunts Phantom Lake!
1950s-style sci-fi flick features creature from Mukwonago


By LINDA McALPINE - GM Today Staff

September 26, 2006

 

This still from the independent movie "The Monster of Phantom Lake" by first-time filmmaker Christopher Mihm is an homage to 1950s-era science fiction monster movies. Mihm set the story’s background in Mukwonago’s Phantom Lake after talking with his wife, Stephanie, who is from that area.


MUKWONAGO - "It’s alive! Agghh! Run! Save yourselves! Don’t worry about me ..."

Something horrific is afoot at Phantom Lake!

Thank goodness "The Monster of Phantom Lake" is a work of film fiction by first-time filmmaker Christopher R. Mihm.

Mihm, an aficionado of low-budget, unspecial-effects science fiction and horror movies of the 1950s, said he chose the town of Mukwonago lake for the setting of his creepy creature feature because of blood - blood relation that is.

Mihm, who lives in a St. Paul, Minn., suburb, said his wife Stephanie is from the Mukwonago area, and when he and his cohort in cinematography, Josh Craig, were looking for a lake location for their monster-running-amok film, she just happened to mention Phantom Lake.

"That’s perfect," he said he told her, and thus the name for his independently produced production came about.

Why a film about - according to the movie’s Web site - "a shell-shocked ex-soldier who is transformed by Atomic Waste into a revolting monster who wreaks havoc at the local high school graduation and the dedicated scientist and his assistant who make the most important scientific discovery ever?"

"To understand that, you have to understand my late father, George Mihm," Mihm said. "He loved old science fiction movies. As a kid, he would sneak down to the movie theater and sit through a double feature of the trashy, B-grade science fiction and horror flicks."

Mihm said that his dad "told me all these great stories about these movies when I was a kid and when I got old enough, he’d rent them and we’d watch them together, over and over again."

"I just couldn’t get it," Mihm said. "I thought they were awful."

But after his father passed away in 2000 at age 51 from stomach cancer, he viewed those same movies a bit differently.

He and Craig had talked for years of making a movie together, and one day, after watching one of his dad’s favorites, they decided to pursue their dream and create a film.

And not just any flick.

The duo aspired to make it a tribute to those 1950s vintage sci-fi blockbusters with their "poorly written dialogue, barely passable camera work and marginal special effects," he said.

"In honor of my Dad and his love for these movies, ours has all the rampant sexism and stupidity of the 1950s B horror movie," Mihm said with a laugh. ‘‘It has been filmed in black and white and contains every silly cliché featured during the horror film genre in its heyday."

A prime example, Mihm said, is the movie’s monster, who despite shuffling along at a shambling pace, always seems to catch people who are running full speed away from him.

Mihm said the project was "very much a family affair, with even my mother-in-law and 3-year-old son helping out."

Carol Eade, who has spent the last three decades living in Mukwonago, said she was tapped by her son-in-law to help with costuming.

"We had great fun hunting for clothes in the second-hand shops that were right for the era," she said, noting that her shopping list included things like bobby socks, pedal pushers and saddle shoes.

Being handy with a needle, too, helped her earn a spot in the film’s credits for wardrobe.

When asked what she thought of Mukwonago being the location of the monster movie - which was actually not filmed there - she laughed.

"It will put Mukwonago on the map," she said.

Linda McAlpine can be reached at lmcalpine@conleynet.com


This story appeared in The Freeman on September 26, 2006.