"The Monster of Phantom Lake"
Originally posted at: https://rivetsontheposter.wordpress.com/2017/05/10/the-monster-of-phantom-lake-2006/
The setting? "The Present Day."
Only it is somewhere unspecified in the past, when teenagers still wore their jeans with the cuffs rolled up and Atomic waste still mutated unwary victims into horrible monsters.
Probably the Fifties, right?
For those of you even slightly familiar with the work of Christopher R. Mihm and his "Mihmiverse," you are probably aware that this was the film that started it all. Somewhere, Christopher talked about how his father used to tell him stories of watching science fiction and horror movies at the Saturday afternoon matinees of the Fifties. Which led him, after his father died, to try to make a film his father would have loved had it played in the theaters back then. A noble goal, for certain, and one which spawned not one film, but a whole series of zero-budgeted homages to a lost past.
According to his video introduction to the film, Mihm tried to cram every Fifties SF cliche into a single film. I'll confess I'm not entirely sure they're all Fifties cliches: Somehow I tend to associate the partying teens gathering to dance to a radio with films from the Sixties – offhand, "Night Fright" (1967) and "Cyborg 2087" (1966) come to mind. But what the heck, a cliche is a cliche is a cliche.
There is a deadpan sense of humor about the film, which still manages to take itself mostly seriously, even in its goofiest moments. And, let's face it, Christopher Mihm isn't letting himself get tied down strictly to the films of the past: after all, how many films are there where that heroic Fifties movie scientist – whether Richard Carlson or Richard Denning or Hugh Marlowe – refuses to believe they're dealing with a deadly human/algae hybrid lake monster because it's scientifically impossible? I mean, seriously, Professor Jackson, isn't that what your super-advanced 100 dollar scientific instrument told you?
Oh, well. This isn't a film for the average film goer. It aims itself squarely at those of us who love those classic Fifties films with all their flaws and their often goofy charm. As much as it may mock them (gently), it still wants to be just like them. Yes, it starts a bit slow, and the deliberate stiffness of the dialogue may turn off some viewers who aren't in on the joke (although it is done far more subtly than some retro films, like "The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra," where one can hardly find a single line that hasn't been intentionally mangled).
But, If you can accept its strange little universe, it is a lot of fun, in its own laid back way. Christopher Mihm would go on to make better films, but this is the one they'll remember him for.
Oh, and that cheesy monster in the stills? I will point out that it looks a lot better on the screen than they would suggest…
Well, at least a little better.