THERE'S SOMETHING IN THE WATER: M. Scott Taulman (Sven) and Mike Cook (Gustav) star in the B-grade sci-fi salute by Minneapolis filmmaker Chris Mihm.

The Monster of Phantom Lake
a regional horror spoof starring a local actor screens at Micon Cinemas
BY MARK KOENIG


There's a film about a monster that roamed in and around the camp and hike-friendly Phantom Lake. Its physique is a fusion of Sesame Street's Cookiehorny teenagers camping in the woods. The monster has become The Monster of Phantom Lake.

The film was produced, directed, edited and written by Minnesotan Christopher Mihm in memory of his late father, a 1950s B-grade science fiction and horror movie lover. In "spoofingly" great fashion, Mihm, the film crew, and the cast of thirteen characters, including Eau Claire actor Mike Cook, portray the shaky camera work, schlocky dialogue, and the less-than-perfect special effects (hence the Cookie Monster/pile of leaves comparison), of the B-grade genre. The plot is very basic and recognizable to most movie buffs. Here's the skinny: Someone dumps "atomic waste" into a body of water, a crazed WWII veteran falls in the water and horny teenagers die – a spicy recipe for fear and laughter, right?

Cook's role as officer Gustav in The Monster of Phantom Lake reminds him of watching television during rainy Saturdays as a kid. "They had those shows every Saturday afternoon hosted by a guy dressed as Dracula, named Sir Graves Ghastly," Cook said. "So when the opportunity came up for (The Monster of Phantom Lake) and after reading the script and realizing that (Mihm) was kidding, it was fun to do."

It's apparent in the film that Cook as Gustav is having fun, especially with the character's dialect. The film is set in northern Minnesota, and folks up der' talk with an accent, ehh? Cook had just finished filming a small role in northern Minnesota for the 2005 film North Country. "After a week of that you come home and people ask 'Where did you get that accent?'" Cook said. Needless to say, applying northern feel to his character "Gustav" came easy for the actor.

A resident of Eau Claire for 30 years, and acting in area theatrical performances for 25 of those years, Cook still scratches the itch he received from the acting bug back in high school, after playing a role in The Man Who Came To Dinner. "I got involved in it, I got cast in it, and I kind of liked it," Cook said. Now a recurring actor in different Fanny Hill productions, Cook has made television appearances in FOX's Prison Break and CBS's The District. With many projects "in the can," and many in his future, Cook is still enjoyably wading in the early success of The Monster of Phantom Lake. The film appeared in the Twin Cities Underground Film Festival and is slated for a Halloween screening at the Parkway Speakeasy Theatre in Oakland, Calif.

The Monster of Phantom Lake screening and meet-and-greet with cast members. Sunday, Aug. 6 at Micon Cinemas in Chippewa Falls. Screenings at 5pm and 7pm. $5. www.monsterofphantomlake.com.