Amazon Prime Review – The Monster of Phantom Lake: It’s Chock Full O’ Nostalgic Goodness

I check into the first entry to the franchise that gave us Weresquito.

SUMMARY

It’s the 1950s, which means that radioactive ooze is everywhere and teens are partying in the woods listening to that newfangled rock music. Phantom Lake is a peaceful Wisconsin camping spot, but unfortunately it is also a place where companies can pay local rubes (Director Christopher R. Mihm and Dustin Booth) to “dispose” of their toxic chemicals, including some radioactive waste. It’s patrolled by two local officers, the Canoe Cops (Mike Cook and M. Scott Taulman), who somehow haven’t noticed all the dumping, or the crazed local WWII vet who lives in the woods, Michael “Lobo” Kaiser (Mike Mason). Kaiser tries to attack the two dumpers while in a delusional state, but falls into the water, which mutates him into THE MONSTER (Applause). 

MoPL - 2MonsterLake
Da. Da. DUNNNNNNNNN!!!!!!

Meanwhile, five teens (Deanne McDonald, Brad Tracy, Lindsey Holmes, Justen Overlander, Rachel Grubb) go camping in the woods while, at a different part of the woods, Scientist Professor Jackson (Josh Craig) and his grad student Stephanie Yates (Leigha Horton) are also taking a weekend. Sadly, the monster has inherited Lobo’s crazed aggression and has developed a lethal touch, so everyone is in trouble… particularly teen Elizabeth, who resembles Lobo’s dead wife.

END SUMMARY

So, having loved Weresquito: Nazi Hunter and its nostalgic appeal, I did some research into the movie and I was happy to discover that it was, in fact, the eleventh film in the “Mihmiverse,” a series of nostalgic B-Movie Sci-Fi and Horror films that are directed by Christopher R. Mihm. Since Weresquito absolutely nailed the nostalgic feeling of those classic drive-in double features like Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster or Invasion of the Saucer Men, I decided to watch some of his other works and was surprised to find out that there is actually some order to the films. Based on that, I decided A) I was going to work through this entire filmography and B) that I would watch them in order. Fortunately, they’re available on Amazon Prime, so it wasn’t much of a challenge. This is the first entry of the Mihmiverse and, honestly, I like it even more than I liked Weresquito.

MoPL - 3Guitar
Not just for the fun guitar interlude.

 

If you read my other review, I stated that a movie like this is hard to judge by the normal standard. This movie isn’t just trying to tell a story, it’s trying to capture a particular slice of film history and revive it, and with it bring back the feeling of both nostalgia and innovation that came from filmmaking after the decline of the Studio System in the late 40s/early 50s. 

MoPL - 4Rock
That’s what killed the studios. Rock music. Also court rulings.

Quick History Break (Skip the paragraph if you want): After the US Supreme Court ruled in 1948 that Studios couldn’t prohibit theaters from showing films from competing studios, independent filmmakers now had the ability to actually show their movies in major theaters. Additionally, drive-in theaters started heading to rural areas, because the independent films were cheaper to license or buy, meaning they could actually afford to show them, particularly if they got one good movie and one terrible, cheap, “B-Movie.” Shortly after, in 1952, the Supreme Court also ruled that films were art, and that US laws couldn’t censor them, leading to the decline of the Hays Code (which had only been enacted because the US threatened the film industry with censorship laws if they didn’t censor themselves). Thus, we now had a bunch of low-budget filmmakers, drive-in theaters looking to offer double-features, and less censorship: Welcome to B-Movie Heaven! This is the exact time period that the “Mihmiverse,” or at least the entries I’ve seen, are trying to replicate.

MoPL - 5CatWomen
Truly a golden age. 

Every performance in this movie is stilted, filled with strange intonations and odd dramatic pauses, and absolutely on point. One thing that I’ve learned from watching a lot of legitimately bad films, and even failed “so bad they’re good” attempts, is that it actually is hard to get actors to do an intentionally bad job believably. Most of the time, telling actors who don’t have talent to act like bad actors doesn’t really give you a “good” bad performance, instead being off-putting and even infuriating. This film perfectly replicates the awkward delivery we got from people in the 1960s trying to replicate the Classical Actors of the 30s and 40s and failing, which gives it the true 1950s B-Movie feel. Unlike my complaint in Weresquito that the film was “too clear and too in-focus,” this movie actually looks much more like an old B-Movie.  

MoPL - 6Kids
They really nailed the feel of the genre.

The plot of the movie is basically “it’s the Fifties and there’s a Monster,” but the dialogue between the Monster attacks is actually pretty entertaining. There’s a lot of discussion about relationships, something that was typically the subject of filler in this genre, but the characters here actually have some development, albeit minor. The Monster is largely off-screen, but when he’s onscreen he is the absolute cheapest looking costume I have seen in years, in all the best ways. It looks like someone hastily through together an outfit based on whatever was lying around the house or was reusable from a different, older movie’s leftovers, and that’s exactly what the film should be going for. 

MoPL - 1Monster
In no way does this look like someone had crepe paper and a tennis ball.

As I said, this movie can’t really be criticized in the normal sense, because it’s not a satire or a parody, it’s just a film capturing exactly the right slice of cinema history. If you’re like me and you have a love of old B-Movies, this will be great for you. If you don’t like that kind of thing, you won’t care for this. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

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