Christopher R. Mihm’s debut is a tale of toxic waste and teens in danger. Professor Jackson (a professor of science!) and his assistant Stephanie have come to the woods of Wisconsin to study the local frogs. Meanwhile, a group of teens is on a camping trip to celebrate graduating from high school. Unbeknownst to any of them, a local company has its employees dumping toxic chemicals into the lake.
When the shell-shocked veteran Michael “Lobo” Kaiser falls into the toxic lake, he is mutated into a giant algae monster that begins to attack those around the lake. It falls to the Professor and Stephanie to figure out how to stop the monster.
The Monster of Phantom Lake features a monster that looks like it was made from paper mache and duct tape…and this works within the confines of the film. With large round and unblinking eyes, the mouthless creature successfully evokes a b-movie monster from the 50’s.
The teens are noticeably not teens and their dialog sounds like what adults in 50’s Hollywood thought teens sound like. The dialog, in general, is quite campy and dated, such as when the professor cheerfully notes he does not pay much attention to the talk of women.
Then there are goofy additions like the Canoe Cops Sven and Gustav. The joke is they get around in a canoe. And they have Norwegian accents. This aspect is a very Minnesota thing.
What brings it all together is a sense of sincerity. Mihm is not mocking the films of the 50’s. Instead, he is looking back fondly. This is not to say they lack humor. The laughs, including the dated language and cheap effects, are intentional. They are simply not derisive.
There is a warm-hearted charm to the Monster of Phantom Lake and it’s simplicity, looking back to a far complex time for movies.