The 2019 edition of the Milwaukee Twisted Dreams Film Festival took place from April 4–7 at Times Cinema. Among the diverse range of features and shorts that screened there were two decidedly offbeat offerings, the animated crime film The Next Kill and the quirky creature feature comedy The Lake Michigan Monster.
The Next Kill
A supervillain, rampaging serial killer, street hustler, Texas Ranger, and Halloween-masked gangsters are among the characters after a MacGuffin bag in director Mike McCutchen’s crime caper The Next Kill. What makes this outing unique is that it was shot in live action and then given an animation treatment in post production. The process works well for the most part, and though a few scenes seem barely retouched, that is made up for with plenty of spectacle and bloodshed — including a crazy, fun third act — that most independent live-action films on a similar budget could never approach. The animation process gives the goings-on something of an uncanny valley feeling, and helps elevate the tone of the film by adding backgrounds and special effects that probably would have otherwise been out of reach for McCutchen and his crew. So many subplots abound that viewers may need a scorecard to keep track of the proceedings, but overall the film is a hoot. The serial killer with a time bomb around his neck slashes and hacks away at victims, and there’s plenty of gunfighting, fisticuffs,and other forms of violence on display, as well. Fans of independent crime and action films with a Tarantinoesque bent should find plenty to enjoy in The Next Kill.
Lake Michigan Monster
Writer/director Ryland Brickson Cole Tews’ black-and-white extravagonzo Lake Michigan Monster is a microbudget labor of love; a valentine to the city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and a fun feature debut that owes as much to the works of auteur Guy Maddin (his The Forbidden Room was one of my top 10 films of 2015) as it does to 1950s creature features and camp comedies. Tews stars as Seafield, an alleged sailor who also happens to be a habitual liar. He gathers a crew made up of weapons expert Sean Shaughnessy (Erick West), “sonar individual” Nedge Pepsi (Beulah Peters), and former Nautical Athletes and Venture Yunit — N.A.V.Y. — officer Dick Flynn (Daniel Long) to find and kill the titular beast who he says killed his father. Adventures, merrymaking, misadventures, hijinx, and casualties superabound, with both monsters and ghosts on hand. Tews keeps the humor coming hard and fast in a spray-and-pray approach to see what sticks, and the styles run from vaudevillian corny to laugh-out-loud hilarious. Some of the local color jokes are bound to go over the heads of those not familiar with Milwaukee, but overall, most of the humor should work for a wider audience. The performances are spirited, the cinematography is solid, and the special effects and creature design are a joy to behold. Lake Michigan Monster is a convivial effort that will hopefully serve as an impressive calling card for Tews. It would be a blast to see what he would do for a second feature and with a larger budget.