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Monday, October 21, 2013

Attack of the Moon Zombies (2011)

REVIEW BY: Jeffrey Long

 

Company: Saint Euphoria Pictures

Runtime: 100 mins

Format: DVD

Plot: A mysterious plant found on the surface of the moon wreaks havoc on the Jackson Lunar Base when its spores change the base’s crew into leafy, undead creatures!

Review: Attack of the Moon Zombies was the Christopher R. Mihm movie that initially grabbed my interest and, by doing some light research into it, alerted me to the entire Mihmiverse Collection. I stumbled upon a thumbnail picture from this movie while looking through Google Pictures for some other B-Movie to use in my review of that one, and as soon as I saw the weirdly cheesy-looking plant-headed Moon Zombie picture I knew I had to find out what movie that was from and thus started my adventure into the Mihmiverse realm. However, once I ordered all the movies, even though this is the one that I was most interested in checking out, I decided to watch them all in release order so that’s why it’s taken me so long to get to my most anticipated one, first sitting through, and enjoying on various levels, The Monster of Phantom Lake, It Came From Another World!, Cave Women on Mars, Terror From Beneath The Earth, and Destination: Outer Space.

And I’m glad I did, because while (for the most part) the movies are stand-alone and you can watch them in any order that you choose, you get so much more out of them by watching them in release order. I say release order because in terms of chronology they jump around back and forth quite a bit, such as the case with this one, taking place in the future (as it may have been envisioned back in the 1950s – the gimmick of all these movies is that, while made now-ish, they’re made with the intent of having them act as if they were made in the black and white 1950s era of B-Movie filmmaking), this one taking place roughly around the timeframe of Cave Women on Mars and Destination: Outer Space, give or take a couple years.

This one is the longest Mihmiverse movie yet, clocking in at an hour and 40 minutes. Now as you may guess from some of my previous reviews, I kind of feel that almost-two hours is way too long for something like this, especially when it takes 40 minutes before we even begin the actual plot of the movie of people getting infected and the Moon Zombies start going around. A bit tighter of a pace in that first half and this movie would be 100% perfect. As it stands it’s only ‘Just About 100% perfect‘, which is still really damn good!
For the most part, Attack of the Moon Zombies deals with almost all-new characters. A lot of familiar faces for fans of these movies, but they’re playing brand new characters from what they played before. Playing the lead female character is Shannon McDonough, who fellow Mihmivites will recognize as the fiance-and-then-wife of Doctor Jackson from It Came From Another World! and a cameo appearance in Terror From Beneath The Earth. I was a bit harsh on her role in those movies, as I found the character she played a bit drab and boring, but after seeing her here I now know that was solely the way the character was written and it was not indicative of Ms. McDonough’s acting abilities because she owns this movie in every scene that she’s in. Within five minutes of being introduced to her new scientist character here, I was totally in love with her. Returning alongside her is also Daniel Sjerven from Cave Women on Mars and Terror From Beneath the Earth, this time playing a rude, childish, alcoholic pilot that still manages to retain a certain level of humor and charm about him, despite being the kind of character you probably wouldn’t like spending a whole lot of time around in real life. Also with them is Michael Kaiser who has been in all of these movies in small bit parts as well as the man behind the costume of I think almost every monster, creature, and humanoid alien to date, and Sid Korpi who played a minor role in Destination: Outer Space but here plays the person-in-charge on this Moon Base, Administrator Ripley. And yes, that is a very clear (and loved!) nod to the Alien franchise. The one person who does return and actually plays a previous character is Mike Cook reprising his role as Dr. Vincent Edwards from Terror From Beneath the Earth, a role I also previously found a bit dull and uninspired but actually really enjoyed this go-around. Also, he hasn’t visually aged a day in the 20+ years between that movie’s timeline and this one! Oh, the wonders of Movie Magic, I tells ya!
Actually, old character and new ones, old actors and new ones, out of all the Mihmiverse movies this one I think is the one that had me loving all the characters in record time and it wasn’t long into the movie before I started genuinely caring about what might happen to them. Sure, the movie has an overly-long 40 minute lead-up to the actual horrific events that make up the plot of the movie, but it uses that time really well to give us some good characterization on everyone and some nice story beats that pay off later in the movie. For instance, lead character Dr. Hacket (as played by Shannon McDonough) is in a relationship with another of the scientists on board and he keeps trying to propose to her but each and every time he does they keep getting interrupted at the last second before she can give her answer, a continuous and hilariously repetitive story beat that keeps playing out even well into the Moon Zombie infestation. Add to that the continuous complaints by some of the staff that there isn’t enough women on-board, Ripley missing the birth of her grandchild due to being on that base, and the sub-plot of Dr. Vincent Edwards’ looming retirement and they really give you enough meat to sink your teeth into for each and every one of these characters, no matter how large or small their role is.
The only issue I have in the character department, and it’s only a minor nitpick and in no way goes against my final score of the movie, but Daniel Sjerven’s perfectly sleazy pilot character drops out of the movie pretty early on to return to Earth, and during the thick of the infestation events of the movie the main cast are trying to survive long enough for him to return so they can leave the base and get the heck outta dodge, so having them constantly make reference to waiting on him, in addition to knowing what a familiar face Daniel Sjerven is to this series, I was fully expecting him to show up at the last minute and save the day, Han Solo style, but sadly we never do see him again, which was slightly disappointing especially since he never got that character redemption moment I was really hoping for. Even though this is a minor nitpick, it also works as a compliment as well because if these characters weren’t so likable and well-written, I wouldn’t have cared about wanting him to return at the end for a redemption moment to begin with.
Making us care for these characters this much actually ends up being a bit heartbreaking, seeing as how once the Moon Plant shoots its spoors out and finally turns the first person into a plant-headed Moon Zombie (which then in turn begins turning everyone else), it’s only a matter of time before most of the characters you’ve come to love bite it, and as much as I enjoyed spending time with everyone leading up to this portion of the movie, it’s really here till the end that it truly shines. Seeing as how the terror begins during the middle of the night when most of the crew is sleeping, there are some authentically creepy moments that play out here, such as a scene where one guy wakes up in his darkened room with no knowledge of what has started, and begins hearing some unknown thing banging savagely on his door, trying to get in to him. The claustrophobic feel of the base as the characters run around the maze-like hallways and run into various random Moon Zombies, either stand alone or in large groups, only adds to the creepy factor. Of course none of that would have been successful had it not been for the best creature designs we’ve seen yet in the Mihmiverse series, nor for the best set designs we’ve seen yet; Never once did I question that this was actually a real Lunar Base and these plant-headed Moon Zombies were a real threat – Within a few minutes of pressing Play I was sucked right in and I was right there alongside all these characters. Micro-Budget as this may be, it did just as good a job loosing me in its imagination as any bigger budget Hollywood movie could, and its this movie that best shows just how far Christopher R. Mihm has come, in addition to everyone who works with him, since the days of The Monster of Phantom Lake, and it shows best just how they’ve all evolved as filmmakers.
As with all the other movies in the Mihmiverse, this self-produced DVD is stacked right up with tons of excellent bonus content. There’s only one Blooper Reel instead of the usual two (but it has a really good length to it and is, just like all the others, simply laugh-out-loud hilarious), a trailer for the movie, a Photo Gallery of tons of Behind-the-Scenes photos, an introduction to the film by Horror Host Dr. Ivan Cryptosis, a half hour long featurette on the whole Mihmiverse itself, and the usual informative full length Audio Commentaries, one by just Christopher R. Mihm and a second more Technical Commentary by many of the Behind the Scenes folks.
Attack of the Moon Zombies is easily my favorite film by Christopher R. Mihm to date. Sure, it’s a bit longer then I’d like and takes it’s sweet time getting anywhere, but it also uses that time to perfectly make us get to know and care about our cast of characters, which is actually a really smart move here since it made it all the more heartbreaking when many of them get ripped away from us during the events of the second half of the movie when the infection has broken out and the Lunar Base is overran with 30+ deadly Moon Zombies shuffling around the dark, empty maze-like corridors. The movie can also double as a fun ‘Find The References’ game, as it’s chock full of references to classic sci-fi/horror flicks like Alien, The Thing From Another World, It! The Terror From Beyond Space, and any number of zombie movies to just point out a few. Plus there’s also tons of inside jokes and references to previous Mihmiverse movies (Such as Doctor Jackson-then-Director Jackson is now the President – Nice!), so be sure to keep your eyes and ears open to catch them all.
Seeing as how most of the advertising for these movies come from simple word of mouth from the fans, then if you do check his stuff out and enjoy it please help get the word out there on these movies and hopefully we can snag in a few other fans that may not even realize these exist. You can order these on DVD (and even BluRay for the latest couple!) over at his official site which is filled with all sorts of other goodies as well (including a monthly newsletter in addition to a very laid back, yet fun and informative, podcast). Hell, there’s even an excellent deal on right now – Buy Three Movies, Get One Free, which seeing as how there’s currently eight of these titles, if you do that twice then that is the perfect way to catch up with all of them and in the end save some dough – that’s how I did it!


10/10 rooms in the Psych Ward

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Learn what’s happening in the Mihmiverse, namely, the filming of his latest B-movie, “The Giant Spider.”

http://www.examiner.com/article/info-101-at-the-movies-198-further-observations-from-the-mihmiverse?CID=examiner_alerts_article

Order your tickets TODAY!!

Christopher R. Mihm’s latest B&W 1950s-drive-in-style B-movie, “House of Ghosts” will premiere at the historic Heights Theatre on May 23, 2012. This spooky film and the sure-to-be-remembered event itself are homages to the films of William Castle
House of Ghosts

PRLog (Press Release)Feb 22, 2012
In a singular event designed to re-create the once-thought-extinct cinematic experience of the 1950s, Christopher R. Mihm’s latest B&W 1950s-drive-in-style B-movie, “House of Ghosts” will premiere at the historic Heights Theatre on May 23, 2012, at 6:30 p.m. This film and the sure-to-be-remembered event itself are homages to the films of William Castle (“The Tingler,” “House on Haunted Hill”).

For only $10 (each), you can be guaranteed to be one of the first to see what is being billed as the spookiest Mihmiverse film yet!

Premiere attendees will enjoy a program complete with hand-picked, era-appropriate newsreels, classic trailers, appearances by most (if not all) of the cast and crew, free cake, autographs and photos with a ghost or two from the film (don’t forget to bring your camera), a merchandise raffle and organ music from the “WCCO Mighty Wurlitzer!” AND, with this being a tribute to the films of William Castle, you can expect some “otherworldly” shenanigans that will ONLY happen at this event! DVDs, posters and other merchandise will also be on sale!

Advance ticket holders will receive an individually numbered collector’s ticket (while supplies last) and, as in years past, an exclusive collector’s item (TBD)!

For more information and to order your advance tickets, visit the events section of the merchandise page at http://www.sainteuphoria.com! Last year’s “Attack of the Moon Zombies” premiere completely sold out and, with interest in “House of Ghosts” EXTREMELY HIGH, we expect this event to sell out as well. The premiere is open to the public, so the ONLY WAY to ensure admittance is to purchase an advance ticket RIGHT NOW!

ALSO, the official poster for “House of Ghosts” has arrived! Pictured here, the poster was designed by writer/director Christopher R. Mihm and is instantly reminiscent of classic haunted house films like “Terror in the Haunted House,” “The Amityville Horror” and, appropriately, William Castle’s original “House on Haunted Hill.”

We’re told the poster will be available for purchase soon. Stay tuned…

The friends and fans of the Mihmiverse (i.e. the movies of filmmaker Christopher R. Mihm) are legion, and they’re stepping up once again to see that this man’s movies get the recognition they amply deserve. Yesterday, I entered “Attack of the Moon Zombies” in SIX film festivals across the country, including: the Spooky Movie International Horror Film Festival; the Syracuse Horror, Sci-Fi & Fantasy Film Festival; the Thriller! Chiller! Film Festival; the Chicago Horror Film Festival; the Eerie Horror Film Festival; and the Drive-In Film Festival. Folks have been generously donating toward the costs of the entry fees (now well over $300 accrued by little old totally broke me). Should any of you readers like to support our efforts to get “Attack of the Moon Zombies” screened nationally and have it garner some hard-earned awards in the process, contact me through my website <www.goodgriefpetloss.com> and I’ll tell you how. As little as $5 or $10 would really help out. I’ll stop the fund-raising attempts well before I reach the point of my making any personal profit. 🙂

Another way to support these independent films is to come to the exclusive screenings. One is coming up June 11 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, organized by super fan Bob Arndt—a fabulous Mihm double feature with “Terror from Beneath the Earth” AND “Attack of the Moon Zombies,” introduced by horror host extraordinaire Doctor Ivan Cryptosis. Another is the July 14 screening in the Twin Cities—the New Hope Cinema Grill, 7 p.m. For $15, you’ll see the greatest B-movie ever made AND enjoy an all-you-can-eat buffet of salad, pizza and soda (and there’s even a full bar available). More info, advance tickets, “Attack of the Moon Zombies” DVDs ($10), and other great merchandise and collectibles can be ordered at <www.sainteuphoria.com>. Help Christopher Mihm recoup the $3K he spent making this masterpiece! Maybe if he gets rich and famous, he’ll pay his actors someday! 🙂 —Sid (Administrator Ripley)

“Attack of the Moon Zombies” (2011) By Jason Coffman In 2006, Wisconsin-based filmmaker Christopher R. Mihm released his first feature film “The Monster of Phantom Lake.” A loving tribute to the 1950s creature features Mihm grew up watching with his father, Mihm’s first film established the blueprint for his subsequent oeuvre: low-budget black & white features shot on the cheap that aim not to ironically appropriate the look and feel of 1950s genre cinema, but to actually replicate that look and feel as an end in itself. Each of Mihm’s films— with titles such as “Cave Women on Mars” and “Terror from Beneath the Earth”— build on and add to an overarching mythology and world that has been earning his work a cult following of like-minded fans who grew up on and love the same b-movies that inspired him. Mihm’s latest film, “Attack of the Moon Zombies,” is no exception and may also be his most technically accomplished film yet. In the not-too-distant future on the Jackson Lunar Base, Dr. Vincent Edwards (Mike Cook) is on the eve of retirement. While training his young replacement, Glen Hayes (Michael Kaiser), the two men find a long-dormant plant hidden in a cave on the lunar surface. They return it to the laboratory of the Base Botanist Dr. Hackett (Shannon McDonough) and report the find to Base Administrator Ripley (Sid Korpi). Once removed from the lunar surface and its deadly radiation, the plant springs to life and the scientists learn the hard way that the plant’s spores cause paralysis and death in short order, followed by reanimation as a plant-like zombie! Soon the Moon Zombies have overrun the Base, constantly thwarting Dr. Collins’ (Douglas Sidney) attempts to propose to Dr. Hackett and resulting in the shutdown of radiation shields over two-thirds of the base. A small group of survivors must figure out a way to reach the shield controls and wipe out the Moon Zombies in time for the next supply ship to arrive and take them home. Too bad the base is absolutely crawling with monsters and time is running out— can our heroes save themselves and end the Moon Zombie threat? Shot in “era-appropriate black & white” on digital video, “Attack of the Moon Zombies” looks a bit sharper than Mihm’s other films, but that may be because it’s almost entirely shot on sterile interior sets. The Lunar Base is all white walls, plastic lawn chairs and automatic sliding doors, probably making lighting a bit easier and more consistent than in the outdoor locations that make up much of Mihm’s previous films. The cast is mostly made up of alumni from Mihm’s previous films (and includes his wife Stephanie), and the lo-fi sets, costumes and monster make-up all add to the film’s considerable charm. The Moon Zombies themselves are perfectly realized, looking exactly as cheap as they should (they appear to be masks and gloves) without being too goofy to generate some genuine tension. Mihm absolutely nails the tone and dialogue of his 50’s inspirations, and the game cast does a great job across the board. Aside from the crisp DV picture, the only tip-offs that the film isn’t from the same decade as “It Conquered the World” are the sly pop culture references (be sure to note all the characters’ names!) and the use of some simple CG animation early in the film instead of cardboard-tube space ships and Christmas-light stars. While “Attack of the Moon Zombies” may be most fun for “Mihmiverse” converts— it really does pay to watch all the films and pay careful attention— any fan of classic sci-fi and horror films will find a lot to like, and this is a great introduction to Mihm’s work. Learn more about “Attack of the Moon Zombies” and Christopher R. Mihm’s other films at his official website: www.sainteuphoria.com.

Jason Coffman is a film writer living in Chicago. He writes reviews for Film Monthly and “The Crown International Files” for Criticplanet.org as well as contributing to Fine Print Magazine (www.fineprintmag.net).

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