Mihm_Attack_Moon_Zombie_PosterSet in the future of Cave Women on Mars and Destination: Outer Space, Attack of the Moon Zombies takes place in the Jackson Lunar Base. A new scientist arrives and while he is being given a tour, finds a unique item…a plant.  After he seems to die from exposure to spores, the inhabitants of the base move on.  But while preparing for an autopsy, the young man wakes up…changed.  Slowly, scientists are disappearing, being changed into the moon zombies.

It becomes a race against time as the survivors try and find a way to stop the zombies and escape.

All the films, of course, have had ties to each other.  But Attack of the Moon Zombies really feels as if it ties the Mihmiverse films together.  While Josh Craig appears as neither Jacksons, his Professor Jackson is mentioned (but has been upgraded to President). One character is related to the Deputy from Terror From Beneath The Earth and Dr. Edwards also returns.

The zombies look pretty good (the Mihmiverse films started to show a vast improvement in the makeup and costumes around Destination: Outer Space).  One of my favorite in-jokes the film has is its naming conventions. The Captain is named Herman Frehley, but constantly demands to be called Ace.  The Administrator’s last name is Ripley.  But observant viewers will notice that several characters are named after the characters of the old Buck Rogers TV show.

Attack of the Moon Zombies moves at a decent pace and is a lot of fun to watch.

Mihm_Destination_Outer_Space_CoverCaptain Jackson is back!  Trapped on a mysterious planet, Captain Jackson is trying to get home but gets pulled into an epic adventure.  He must fight alien hordes, find a secret base that must be destroyed.

Writer and Director Christopher R. Mihm explained that he went into this film with a “what if”.  What if…Ed Wood had made Star Wars?

The spaceships are obvious models and green screen work.  But it feels like the limitations are less financial here and more sticking to the premise of being a fifties sci-fi b-movie.

The alien make-ups are actually quite good.  Or, rather, entertaining.  There are aliens with big eyeballs for heads that shoot laser beams from the eyes.  There is a scene paying homage to the Star Wars cantina scene where the filmmakers clearly had a lot of fun populating the bar.

Does Destination: Outer Space answer the What If?  Yeah.  It feels like it came from the era, and it is a lot of fun.  The film is loaded with fun references to sci-fi like Star Wars and Star Trek.  The “high-tech” robot A.D.A.M. looks especially like a fifties idea of an advanced robot. The film promises more adventures with Captain Jackson in the end (with a soft cliff-hanger).  We shall see if he ever returns.

Mihm_Terror_Beneath_Earth_CoverHe is all ears and teeth and he’s from hell! Alice is trying to find her young brother Danny in a local cave network.  Instead, she runs into a mysterious stranger. Alice and Danny’s father Stan runs to the sheriff’s office when his children never return home.  With the help of local Geologist Dr. Edwards, they try and find the children, only to discover a giant mutant bat creature.

The creature is able to paralyze its victims and is collecting our heroes to have as a meal.

As with any 50’s era horror, the monster is the result of science.  In this case, atomic testing is done in the caves.

The sets for this film are very simple.  It is the caverns or the police station.  So, in some ways, this almost resembles a play.  This is the first film in the Mihmiverse to not feature Professor Jackson (or even his son Captain Jackson), but he is represented by his wife, who brings Dr. Edwards the scientific device that will help save the day.

The music in Mihm’s films really evoke the films of the fifties.  It can be overdramatic, sometimes even goofy.  It almost always hits the right tone for the film, and that is true here.

The Bat Monster, as prior monsters, looks a bit slapped together with arts and crafts style.  It has large unblinking eyes and teeth that look a bit like plastic.  In spite of this, there are some nice shots of the creature.  Specifically a full reveal as it steps from the shadows.

Terror From Beneath the Earth carries on the b-movie monster tradition fairly well.  While a bit more serious than It Came From Another World, it still has its moments of fun.

Mihm_Cave_Women_PosterIn the far, far distant future of 1987, Captain Jackson, son of Professor (now Director) Jackson,  is on a mission to Mars.  He and lieutenant Elliot arrive on Mars and discover a lush jungle…er…midwestern wooded area and Lieutenant Elliot ends up a prisoner of warrior cavewomen.

Elliot is desperate to get back to his spaceship as he finds himself catapulted between rival cave woman clans. While both are really disdainful of men, you can tell the good Cave Women from the Bad Cave Women because the Bad Ones wear leather and have dark hair, while the Good Ones wear cloth outfits and are blonde.

 

The film uses very simple coding (not uncommon for the era that inspired the film).  Part of the amusement in the films of Mihm is the archaic ideas of the sexes.  These are not presented as the “Good old days when men were men and women were women”.  I have noted that Christopher does not mock the horror and sci-fi of the 50’s and 60’s.  But that is not entirely true.  He pokes a lot of fun at the silly mentalities (Girl scientists?! Girls with opinions?!) of the time.  In this film, the portrayals of independent woman as hating men is the target for mockery.  The Cave Women are so over the top in their talk about how inferior men are, the oppressive matriarchy comes off as the fevered nightmare of Rush Limbaugh.

Visually, you start seeing some growth.  The monster looks a little better.  There is some nicely done green screen that manages to still give that old movie set look.  And the portrayal of Mars is a lot like those early films that imagined other planets looking vaguely earth-like…but you know…rockier. Also, the space suits are in that great line between looking cobbled together and being a little futuristic.

There were a few points where the film drags, but at the same time, this is not that out of character for a lot of sci-fi and horror of that era.  Setting it in the future of 1987 (so “far” from the 50’s, but well in our “past”) creates it’s own humor with the visuals of how far and advanced we would be. Of the first three films, this one, in some ways, feels the closest to the sci-fi films of the 50’s.

Mihm_It_Came_From_PosterThe A-Rockin’ Scientist  Professor Jackson is back!!!   Along with the Canoe Cops!!!! Wait one second…

Associate of Professor Jackson Dr. Frasier is in the woods when he witnesses a meteorite fall to earth.  He goes to investigate and appears to be attacked by a force from the meteor.

Professor Jackson is called in to determine what has happened to Frasier.  He goes out and is assisted by the Canoe Cops, Sven and Gustav.  They locate Dr. Frazier, who seems unaware of just how long he has been gone.  They bring him home and Professor Jackson runs tests to see if he is okay.  But of course, he isn’t.  Because there would not be a frickin’ movie if he was fine.  Frasier is possessed by an alien intelligence that seeks to rule the earth.  He uses mind control on the Professor’s girlfriend and escapes to set his diabolical plans in motion.

Again, Professor Jackson must save the world..but can he stop the evil alien fiend being that has possessed his dear friend?

This one has it all.  A ping-pong ball eyed alien! Romance!  A Canoe Paddle Battle! Science! Josh Craig returns to the role of Professor Jackson, this time with an even more pronounced Shatner inspired vocal pattern.  It is a bit over the top but is also a lot of fun.

Like the Monster of Phantom Lake, the budget reads in the film as “No Budget”.  As noted, the evil alien is actor Mike Mason with what look to be ping pong balls for eyes. As a semi-sequel, Jackson and Elizabeth are the only characters to return.  The film acknowledges his love interest Stephanie…with a single line noting she is dead.

This one has more jokes slipped into it, as well as a musical number.  This time around it is a slickly produced song…but played off as being performed by the cast.  There are split screens, clearly different singing voices and far more instruments than the cast members are playing (the song was performed entirely by Mihm).

It Came From Another World is an enjoyable romp.

In 3-D! (Found Footage 3D, 2017)

Found_Footage_3D_PosterFound footage movies are pretty risky really.  The primary draw for filmmakers seems to be “small crew” and “can be made on the cheap”.  Sometimes, this pays off.  A lot of this is related to how well the filmmakers know to space out scares and when to focus on drama.  Found Footage 3D knows it is entering a very full field, and as such, starts with a wink to the audience.

The starting concept of the film is that Derek and his filmmaker friends are going to make a found footage film at a cabin.  Derek announces that they will be making it in 3-D.  Because audiences looooove motion sickness.

We are introduced to the crew, which includes Derek’s Ex-Wife Amy, who is dating Mark.  Andrew and Carl are longtime collaborators and Lily is the new member of the group.  She is excited to be a part of the film, though it seems kind of obvious she got the job because she is cute.

When they arrive at the cabin, they find out that Derek did not alert them to the fact that it is long rumored to be haunted. At first, Derek tries to unnerve the crew, but then things start to occur that indicate there are truly dark forces at work.

Found Footage 3D’s makers obviously know their goal of making a found-footage horror film is a bit of a tough sell.  Found footage films, in general, have certain limitations.  Why were the people filming this situation? Why do they keep filming?  In this case, they opt to lampshade some of this.  When asked why 3-D? Derek pauses and declares “Well, he is a 3-D enthusiast!”.  His partner Andrew seems less than satisfied with this.  At one point, a character mentions bad CGI monsters, and Derek takes offense.  And then the monster is kind of goofy looking CGI.  And the odd thing is?  It works!  It is not an impressive looking CGI monster…and that almost helps the film, rather than hinders it.

They also manage some really good jumps…even in moments where I was expecting something, I was still startled.  And while the film is very aware of the potential pitfalls of found-footage, it does not overthink itself and become needlessly complicated.

Found Footage 3D is both fun and scary and definitely one of those films that shows how enjoyable well done found footage films can be.

Mihm_Monster_Phantom_CoverChristopher 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.

What is the Mihmiverse?  If you have to ask?  Well, um, you probably do not know what it is.  So, here we go!

The Mihmiverse is the creation of Minnesota local Christopher R. Mihm.  His films are loving homages to a bygone era of horror and sci-fi…specifically the films of the 50’s and 60’s.  These are films he grew up watching with his father.  When his father passed away from an aggressive stomach cancer in 2000, Chris found himself returning to these films and the memories of watching them with his dad.

mihm_monsters

This led to the inspiration to try and create a film in the vein, in part as a tribute to his father.  Having long been interested in production (of all kinds, Chris played in bands through the years and also had worked at a local cable access station).  Working with friends, the final result was the Monster of Phantom Lake.  Ever since that first film in 2006, Mihm has put out a movie each year.  This year sees the release of the Demon With the Atomic Brain.

Before we begin the journey through the twelve films (as well as a review of the Monster of Phantom Lake, the Musical!) I want to be fully transparent here.  I knew Chris back in High School when we worked at a movie theater together.  We lost touch, and then a couple years back ran into each other at the Crypticon Convention where he had a table.  I approach these films honestly, and you certainly do not have to take my word for their entertainment value.  The Mihmiverse has a loyal fanbase that predates me.

I was skeptical a few years ago, because I have not watched a lot of old school fifties horror and sci-fi.  I was not quite sure I would be all that into watching a bunch of black and white movies.  I had even seen Chris’s booth the year before but passed it right on by thinking “Eh, not for me”.  But I bought a couple of the films because we were having a good time reconnecting, and I felt I should at least try them.  And by gum, I really enjoyed them. They were not snarky and derisive, they were relishing in their silliness and simple sets.  Their slapped together monsters (except they started to get better and better at that, creating some genuinely cool looking monsters) and the sincere but at times stiff acting (but some of Mihm’s regulars are pure gold in my opinion) all lead to a real charm.

This is not to say the films never take a shot or two at certain elements. They repeated poke at the archaic sexism of the times.  There are plenty of modern film references the the stuff that appeared in film and TV of our youth.  The films have a sense of humor about themselves but it is not a vicious mockery.  And that is what made me want to highlight the Mihmiverse this year.

If you are interested in checking out any of the twelve films Christopher R. Mihm has made, you can purchase them directly through his website or (if you would like to check them out first) you can rent and stream them on Amazon.

Hell_House_LLC_PosterNot to be confused with the 2001 documentary Hell House (about a “Hell House” meant to scare people into accepting Jesus), Hell House LLC is a found footage film that follows filmmakers who are investigating horrifying tragedy that left fifteen dead in a Halloween Haunted House tour.  There was only one survivor of the crew and she is now providing the documentarians with access.

As the footage of the haunted house crew progresses, there are incidents where they hear music playing on a piano, they see things move, and typical creepy events.  Each incident seems to get more and more frightening.  It all starts to escalate, leading up to the horror of that Halloween night.

Hell House LLC is a very well done found footage film.  It can be downright unnerving at times, with real jumps and scares.  It uses the cliches like the scary clown to lull the viewer, but then surprise you by just how creepy it all is.  Admittedly, not sure I would have held out as long as they did with the creepy scares, but Hell House LLC is a strong horror film.

 

Survival_of_the_Dead_posterRomero’s career as a director came with this final installment to his Dead franchise. A more traditional story structure than the previous film, this film features characters we only briefly met in Diary of the Dead.  The National Guardsman are still trying to get somewhere safe.  They meet a kid who tells them about an island.  When they arrive at the island, they run into a rivalry between people who want to kill the zombies and those who want to protect them.

It is set close to the Diary of the Dead, so we are in the early stages of the world falling apart.  This might explain why some of the people want to protect the dead.  The Walking Dead explored that territory in its second season as well, but this film predates the show’s first season.

Survival of the Dead is not a particularly good addition to the Romero Dead Universe.  It leaves behind any social commentary for a simple plot and a lot of broad humor…that tends not to be particularly funny.

It also relies heavily on rather cheap looking digital effects.  This is to the detriment of the film, as it lacks the power of make-up effects by guys like Tom Savini.  It is somewhat disappointing that this ended up being Romero’s final film, it would have been great to see him go out on a high note.