Day the World Ended (Demon With the Atomic Brain, 2017)

Mihm_Demon_Atomic_Brain_PosterChristopher R. Mihm’s latest film presents the possible end of the Mihmiverse.  A specially built computer has caused a rift in time and space that is threatening to destroy everything.  A team of military and specialists come together to try and stop it.

What happens next is an adventure through alternate futures, each one seeming more dangerous than the last.

The Demon With the Atomic Brain is one of Mihm’s most ambitious films in scope.  There are multiple set pieces.  It has several creatures and monsters and a decently large cast (which of course gets whittled down).  Both the animated monsters and the costume creations (by Mitch Gonzalez, who always makes fun and effective monsters for the Mihmiverse). There are these flying monsters where you can see the strings as they fly around.  Again, this is part of the low budget charm of Mihmiverse movies.

As always, the film has an authentic look to the era of the fifties.  This one has some splashes of color in each of the alternate futures.  It can be subtle, as they are heavily desaturated.  But it is very effective in giving a unique personality to each scene.

The actors are all very entertaining in their roles, effectively straddling that fine line of goofy delivery with sincerity.  Nobody feels like they are trying to act badly.  It is more that the dialog can fall into that sci-fi type of discussion that sounds less natural for most people.

The Demon with the Atomic Brain is a fun science fiction adventure with a unique identity (while paying homage to its inspirations).

Bucket of Blood (Weresquito: Nazi Hunter, 2016)

Mihm_Weresquito_CoverDuring World War II Cpl. John Baker is captured and experimented on by the deviant Nazi scientist Schramm.  He was saved by the Allied forces, but he is forever changed.  When he sees blood, he is transformed into the human-mosquito, or rather the Weresquito.  He is on a mission to find Nazis (and specifically Schramm) who are hiding out in America.

His search has unexpected complications as he starts to fall for Schramm’s niece (who is unaware of her uncle’s dark past).

Weresquito is one of those high-concept ideas that feels like it would have been at home in the late fifties.  It is promoted as being in Plaz-Mo-Scope which evokes, of course, the gimmicks of the era.  What this means is that anytime we see blood, it is red, and the only color in the entire film.  This makes for a neat effect.  If you have ever seen the horror film Popcorn, this film feels like it could have been one of the “fake fifties films” they made for that movie.

The performances are good (and James Norgard is clearly having fun going over the top as Schramm). The Weresquito himself is a great monster visually.  Listen, if you want to see Nazis get their blood sucked out by a man-sized mosquito (and I think you are lying if you say you do not)? This is your film!

 

The Secret Invasion (The Late Night Double Feature, 2014)

Mihm_Late_Night_CoverUnlike prior features, the Late Night Double Feature is two ideas that Mihm had where he felt they would not necessarily carry an entire film, but  he still wanted to tell.  Each episode is about modern TV show length, making them very quickly paced.

In X: the Fiend from Beyond Space an intergalactic mission in 2014 is awakens from deep sleep   They have brought aboard an alien corpse.  Well, they assumed it was a corpse.  After the alien disappears, the crew tries to locate it, but do not realize the creature is assimilating the crew one at a time.

This is kind of what you might get if Alien was made in the 50’s (Right down to the female leads taking on the alien fiend for much of the story).  The story has some fun dialog (at one point, they determine the alien must be intelligent as it was wearing pants).  The alien looks great with a classic sci-fi feel.  X hits the ground running very quickly, wasting no time (but still finding moments to make references to classic and modern sci-fi) .

The Wall People is interesting because the idea feels very modern.  Scientist Barney Collin’s wife was killed in an accident and then his son disappeared mysteriously.  Eight years later Dr. Edwards and Dr. Gabriel pay him a visit.  Barney is not quite…right.  He has been unable to convince anyone of his theory that there is an evil inter-dimensional being that takes children from their beds through the walls of their rooms.

The film plays with questions of Barney’s sanity and reality.  Is he dead? Is he on Pluto? It is very “Twilight Zone” in that nature.

This segment has some really nice stop motion action evocative of the time.  Most of this tale rests on the shoulders of Doug Sidney who does a real good job of conveying Collin’s as someone struggling to save his kid but having reached the edge of his sanity.

The double feature format works real well here.  Although there is an intermission between the films, it might have been fun to include one or two faux trailers (a la Grindhouse, though Mihm may have avoided this consciously specifically because of such comparisons).

 

Attack of the 60 Foot… (The Giant Spider, 2013)

Mihm_Giant_Spider_PosterThere was a time when giant bug/arachnid films were the rage.  And the Giant Spider brings back several characters we have met going as far back as the Terror Beneath the Earth.  The titular spider is no doubt some kid’s pet that crawled into the irradiated caves that populate the Mihmiverse and got to be bigger than a tank.

The monstrous Spider works it’s way through the countryside, devouring people.  A group of scientists and military work fervently to stop the creature’s rampage.    Returning to the Mihmiverse for the film are Dr. Edwards (Terror From Beneath the Earth & Attack of the Moon Zombies) and Dr. Gabriel (Attack of the Moon Zombies).  These are fun recurring characters because Michael Cook (Dr. Edwards) and James Norgard (Dr. Gabriel) are very entertaining.  They know when to ham it up and when to dial it down.  The thing that really makes any of Mihm’s films work is that the characters are largely played straight.  There is not a lot of “I am trying to act badly”.  Folks bring sincerity to the roles, which is where the amusement comes in.  These scientists are delivering pretty weak science, yet, with real conviction.

The effects for the Giant Spider are really strong.  They are, of course, a combination of green-screen and a regular sized tarantula and a model creature.  The close ups of it’s face are a model (puppet?) but it is a fun “monster” version of our nightmares.  The green-screen work is not seamless, nor should it be.  It mimics the look of a movie era probably the best of all of the Mihmiverse films to this point.

While most of the Mihmiverse films tend to feel very distinctly 50’s, the Giant Spider kind of straddles a line between the 50’s and 60’s.  Especially with the logo (the only splash of color the film) and the theme song.  The theme song is very much a sixties proto-punk sound.

Christopher’s films are never overly long, but the Giant Spider is one of the shortest.  And this is really in service to the film.  It moves at a good pace and is pretty tight in it’s storytelling.  The Giant Spider has long reigned as one of my personal favorites in the works of the Mihmiverse.

The Haunted Palace (House of Ghosts, 2012)

Mihm_House_Ghosts_PosterA group of rich socialites is having a dinner party with a special treat.  A powerful medium has been invited to put on a show, by opening a door to the great beyond. The group is confronted by the ghosts of their pasts, the dead come back to judge them for their sins.

This is the first Mihmiverse film with monsters that are not atomic/toxic waste or aliens.  And it is really effective.  Mihm captures those early Castle horror films (he even introduces the film recommending the audience locate their “Fear Guard” which they should have been given upon entering the theater.  The black and white really helps make the most of the shadows and creating an eerie atmosphere.

As with the other films, there are ties to the Mihmiverse (the mother of the veteran from Monster of Phantom Lake is a character). One character is a director of schlocky horror films and there are several jokes that reference Mihm’s own output.

I really enjoy the film, including the twist at the end.  The recurring monster is an angel of death type of demon or ghost.  Its face is unchanging, but with the large bloodshot eyes and sharp teeth, the horned visage is memorable. It is visually moody but still has a wink.  Again, not in mockery, but of real love for the work of William Castle.

Galaxy of Terrors (Destination: Outer Space, 2010)

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.

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