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!

 

Galaxy Express (Danny Johnson Saves the World, 2015)

Mihm_Danny_Johnson_CoverChristopher R. Mihm often has a specific influence for a film.  For Danny Johnson Saves the World, he was focused on creating a family adventure.  It is the tale of young Danny Johnson (we’ve seen Danny in prior Mihmiverse films) who is playing a game of “hide and seek” with his friends when they run smack dab into an alien invasion of…puppets.  Danny has to save his friends and little sister from the diabolical Alien Queen (and her imbecilic King).  He is helped by an alien defector named Steve.

Danny Johnson Saves the World has a flashback framing device that is reminiscent of the Princess Bride and a Christmas Story as aged Danny Johnson (played by James Norgard) is telling his grandchildren a story as they wait for the Christmas Meal.

The film is a lot of fun and achieves its goal as a family film. There are action and monsters, but nothing too intense for younger viewers.  The effects have that look of a 50’s family sci-fi with a neat looking robot villain and a monster called Meat (it looks like something from Dungeons and Dragons) that features more classic stop-motion animation like we saw in the Late Night Double Feature.

 

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).

 

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.

Not of This Earth (Attack of the Moon Zombies, 2011)

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.

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.

Up From the Depths (Terror From Beneath the Earth, 2009)

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.

Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women (Cave Women of Mars, 2008)

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.

Humanoid From the Deep (The Monster of Phantom Lake, 2006)

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.

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