REVIEW - "The Late Night Double Feature" - by Jason Coffman
Originally posted at: http://dailygrindhouse.com/thewire/review-late-night-double-feature-2013/
Since 2006, Minnesota-based filmmaker Christopher R. Mihm has released a new feature film every Spring. Inspired by the films he enjoyed with his father George, Mihm's films are replicas of 1950s-era horror and science fiction films, with titles like "Cave Women on Mars" and "Attack of the Moon Zombies" that tip off potential audiences to exactly the kind of film they're in for. Unlike Larry Blamire, who mines similar territory, Mihm's films are not meant to be parody or satire. They are earnest attempts at re-creating the style and tone of the films to which they pay tribute. For 2014, Mihm has made his most ambitious film yet, "The Late Night Double Feature." As the title suggests, it's a "Grindhouse"-style double feature of two films as they would have been screened at a drive-in back in the 50s: "X: The Fiend From Beyond Space" and "The Wall People."
In "X: The Fiend From Beyond Space", the crew of a spaceship are wakened from LD-sleep a decade earlier than their mission required when the ship is caught in the gravitational field of a rogue planet. They discover the remains of a creature that has crash-landed and brought it on board the ship, excited to make such an incredible scientific discovery. Unfortunately, the visitor isn't quite as dead as it appeared, and when it wakes up, it is very hungry. With the ship stuck in sleep mode and the captain out of commission, it's up to a few brave crew members to track down the monster and destroy it before it kills everyone on board the ship, but when they learn it can take the form of any of its victims, how will they know who to trust and who wants to eat them?
"The Wall People" is the story of scientist Barney Collins (Douglas Sidney), who calls two of his colleagues to visit his home after years of isolation following the death of his wife and disappearance of his son. Collins has discovered that his son was taken through the wall of his bedroom by some force with advanced technology that he has replicated, and plans to use it to go through the wall to wherever this force is and bring his son home. Doctors Gabriel (James Norgard) and Edwards (Michael Cook) suspect that their old friend has gone off his rocker, but when Collins shows them the portal works, they agree to help him. Unfortunately for Barney, the thing that took his son has more tricks up its sleeve than just some advanced technology. Can they save his son in time, or will the Wall People continue their reign of terror?
Each of the two halves of "The Late Night Double Feature" runs around 40 minutes, with a fake intermission in between and end credits to bring the film to a full running time of 90 minutes. The shorter run time helps with the pacing of the films, which has been improving in Mihm's films since the fun but overlong "Attack of the Moon Zombies" in 2011. Keeping the run time of each one short also forces Mihm to use his time more carefully, and while there are recurring characters and many references to films and media both within and outside of the "Mihmiverse" (the affectionate term his fans have given the shared universe of his films), driving the story forward is the main focus. Mihmiverse fans will have to pay close attention to catch the in-jokes, but newcomers don't have to worry about having to have seen all other eight films in order for these two to make sense.
This format also allows Mihm to experiment with form and style without wandering too far from his main goal of paying tribute to the films he loves. "X: The Fiend From Beyond Space" is pretty typical Mihm territory, but "The Wall People" approaches its story from a very unusual angle. Douglas Sidney is in almost every shot of the movie, and while he starts out as a sort of goofy "crazy scientist" type, his motivations help to make him a more interesting and sympathetic character. There are also some elaborate effects in "The Wall People," including a pair of impressive stop-motion monsters, and the film is more genuinely creepy than anything else Mihm has done to date. "The Late Night Double Feature" is Mihm's most accomplished work to date, and is a perfect entry point for anyone curious to jump into the Mihmiverse.
"The Late Night Double Feature" is available on DVD directly from Christopher Mihm through his website, Saint Euphoria. As with all of Mihm's films, the DVD is packed with special features including Esperanto audio and subtitle tracks, two full-length commentary tracks, an introduction to the film by Dr. Ivan Cryptosis, a blooper reel, photo gallery, and previews for Mihmiverse films.