"Attack of the Moon Zombies"

Dr. Vincent Edwards is days away from retirement, but while training his replacement on the Jackson Lunar Base, the two stumble upon a seemingly impossible discovery: alien plant life on the surface of the moon! Unfortunately, exposure to the spores of this otherworldly flora cause instant death. Too bad those killed by them don't stay dead and instead, want nothing more than to replicate!

Shot in glorious black and white, Christopher R. Mihm's "Attack of the Moon Zombies" was a film that kept on surprising me the further I got into it. Based on its name, I fully expected this film to be an outright comedy that parodied the B-movie sci-fi genre of the 1950's. Instead, what we get is more of a loving homage to those movies where the laughs and entertainment can still be found – just sometimes for all the wrong (or right!) reasons. I will admit that at times I was kind of hoping that the actors would allow themselves to be a bit zany, perhaps breaking the fourth wall or slyly winking at the camera – the plot seemed ripe for a Mel Brooks type treatment (and the blooper reel extra would indicate that this concept was considered but ultimately dropped). Instead, director Mihm restrains his actors and it's all played as straight as they are able considering the silliness of the script. Which brings me to one of the minor problems I had with the film: it's wordy! Holy alien spores…this movie had a lot of words! At times the actors seemed to ramble on and on and scenes tended to run a bit long on more than one occasion. It even seemed to me that Dr. Collins made fun of this point near the end when he breathlessly explains why a door isn't working yet again with about 100 too many words – all while a moon zombie advances upon them. Related to this point are the sets – which are too few, and too much alike. I totally get the haphazard way the sets were constructed, but often it felt like we were seeing the same room, just with the chairs and tables switched out. This is probably more of a budgetary problem, but something to break up the visual monotony of the stark white walls would have been appreciated (see my comments in the directing section for more on this).

What I kept thinking about when watching this movie was its enormous potential. It seemed like a terrific palette for which to create a goofy sci-fi world, but it never really enters into that territory. For example: the opening of the film has some cheeseball space graphics of a rocket landing on the moon. Now, these shots look like they were designed and rendered on a computer. But how cool would it have been to have the rocket be a model on wires landing on a scale model of the moon, complete with smoke bomb exhaust fumes, etc.? At other times, however, Mihm really gets this point, like with the interior sets of the moon base. Like a set from an Ed Wood film, the tape that holds it all together is joyously evident – which definitely adds to the charm of the film. Likewise, no attempt is made to make the "moon zombies" really believable; they are simply actors in ultra low budget masks and gloves – but it totally works! Conversely, some more make-up effects on Dr. Edwards as he ventures into the radiation would have helped sell the scene a bit more (maybe some dark circles under his eyes, sweat on his skin, or even a few blisters here and there). It's a fine line – and sometimes it works in the films favor and sometimes it does not. When the final spore has been planted, I found "Attack of the Moon Zombies" to be a fun film that goes beyond it's built-in cult status and actually offers up a little bit more to its viewers. Is it a perfect film – not by a long shot – but it doesn't try to be, either, and we are let in on this fact from the start. Full of imagination and dedication from its cast and crew, this is a film that respectfully pays homage to those great B-movies of yesteryear. If you remember that era or are just a fan of sci-fi in general, then this movie is for you!

Despite its name, "Attack of the Moon Zombies" is fine family fun.

My thoughts on acting in low budget indies has been well established, so I went into this feature with more than a little trepidation. Let's face it, with a name like "Attack of the Moon Zombies," how good could the acting be, right? Well – to my surprise and delight, the acting was actually almost universally terrific. Naturally there were a couple of weak spots (Michael Kayser [sic] as Glen Hayes did the best he could, but a more sinister looking actor might have helped the cause), but the main cast more than makes up for it. Mike Cook as the grandfatherly Dr. Edwards was believable even if his British accent was not, and Douglas Sidney as Dr. Collins had great comedic timing – even if this wasn't a straight comedy. I also appreciated the humor of Daniel Sjerven as Capt. Frehley (nice name!) He definitely could have stepped into ham fisted, over-acting territory – but he restrains himself and simply puts on a good show. Sid Korpi as Admin. Ripley was likewise convincing, even though she had to deliver a few doozies from the script. And last but not least we have Shannon McDonough as Dr. Hackett. A pure delight, McDonough looks like Teri Garr and delivers her lines like Judy Garland. She's the anchor that holds the whole film together, plus she's cute as a button. Nice!

This section is somewhat hard to do as there were a couple of variables we have to take into consideration when analyzing the direction of "Attack of the Moon Zombies." For starters: director Christopher R. Mihm is bound by the limitations of his set. It becomes almost impossible for him to pull the camera back for a long shot for fear that the set will reveal itself to the viewer. I think this could have been solved with some more interesting angles, perhaps some more close-ups, or over-head shots or low-angle shots – which brings me to the second variable. Mihm has made an homage to B-movies from the 50's. With that in mind, he intentionally directs the film in the style of that era (which is to say, very straight forward with little visual flair). Since he is methodically adhering to the style of that time, low-angle and over-head shots are uncalled for. To solve this dilemma, I might have suggested some more establishing shots: perhaps outside of the lunar base or all the way back to show the whole moon. In this way the visual monotony is broken up and the viewer is given something to look at other than the stark white walls of the moon base for the entire running time.

The music here is all public domain stock filler, but it works almost flawlessly in support of the cheesy, B-movie vibe of the film.

Don't forget to check out the blooper reel that comes as an extra on the DVD. It's almost more fun than the actual movie!

The character of Dr. Vincent Edwards (again played by Mike Cook) also appeared in the 2009 Christopher R. Mihm film: "Terror From Beneath The Earth."

"Attack of the Moon Zombies" had it's theatrical premiere in Minneapolis, MN.