Weresquitos, atomic beasts, and giant spiders: Christopher Mihm's retro monster movies by Andrew Ellis
Originally posted at: http://www.citypages.com/arts/weresquitos-atomic-beasts-and-giant-spiders-christopher-mihms-retro-monster-movies/394865031
Christopher R. Mihm's "Weresquito: Nazi Hunter," is having a world premiere this week. The 11th movie by the local filmmaker continues his ever-expanding cinematic universe.
The movie revolves around John Baker, an American WWII soldier who is subjected to horrific Nazi experiments. As a result of this torture, he transforms into a man-sized killer insect at the site of blood. Instead of letting his condition destroy him, he uses his powers to do good and bring the people responsible to justice.
The idea of a weresquito had been on Mihm's mind since 2008, but he was looking for the right angle. Then, while brainstorming one night with friends around a bonfire, an idea came to him.
"I said the words 'Nazi hunter' out loud, and everybody's reaction was like, 'Ooo! That's it!'" he says.
As for the serious themes he hoped to bring into the movie, Mihm says he wanted focus on what the main character had gone through, and how he was handling it. His transformation into a giant mosquito when triggered is a metaphor of sorts for those dealing with PTSD.
"I want to make movie that actually touches on some honest-to-God serious themes without it being a complete joke," he says. "But it's hard to do, because he turns into a man-sized mosquito."
Years ago, Mihm had only intended to make one movie. He released his first film, "The Monster of Phantom Lake," about a former soldier who is transformed by atomic waste into a revolting monster, in 2006.
"It was a little bit of a hint toward 'Creature from the Black Lagoon' and stuff like that," he says. "I wanted to throw a bunch of cliches at the screen."
During the process, Mihm discovered that he loved the process of moviemaking. "I just realized I was having so much fun doing it that I didn't really wanna do anything else," he says. "And then after three movies, four movies, it had become kind of my 'thing.' I realized I was pretty good at it."
His "thing" fits into a very specific niche. Mihm isn't making making modern horror movies; his flicks have more in common with B horror from a previous era. These films, known for being so bad they're good, often feature giant bugs and radiation-fueled mutants and monsters. The scientist usually saves the day, and the female characters are mainly there to scream.
"It's like my creative process is locked in on this '50s/'60s, monster movie thing," he says. "It just took off and it became all I want to do."
That first film, "The Monster of Phantom Lake," was also a tribute to Mihm's father, who passed away in 2000 from stomach cancer. "His particular cancer was very hard to detect because it was in the lining of his stomach," Mihm says. "Once it was finally found, it was basically too late."
His father played a big role in his creative inspiration. A sci-fi and horror fan, he turned Mihm onto them once he bought a VCR.
"I dug the old monster movies because they were just scary enough for me to get excited," he says. "But it wasn't 'The Exorcist.'"
Years passed, but his love of sci-fi and horror never faded, nor did the desire to make his own movie. When the equipment finally became affordable, he decided to make what he calls a "kitchen sink" '50s monster movie.
After linking the first two movies together, he made a decision to have all of his films connect, creating his own cinematic universe. At one point, one of his fans from Omaha coined the term "Mihmiverse." It stuck.
"As soon as he said 'Mihmiverse' it was just so succinct and to the point," he says.
The Mihmiverse has expanded in real life, too. It has its own website, two podcasts, and a book by author Stephen D. Sullivan, called "Canoe Cops vs. the Mummy," which centers on two cops featured in the movies.
Like all his other movies, "Weresquito: Nazi Hunter" is getting a theatrical premiere, and they're an experience all their own.
"The big fans of the movie show up, so the atmosphere of that is not just going to another movie," he says. "It's a premiere, it's an experience. And we've always promoted the experience as much as the film every year."
From tribute to cinematic universe, he's come a long way, and he's sure his father would've enjoyed the movies.
"He would've been proud, but he wouldn't have had an issue criticizing the parts that needed work," he says.