"Attack of the Moon Zombies" (2011)
By Jason Coffman
In 2006, Wisconsin-based filmmaker Christopher R. Mihm released his first feature film "The Monster of Phantom Lake." A loving tribute to the 1950s creature features Mihm grew up watching with his father, Mihm's first film established the blueprint for his subsequent oeuvre: low-budget black & white features shot on the cheap that aim not to ironically appropriate the look and feel of 1950s genre cinema, but to actually replicate that look and feel as an end in itself. Each of Mihm's films with titles such as "Cave Women on Mars" and "Terror from Beneath the Earth" build on and add to an overarching mythology and world that has been earning his work a cult following of like-minded fans who grew up on and love the same b-movies that inspired him. Mihm's latest film, "Attack of the Moon Zombies," is no exception and may also be his most technically accomplished film yet.
In the not-too-distant future on the Jackson Lunar Base, Dr. Vincent Edwards (Mike Cook) is on the eve of retirement. While training his young replacement, Glen Hayes (Michael Kaiser), the two men find a long-dormant plant hidden in a cave on the lunar surface. They return it to the laboratory of the Base Botanist Dr. Hackett (Shannon McDonough) and report the find to Base Administrator Ripley (Sid Korpi). Once removed from the lunar surface and its deadly radiation, the plant springs to life and the scientists learn the hard way that the plant's spores cause paralysis and death in short order, followed by reanimation as a plant-like zombie! Soon the Moon Zombies have overrun the Base, constantly thwarting Dr. Collins' (Douglas Sidney) attempts to propose to Dr. Hackett and resulting in the shutdown of radiation shields over two-thirds of the base. A small group of survivors must figure out a way to reach the shield controls and wipe out the Moon Zombies in time for the next supply ship to arrive and take them home. Too bad the base is absolutely crawling with monsters and time is running out can our heroes save themselves and end the Moon Zombie threat?
Shot in "era-appropriate black & white" on digital video, "Attack of the Moon Zombies" looks a bit sharper than Mihm's other films, but that may be because it's almost entirely shot on sterile interior sets. The Lunar Base is all white walls, plastic lawn chairs and automatic sliding doors, probably making lighting a bit easier and more consistent than in the outdoor locations that make up much of Mihm's previous films. The cast is mostly made up of alumni from Mihm's previous films (and includes his wife Stephanie), and the lo-fi sets, costumes and monster make-up all add to the film's considerable charm. The Moon Zombies themselves are perfectly realized, looking exactly as cheap as they should (they appear to be masks and gloves) without being too goofy to generate some genuine tension.
Mihm absolutely nails the tone and dialogue of his 50's inspirations, and the game cast does a great job across the board. Aside from the crisp DV picture, the only tip-offs that the film isn't from the same decade as "It Conquered the World" are the sly pop culture references (be sure to note all the characters' names!) and the use of some simple CG animation early in the film instead of cardboard-tube space ships and Christmas-light stars. While "Attack of the Moon Zombies" may be most fun for "Mihmiverse" converts it really does pay to watch all the films and pay careful attention any fan of classic sci-fi and horror films will find a lot to like, and this is a great introduction to Mihm's work.
Learn more about "Attack of the Moon Zombies" and Christopher R. Mihm's other films at his official website: www.sainteuphoria.com.
Jason Coffman is a film writer living in Chicago. He writes reviews for Film Monthly and "The Crown International Files" for Criticplanet.org as well as contributing to Fine Print Magazine (www.fineprintmag.net).