I Survived an "Attack of the Moon Zombies!"
Last night I had the thrill of attending the premiere of Twin Cities filmmaker Christopher Mihm's "Attack of the Moon Zombies" (AotMZ, hereafter) locally-made film. It's a throwback to the classic sci-fi flicks of the 50s and 60s and employs all the trappings of the era (glorious B/W, over-dramatized musical score, lovingly dopey visual effects and monsters, and of course--gloriously hamfisted acting!
Mihm's been at the homebrew filmmaking game for several years now and AotMZ marks his sixth entry in to the "Mihmiverse" (as he's dubbed it), his personal pantheon of original science fiction digital cinema. This is my second venture in the the Mihmiverse, my introduction began with "Destination: Outer Space." This time I was sure to drag my wife and a friend along to experience what I'd been yapping about since last year.
I'll be honest-- I envy this guy! Every year he releases a new film he made with his friends, family, local thespians, and cinemaniacs and holds a "WORLD PREMIERE" at the historic Heights Theater in NE Minneapolis. The Heights is an old-fashioned (and well cared for) movie house with stage curtain and house organ intact (we were treated to a 30 minute performance prior to the show last night).
Laughing at--and with--films from another era
The film itself was preceded by old news reels, previews from horrendous/classic sci-fi films, and one of his older films. I won't go into a full review here (or spoil), but the plot centers around a claustrophobic moonbase "in the future" staffed by unwitting scientists who become "moon zombie" prey after discovering an alien plant hidden in a lunar cave (think John Carpenter's "The Thing," but the moon stands in for Antarctica).
The brussel-sprout-headed undead aliens are the true stars of the film, lumbering towards our cowering heroes in spectacular "Plan 9 From Outer Space" fashion. The film uses well-worn movie cliches (i.e., camera freely gliding over a slow moving hand about to reveal a corpse-under-the-sheet surprise) to great effect. Short of some stilted dialogue in the beginning, the result is a hilarious and well-orchestrated send-up of sci-fi films and their audiences. It's as if you're participating in a live episode of "Mystery Science Theater 3000." AotMZ, much like Mihm's other films, are a love-letter to cinematic cheddar played to the hilt.
Rubber and latex BEMs (Bug-eyed monsters), deadly radiation, and silly subplots about marriage proposals, round out the the film's retro sci-fi caricature. Sprinkled throughout were nuggets of pop culture in-jokes (sci-fi and music mostly) that kept our little group laughing after the credits.
AotMZ boasts an impressive cast of thespians--most notably Mike Cook and Sid Korpi in standout performances as an avuncular senior scientist and a hard-nosed-moon-base-administrator-with-a-golden heart, respectively. Douglas Sidney and Shannon McDonough seem to relish their purposefully 2D portrayals as love interests/leads. Sidney punctuates every scene he's in with silent goony-faced expressions and McDonough is a twirling, sobbing, wreck of a woman straight out of a 50s soap opera acting class.
'Moon Zombies, a delicious treat
Seeing the film with his actors, crew, and loved ones must be a huge high for Mihm--as everyone bursts out into laughter, groans, and applauds along with the on-screen action. After we've all taken in the hilarity, he offers DVDs of the flick (all of them actually) for a few bucks along with posters, t-shirts, patches, and more. The literal icing on the cake: a a moon + zombie cake, cupcakes, and cookies. Filmmaker, cast, crew, and co-conspirators alike were of course on hand to meet the audience, sign autographs, and ladle thanks on fans for supporting what I'm glad is now a Twin Cities tradition.
In an age of over-produced, financially fire-hosed movies, it's an absolute delight to not only see independent/locally supported films, but also participate in an event that celebrates imagination, science fiction, and an unabashed love of the movie-going experience. I look forward to exploring new corners of the Mihmiverse next year!