The Late Night Double Feature (2014)

Looking at his most recent set of films, it seems to me that Christopher R. Mihm has felt the need to find new avenues to explore with his growing collection of “new old, good bad” films:  they include a hard-edged and noirish revenge thriller;  a children’s film; a post-apocalyptic spaghetti “Midwestern” currently in production; and this rather unusual offering, which packages two short films as a single drive-in style double feature, complete with intros and a brief intermission.

However, despite the fact that they are both around forty minutes long, his two short features are as well developed and complete as his full length films:

X: The Fiend From Beyond Space bears more than a passing resemblance to Alien — and to the 1950s film that inspired it:   X:  The Terror From Beyond Space.  The crew of a ship traveling to a distant star finds themselves awakened early by the distress signal they received from a rogue planet in deep space.  They’ve recovered an alien corpse from the wreckage they found on the planet, but unfortunately, he isn’t quite dead enough!

The Wall People is more Twilight Zone-ish, with a scientist trying desperately to recover his lost son whom he believes was taken through a portal in his bedroom wall to Pluto.

Both films are quite impressive, considering their very minimal nature (note the credit at the end listing how many rolls of duct tape were used for each film!).  Mihm makes these films on budgets that probably wouldn’t pay for a day’s catering in Hollywood, with an enthusiastic, if not always polished, team of volunteer actors, borrowed locations, and homemade props.  We get paranoia, suspense and mystery as the space crew in X: The Fiend From Beyond Space tries stop a shape shifting alien predator, while The Wall People gives us stop motion monsters, apparent jumps in time, and a control panel which is shaped like the classic Fifties Vegas “Free form” (and somehow suggests Dr. Seuss’ The Five-Thousand Fingers of Dr. T).

My favorite moment (besides the warning almost given to the audience during admission) is a marvelously cynical comment in the second feature, when a pair of scientists studying the portal machine note that it uses lead as a catalyst for forming the gateway — and that the alien from Pluto must use walls for his child-snatching because of the lead in the paint.  Ah, but how can we get people to get rid of their lead paint, one scientist wonders.  Maybe if we convince them it’s a health hazard, the other suggests, that always works…

The Mihmiverse is always an interesting place to visit, and Chris’s films are all worth a look, particularly for those who love old SF and horror films.  As I’ve noted before, he is one of the few directors of these sorts of minimal films who respects the movies he’s ripping off.  This love letter to the Drive-In double features of the past is one of his best films, and even offers one of his most horrible monsters ever (even if this time Michael Kaiser isn’t playing it!).

So grab some popcorn (and a few spare rolls of duct tape) and enjoy.

…If you got rid of the lead paint on your walls.

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