TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: MOONTRAP (1989)

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MOONTRAP (1989)

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Low budget but, ambitious 80s Sci-Fi flick opens in 1969 with the first moon landing, where we find Armstrong and co. were being watched by some sort of robotic being. Twenty years later, space shuttle pilots Colonel Jason Grant (Star Trek’s Walter Koenig) and Commander Ray Tanner (Bruce Campbell) encounter a massive space ship whose orbit is decaying and is soon to burn up in Earth’s atmosphere. Grant does a quick space walk to investigate and returns to earth with a strange pod and what appears to be a human corpse. The ship’s trajectory has it and it’s apparently ancient occupant, coming from Earth’s moon. To the horror of the NASA personal, the pod opens and the machine-like creature inside uses the surrounding mechanical devices to build an exoskeleton and go on a destructive rampage. Now the government wants Grant and Tanner to revisit the moon and find out what these creatures are and who are it’s ancient humanoid victims. The astronauts arrive on Earth’s satellite and not only discover a humanoid woman in suspended animation but, a nightmare beyond imagination that put’s them in a battle for the very Earth itself.

Moontrap is a pretty entertaining movie despite some flaws. As directed by Robert Dyke, from Tex Ragsdale’s script, the pace may be a little slow but, there is some nice action and Dyke takes the material serious enough to give it the respect it deserves. I give a lot of credit to the filmmakers for attempting a more serious Sci-Fi adventure in the post Star Wars era and they mix the action with the more dramatic elements well. There is some intensity to the scenes of alien attacks and the film is fun, despite it’s serious approach and it helps us get past some clunky dialogue, some definite plot holes and the fact that leading man Koenig isn’t quite our idea of a hard-nosed, tough guy astronaut. The SPFX are very well done on a modest budget and the extensive and well-executed model work and matte paintings really help sell the idea of mechanized aliens and hidden moon bases. The filmmakers also don’t try to shoot for more than they can afford and this helps the film from getting cheesy as it keeps it’s scope manageable. It’s simply an entertaining little movie with some nice atmosphere and even a little old fashioned charm, as it has a bit of an old 50s Sci-Fi film vibe to it, with it’s hot-shot pilots vs. alien invaders story. Evil Dead fans may also want to take note that not only do we have Bruce Campbell but, the score is done by Evil Dead composer Joe LoDuca as well.

The cast are fine. As stated, Walter Koenig wouldn’t be the first actor we’d think of to play a tough-as-nails astronaut but, he tries really hard. He delivers some very corny and clunky dialogue with a straight face and we do accept him in the role even if we don’t totally buy him getting laid with the buxom space vixen, Mera (Leigh Lombardi). Campbell is right at home playing the wise-cracking sidekick. He is charming and fun and we like his Ray Tanner a lot but…it’s Bruce Campbell, how could we not? Leigh Lombardi is mysterious and sexy as Mera, a woman found in the ancient moon base and as her character’s English is limited, she doesn’t have too much dialog so, mysterious and sexy will have to do. The supporting cast are much weaker in the acting department but, it sort of goes along with that 1950s style movie charm.

I like this movie a lot. Sure it’s a bit corny and it’s leading man casting was done more for having a marquee genre name than a perfect fit but, the film has a lot of charm and it’s heart is in the right place. The filmmakers did a good job putting together it’s alien invasion story on a limited budget and knew their boundaries which helps us get past it’s flaws and enjoy it. We also finally get to see Chekov nail a space babe and not even Star Trek can make that claim…at least not that I remember.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 moons.

moontrap rating

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: NIGHTFLYERS (1987)

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NIGHTFLYERS (1987)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Despite some outward pretensions and artsy direction, this 80s sci-fi/thriller is basically an old fashioned haunted house flick wrapped in Star Trek-ish sets and 80s style hairdos. The story, based on a novella by George R.R. Martin, tells of an eclectic group of explorers brought together to search for a mythological sentient being said to be traveling through space on an eternal voyage. The team commission the space freighter Nightflyer to take them to a point where they believe they can rendezvous with this being. The ship’s captain, Royd (Michael Praed) appears only by hologram and is a trans-sex clone of the ship’s former captain who he refers to as his ‘mother’. When Royd, whose lived on the ship all his life, falls for hot mission coordinator Miranda Dorlac (Catherine Mary Stewart) he decides he wants to leave the Nightflyer and that infuriates dear old ‘mom’ whose consciousness runs the ship’s computer. Now the vengeful spirit decides to eliminate the bad influence upon her ship by possession, accident and any means necessary to keep Royd with her.

Despite being a very mixed bag, I kinda like Nightflyers. It has a lot of flaws, but there is a lot to like, too, especially all the 80s nostalgia and familiar faces. On the downside, the film does start out with an interesting sci-fi premise, which it totally jettisons for a routine ‘smothering deceased mother’ haunted house story. Director Robert Collector helms Robert Jaffe’s screenplay with a serious and sometimes arty hand which is fine for starters, but makes it all the more obvious when the film starts to get silly. The very dire tone is betrayed when the film delves into character possession, jabbering headless corpses and the notion that mom is jealous over a son who is also her transgendered clone. Though, it adds to the fun that the cast recites some ridiculous dialog with completely straight faces. On the positive side the film is a bit different and since it came out at a more superfluous time in 80s filmmaking, I give them credit for trying to do something on a more serious sci-fi level. All the more curious as to why they let it degenerate into such a goofy ghost story in it’s second act. There is some nice model work from Fantasy II…who did the FX for The Terminator…the abundant model work may seem quaint by today’s CGI heavy standards, but I find it very charming. This is some surprising gore throughout the film, too and there are a lot of 80s familiar faces like Stewart, Praed, Lisa (Prince Of Darkness) Blount and Michael Des Barres as the team’s psychic. While the rest of the cast play things very poker-faced, Des Barres gives his Jon Winderman some delightfully refreshing over-the-top. Glad someone got the tone of the material.

Overall, I like this flick, but it could have been a lot better in two ways. Either stick to it’s more serious premise of the quest to find space entities and do something along the lines of a low budget 2001: A Space Odyssey, or recognize that it’s a story about a spaceship haunted by the spirit of a jealous dead mother and run with it. Nightflyers wants it both ways and it doesn’t quite work. Despite it’s flaws though, some heavy 80s nostalgia comes to save the day and there is still plenty to like, despite how goofball things get in it’s second half. The film was a bomb back in 1987 and is a bit hard to find these days, but still deserves a decent blu-ray release at some point. A curiosity worth looking at and not without it’s intentional, and unintentional, entertainment value.

3 delightfully 80s hairdos.

nightflyers rating

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