Wednesday, February 25, 2015

MOONTRAP (1989) (Olive Films Blu-ray Review)

MOONTRAP (1989) 
Label: Olive Films
Region Code: A
Rated: R
Duration: 92 Minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio Mono 
Video: 1080p Widescreen (1.78:1)
Director: Robert Dyke

Cast: Walter Koenig, Leigh Lombardi, Bruce Campbell
Tagline: For Fourteen Thousand Years... It Waited

A 1980s cult-movie phenomenon, Moontrap stars Bruce Campbell (The Evil Dead) and Walter Koenig (Star Trek‘s original Chekov) as astronauts sent to the moon to investigate evidence of what appears to be signs of human life. They reanimate the body of a woman (Leigh Lombardi), who warns them that the moon is under the control of a race of alien cyborgs, which have been awaiting the opportunity to stage their invasion of Earth. The humans realize that desperate measures must be taken to halt the cyborgs’ departure from the moon — even if it ends in their own destruction.

MOONTRAP (1989) begins as you might expect - in outer space - with Mission commander Colonel Jason Grant (Walter Koenig, STAR TREK) and his co-pilot Ray Tanner (Bruce Campbell, EVIL DEAD) orbiting the Moon. Out there they encounter a derelict alien space craft orbiting the Earth. Grant slips into his space suit and boards the vessel where he finds the mummified remains of a humanoid alien and a strange red pod, both of which they bring return to their ship and to Earth for further examination. If you even have a cursory knowledge of these types of films you know that this is a bad idea, and nothing good can happen because of it. 

Back on Earth NASA carbon dates the corpse and figure that it is about fourteen thousand years old. It does not take long for things to turn South quickly when the pod turns out to be some sort of cybernetic weapon which creates a deadly cyborg using the mummified body and lab equipment. After a brief but fun assault the mechanized menace is stopped when it's head is blown off.  Afterward NASA deduces that the cybernetic menace is based on the moon send Grant and Tanner back to the Lunar surface to seek and destroy the enemy. Once on the moon they find a humanoid survivor at a moonbase, of course it's an attractive woman in a cryogenic chamber. Opening the chamber they awaken the woman, her name is Mera (Leigh Lombardi), She doesn't speak English but does at lest give a name to the mechanized baddies, the Kaalium. The Kaalium are planning to launch an invasion force to Earth and it's up to our trio to stop the cybernetic threat.

There are moon crater sized gaps in logic to contend with this one but I didn't find it too hard to enjoy for the goofy science fiction film that it is. The filmmakers are definitely fans of '50s sci-fi films and that seems to be the somewhat hokey direction they were aiming for with MOONTRAP and are largely successful. 

On the moon we get some great old school matte shots of the lunar landscape as the astronauts traverse the moon's surface riding around on an authentic looking lunar vehicle which was pretty cool. While there may be plenty of b-movie cheese peppered throughout the film I was pleased with how cool the lunar surface appeared, though that ever present blue tint does get annoying after awhile.  

Colonel Grant is played by none other than Walter Koenig, who played Russian navigator Ensign Chekov on the original Star Trek series. The guy must have jumped at the chance to finally be the captain of his own damn space ship after 25 years of saying "warp factor three, Captain". Unfortunately he has absolutely zero charm, so we should be thankful to have Bruce Campbell as the second in command, a man never short of charisma and wit, his character having what turns out to be the most memorable line of the movie "We don't take no shit from machines!".

The influence of Tobe Hooper's space vampire epic LIFEFORCE is felt heavily at the beginning of the film, when the astronauts happen up a derelict ship in space is a straight-up lift... I mean homage. But it would seem that this movie has had some minor influence of it's own on cinema. the idea of cybernetic menace is something we would see again with the movies VIRUS (1999) and SCREAMERS (1995). I can certainly appreciate are the use of practical special effects work used to create the cyborg menace, at times they can be a bit on the ropey side but are way more enjoyable than the shitty digital stuff you see on the Syfy Channel these days. 

MOONTRAP seems to be going for a retro science fiction aesthetic and conjures memories of craptacular monster movie matinees from the '50s, it's corny stuff, with one dimensional characters but with the addition of a very solid performance from Bruce Campbell and some awesome b-movie special effects... and some much appreciated nudity. 


MOONTRAP was remastered in HD by Olive Films specifically for this release, as a result we can now see this cult classic presented in the proper widescreen aspect ratio, which is awesome, unfortunately the image that's been digitally manipulated and scrubbed of clean of film grain, what's left of the image is plasticine and devoid of fine detail. Facial features are waxy and undefined as are clothing and landscape textures. Color saturation is decent, the rampant blues pop nicely, but the shadow detail is murky at best. Not the crisp HD image you have come to expect from Blu-ray, a very flat and undefined image. 

The DTS-HD Master Audio Mono is unremarkable and anemic -  the sound design just feels off, though I have little doubt that has everything to do with it's modest budget and audio original source elements. No subtitles are provided. 

- Interview with Bruce Campbell (21 Mins)
- Interview with Walter Koenig (33 Mins)
- Audio Commentary with director Robert Dyke and Screenwriter Tex Ragdsadle

Onto the extras we have several interviews and a commentary that appear to have been recorded in 2014. We begin with a pretty great audio commentary with director Robert Dyke and Screenwriter Tex Ragdsadle who offer up a tn of fun anecdotes about making the film and working with the cast. They go into some detail about how certain effects were achieved using miniatures and puppets, using cement mix to simulate moon dust and are very honest about their ambitious but low-budget endeavor, often filling in the blanks that don't quite come across through the film. 

The interviews with Bruce Campbell and Walter Koenig total about 52 minutes total and cover some good stuff with Bruce offering some fun behind-the-scene anecdotes and speaking of his enjoyment making independent films, working with Koenig and his own fandom for the Star Trek series. Walter Koenig speaks about coming onto the film, his career and the love scene with Leigh Lombardi, plus working with director Robert Dyke and his own adolescent fantasies of being chained to a wall by a gorgeous woman, who knew!


MOONTRAP is an ambitious b-movie production that falls way short but manages to keep it fun and fast-paced with a blend of practical effects and goofy sci-fi action. A Blu-ray was long overdue for this title, I just wish it were a more satisfying transfer. If you can get past the poor AV presentation the bonus content is decent and movie is entertaining, cult-cinema fans and sci-fi schlock fans will definitely want to pick this up.