Review: Moontrap (1989)

For 14,000 years... It waited.

For Fourteen Thousand Years… It Waited.

MOONTRAP (1989)
Rated R / Color / 96 minutes
Directed by Robert Dyke
Also Known As: Péril sur la lune
Purchase this film: Amazon.com (DVD) | Amazon.com (Blu-ray)
Guest review contributed by Ryan Brewer.

Well boys and girls MOONTRAP is back! I saw this movie when I was a kid back in 1989, when my parents rented it from the local mom-and-pop video store in Ashburn, Georgia. This was the first Bruce Campbell movie that I ever saw, years before I saw him battle a legion of skeletal warriors in ARMY OF DARKNESS.

MOONTRAP opens during the original moon landing in 1969, as a robotic periscope watches the astronauts head back to Earth. The film then skips ahead about twenty years later where Col. Jason Grant (Walter Koenig) and Ray Tanner (Bruce Campbell) are on a routine space mission, when their sensors suddenly pick up a derelict spaceship floating in Earth’s orbit.

Col. Grant leaves the space shuttle in order to investigate the ship before it breaks apart when entering Earth’s atmosphere. From a tear in the hull of the alien vessel, he retrieves a desiccated corpse and an unidentified reddish-brown pod. NASA begins to investigate Grant’s two discoveries upon their return. Carbon dating shows that the corpse is 14,000 years old, and the scientists find that they are unable to open the egg-like device.

moontrap 01

“Umm… I’m fourteen thousand years YOUNG, thank you very much!”

Jason and Ray try and use these newfound discoveries to push for another moon mission to investigate the origin of their strange find. While they are off trying to convince a pencil-neck bureaucrat to send them to the moon, the mysterious pod comes to life. A small robot emerges from the shell and begins accessing NASA’s computers. This is where we find out that the origin of the spaceship was the Prometheus crater on the moon.

The robot immediately begins assimilating the robotic arms of the containment room, and when we eventually see the culmination of the Robopod’s handiwork, it is quite impressive. Soon a ten foot tall mechanical terror is on the loose, and it easily tears up a NASA SWAT team. The robot also sports a set of human ribs on his front side, showing that this thing integrates human body parts with machinery.

As expected, a scientist makes the obligatory attempt to make contact with the bio-mechanical menace, but gets blasted in the arm by a bolt of electricity for all his trouble. Jason and Ray jump in to action: While Ray keeps the robot’s attention with a hail of bullets, Grant climbs into a ventilation shaft and gets the drop on it. He finishes the rampaging robot off with a shotgun blast to its head.

Immediately a mission to the moon is approved by the President of the United States, and our heroes are soon back on the lunar surface trying to find the point of origin of the evil robots. During their adventures, they learn that there was already a human race living on the moon centuries ago. Apparently their technological advancements were their undoing, with the creation of the Kaalium. It turns out the Kaalium want to get to the Earth, and Ray and Jason’s lunar lander is their ticket off the moon!

moontrap 02

The Kaalium want to come to Earth because we’re so famous for our ribs.

I don’t want to give away anything else about the movie, so I’ll stop here. I definitely recommend MOONTRAP to fans of sci-fi movies and killer robot flicks. One interesting theme in the movie, which I’m not entirely sure the filmmakers intended, is man’s disinterest with space exploration.

It was believed that one day in the near future, humanity was going to live on the moon and have space colonies. But by the late 1980s, space travel was used for nothing more than satellite maintenance with no aspirations for exploration. It’s kind of sad. I almost wish that an alien robotic race would come down here and make people shoot for the stars again.

For a low-budget film, MOONTRAP has some excellent set pieces and matte shots. The moonscape looks fantastic in this movie. The filmmakers actually used dry concrete mix for the lunar surface dust and it works beautifully. The alien ship designs are pretty cool, as are the robots with their bio-mechanical bodies. I like the fact that they can be destroyed with normal weaponry, and aren’t nearly indestructible like the T-800 cyborg from THE TERMINATOR.

Olive Films presents the movie in its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The transfer is at bit grainy and the image is soft throughout much of the film. It appears to have been shot on cheap film stock, similar to what James Cameron used on a lot of his earlier work. However, the picture quality didn’t detract too much from my enjoyment of the film.

The Blu-ray also features interviews with stars Bruce Campbell and Walter Koenig, and an all new audio commentary with director Robert Dyke, and the film’s screenwriter Tex Ragsdale. It’s a good, thorough commentary with guys who talk about the movie like they had just made it yesterday. I recommend this film, and this disc, so check it out, and “don’t take no shit from a machine!”

I hereby give this “lost” Bruce Campbell classic a score of…

Additionally, if after watching this movie you find that you enjoy it, I would also suggest 1999’s VIRUS, which stars Jamie Lee Curtis and features a similar robotic threat. You can watch the trailer for it HERE.