Monday, June 13, 2016

Mummy Madness

I’ve never been the biggest fan of mummies in horror cinema. While the subject has great potential, I’ve just never found the representation onscreen to be all that interesting and more importantly, far from scary. The glorious ridiculousness of 7 Mummies aside, it just ain’t my monster.

Naturally, I’ll keep testing that theory.

Quick Plot: In 1948, an archaeology team led by the one and only (in so many ways) Christopher Lee has just uncovered a long-lost tomb on an Egyptian expedition. Before you can give Brendan Fraser a haircut, the team falls victim to some kind of toxic wind gas that causes terribly rendered late ‘90s CGI to turn their bodies into ash or, in a more fun manner, turn parts to ash and therefore lead to a moment where Sir Christopher Lee’s torso separates from his upper half and he continues to crawl.

Fifty years later, Lee’s granddaughter, Sam Turkel, has rediscovered the dreaded cave with her own team. Among them are the always welcome Sean Pertwee as somewhat psychic named Bradley, the more money-minded Claire, and Sam’s fiancee vaguely recognizable under a spacesuit as Gerard blink-and-you’ll-miss-him Butler. Don’t blink, because he dies in a rather stupid way pretty quickly.

The cave is once again sealed, but not before a sarcophagus with some tell-tale gauze inside is found and sent to be displayed in a museum. It doesn’t take long for said artifact that I don’t feel like misspelling again emits a powerful screech, swiping key organs from a few bystanders. 

Enter no-nonsense Detective Riley (Jason Scott Lee) and his surly partner (played by Smash’s Jack Davenport, and yes I know he was also in 9000 Pirates of the Caribbean movies, but his legacy is and will always be the fascinating mess that was NBC’s two-season Smash). When a few more mysterious murders start to emerge with the same pattern, Riley suspects the now insane Bradley. 

Of course, things are never quite what they seem when an ancient Egyptian tomb is in play. Bradley gives us the scoop on Talos, the evil prince who ruled with a fury centuries earlier. Before he could be assassinated, Talos had his wife and followers eat his organs to help preserve his spirit (apparently, that’s a thing). Now that his mummy wrap has been unearthed, it’s only a matter of time until he collects enough innards to be reincarnated. 

Thusly do we get plenty of attacks via animated gauze. Pity poor writer/director Russell Mulcahy (the father of Highlander) could clearly only do so much with the cheap CGI materials afforded by his era and budget. Most of the effects--and therefore scares--are laughably digitalized to the point of comedy. At the same time, Tale of the Mummy itself isn’t terrible. The movie’s never boring, and some of the ideas behind the creature designs are quite neat. I suppose if you think of it as an early Asylum reaction to the Brendan Fraser flick, it’s more than satisfying.

High Points
One can’t argue with any cast that includes Sean Pertwee, Shelley Duvall, and the sorely missed Christopher Lee

Sorry, but I can’t not talk about one of the greatest twist endings to ever happen in a mediocre mummy movie. Turns out, out stoic male cop hero is actually an ancient Egyptian princess reincarnated in order to eventually host the evil spirit of his/her former lover. I mean, come on: that’s neat

Low Points
Seriously, is there an excuse?

Lessons Learned
Be careful: friendly stray dogs just might be evil mummy incarnates

An automobile provides no protection against real or CGI gauze

Drinking Fosters in a gay club will make you incredibly desirable to evil mummies

I watched Tales of the Mummy via Netflix, but it looks like it’s since expired. The shame is that a free stream is definitely the best (maybe only) way to catch this one. This is far from a good and even farther from a scary film, but it’s paced well and has enough wackiness to make for an enjoyable 90 minutes. 

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