S: The Screen at Kamchanod (2007)

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Throwing out a wider net for this Hubrisween, reaching out past my usual comfort zones of American and British horror, I found some lovely gems and, predictably, some mediocrity. At least I have to say in the case of the latter they were at least trying, and with The Screen at Kamchanod, succeeding enough that I wish the filmmakers had the resources to reach just a little further.

Then again, we have to realize my opinion can be regarded as more than a little suspect. I’m a fat white nerd in Texas sitting in judgement of a movie made in Thailand.

But let’s talk about that movie for a while.

First, as is mandatory, we are assured that this is based on a true story. Twenty years before, in the forest of Kamchanod, an outdoor cinema company was hired to screen a movie. At first, there was no one at the screening but the projectionists. Then, a group of figures suddenly appeared, staring at the screen. The movie ended, and these figures vanished into thin air, leaving behind a couple of very frightened projectionists.

(Outdoor movies are a going thing in Thailand; also the Kamchanod forest is on a small island cut off by waterways, and is the scene of many famous Thai ghost stories)

The young Dr. Yut (Achita Pramoj Na Ayudhya) is fascinated by this story, and along with the journalists Ji (Ongart Cheamcharoenpornkul) and Pun (Pimonwan Honnthongkum) is avidly researching it with an eye toward recreating the event, proving or disproving it. Dragged along

Don’t do it, Ji.

for the ride are Yut’s girlfriend Aon (Pakkaramai Potranan) and dissolute street kid Roj (Namo Tongkumnerd). Roj is the errand boy for the document restoration specialist Yut employs, and the doctor keeps him around mainly because the kid knows how to pick locks, which is handy when you’re doing Scooby-Doo ghost investigations (Shaggy does look like he’s picked a lock or two in his time).

Of the two original projectionists, one is a basket case in a hospital ward, an amulet to ward off ghosts bandaged in his eternally clutched fist. He can answer no questions, but gets violent if you try to remove the amulet. The investigation leads to an abandoned cinema where both men worked, which is also where the other projectionist died – reportedly killed by ghosts when he tried to burn the film that was shown at Kamchanod. Yut actually finds the film (which mysteriously resisted burning) and has the brilliant idea that they should watch it immediately.

This is a bad idea. But you knew that, right?

This is one of the most effective scenes in Screen, as our five investigators sit in an empty auditorium, watching the film as things begin to make themselves known in the darkness around them. Watching this in a theater was probably an unnerving experience. William Castle would have had a field day with it.

Everybody wakes up the next day with no real memory of how they left the theater, and things literally start to go to hell from there. Ghostly figures begin appearing to each, and they just get freakier as they approach the anniversary of the screening. Aon makes the observation that they are seeing fewer and fewer real people and more and more ghosts, and indeed, every time we see them travelling, the roads are absolutely empty.

The onslaught of the paranormal brings out the darkness in each of their characters, and this is just one of the ways Screen screws with the viewer: our sympathies are built on foundations of sand, and we eventually discover terrible things about them. Clues that puzzled at the very beginning bear awful fruit, and Yut’s obsession with recreating the screening, at the same site on the same day with the same film, will prove to be destructive indeed.

Specifically, this book.

The Screen at Kamchanod tells its story creatively, and its main drawback is that if you have seen any Asian movie about hauntings, you’ve seen most of the shocks unveiled here in one way or another. That doesn’t make them any less unsettling in presentation, and there are times the movie is visually stunning; this is the point at which my cultural shortcomings come into play. How much of this was fresh to the Thai audience, and how much played like the proverbial spring-loaded cat in American horror movies? The effect to me is that the movie plays like a supernatural mystery at both ends while the middle is interrupted by an anthology of spooky stories like the ones I devoured as a kid. And that’s okay. I loved those books.

Here’s a trailer with poor subtitles:

R: [REC]2 (2009)

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Hello again to Spain, the MVP in this year’s Hubrisween challenge! ¡Ustedes molan!

I reviewed [REC] back in 2012] , and I have no idea why I took five years to get around to its sequel, because I loved it. It did everything right for a found footage movie, and at barely 80 minutes, it didn’t have time to get bogged down. Small wonder that directors Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza went back to that well, and amazing that they did it so well.

We’re still on the same night as the first movie, and a four man Special Forces squad (Óscar Zafra, Ariel Casa and Alejandro Casaseca) is gearing up to go inside the sealed apartment building. They are joined by Dr. Owen (Jonathan Mellor) from the Ministry of Health, who has a very special mission: he has to get to the top floor to obtain a blood sample he somehow knows is there, a blood sample that will enable the formulation of an antidote to the mysterious plague that is turning people into violent zombies. It’s up to the squad to get him there and out.

And we all know it is just not going to be that simple.

Balagueró and Plaza open up the scenes nicely; all the troops have networked helmet cameras feeding into the main camera held by one of the troops, Rosso (Pablo Rosso, who was the cameraman in the first movie, for all you Easter Egg fans). There was a suspicion in the first installment that the plague was supernatural in origin, which is borne out this time, especially when Owen seals a zombie in a room with a crucifix and reveals a priest’s collar under his jacket. Patient Zero, we are told, was a girl the Vatican verified as possessed, and a secret lab was established in the building to find a scientific basis and cure for demonic possession.  A journal in the penthouse mentioning mosquitoes points the way to what went wrong with that plan. It’s her blood Owen needs to find.

All of this is pretty straightforward and suitably intense, with the result that the story has pretty much run its course 40 minutes in. Perhaps there was some criticism over the brevity of the first movie, because the squad’s camera is damaged at that point, and we pick back up with three bored teenagers (Andrea Ros, Alex Battalori, and Pau Poch), briefly seen by the squad in the building when all hell started breaking loose. They had been videotaping a failed prank on the roof across the street before being evacuated by the cops earlier in the evening. They follow a desperate tenant from the building and a fireman (looking for his friends from the first movie) who go through the sewers into the building by a basement access. Their camera takes up the story until they finally intersect with the squad – trouble is, their battery is dying, and it’s remarkable how tense that flashing red icon makes me. Then again, I’m a videographer in my day job.

At this point a surprising survivor from the first movie pops up, and their TV camera takes a licking and keeps on ticking, which is fortunate, because if you thought things had gone to hell before, well, you likely aren’t ready for the third act, with a trip back to the top floor and the return of the night vision camera.

The intrusion of the three teens is really annoying at first, but necessary, since the story’s intensity at this point has winnowed down the cast of characters and some more fodder was needed. I don’t see much way to speed that portion of the movie up, but there’s no denying that going back into setup mode puts the brakes on the movie’s momentum.

No matter. Still fun, still a great ride.

Q: Quatermass and the Pit (1967)

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Like a lot of Americans, I was introduced to this movie as Five Million Years to Earth, because Warner Brothers/Seven Arts didn’t want to face a bunch of palookas moaning wut the hail is a quartermess? Probably wise, but said palookas were likely still not ready for one of the best science-fiction horror movies of all time.

A bunch of workers on a London subway extension uncover some skulls buried in the clay, and as is the law, all work must stop as anthropologist Dr. Roney (James Donald) and his assistant Barbara (Barbara Shelley) begin excavating the remarkable find – Roney estimates the age of the skulls at five million years, possibly the oldest ancestor of man yet. Then a sort of metallic wall is unearthed, and there is a very real possibility that they’ve found an unexploded bomb from the Blitz.

Meanwhile, our old pal Professor Quatermass (Andrew Keir, this time) is receiving the bad news that his British Rocket Group is being co-opted by the military, in the person of Colonel Breen (Julian Glover). On their way back to Rocket Group, the Colonel is called upon to advise about this thing in the clay (which is a very clever way to get Quatermass involved, I must say).

As the soldiers uncover more of the object, it becomes plain that it is something novel; the magnetic stethoscopes of the bomb specialist will not stick, so it isn’t steel. Blowtorches have no effect. And in one recess, a completely intact skull is found, which means the object has been down there as long as the skulls – five million years.

Under Barbara’s insistence, Quatermass begins to piece together the odd history of that part of London, named Hob’s End – Hob, of course, being another name for the devil. It is infamous for sightings of strange, goblin-like creatures and visitations of Old Scratch. When the entire object is uncovered, it is obvious that it is not, as Colonel Breen insists, some sort of Nazi Propaganda weapon, but a spacecraft. Especially when a sealed chamber of the craft opens to reveal four dead insectoid creatures, preserved in some sort of unnatural ice, and now decaying rapidly.

The upshot is the creatures are probably Martians, and faced with the death of their planet five million years before, began experimenting on the apes of Earth to create a lifeform that would carry on their way of life. Fortunately, we evolved past the hivemind state the Martians wanted, but buried racial memories translated the insects into horned demons. A further problem is that spacecraft is actually alive, and is waking up and reinforcing the hivemind – which insists that any living being not a part of the hivemind must be destroyed.

Nigel Kneale wrote some of the most thoughtful science fiction/horror stories for the BBC back in the day, and I think most acknowledge Quatermass and the Pit as his masterpiece. It’s hard to explain what a thunderbolt this movie was, with its effortless blending of the two genres, because so much of it has been co-opted in the following years. The most blatant – and loving – example is John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness, which he wrote under the nom de plume Martin Quatermass. To that you can add the magnificent mess that is Tobe Hooper’s Lifeforce (whose source novel was far more Lovecraftian)

Kneale was the most satisfied with this film of his work (and rightfully so), and Andrew Keir – since this was my first Quatermass movie, Andrew Keir was Quatermass, as far as I was concerned. Imagine my surprise when I finally caught up with the first two movies, The Quatermass Xperiment and Quatermass 2 (or, thanks to the palookas, The Creeping Unknown and Enemy from Space) and got Brian Donlevy. Donlevy was cast to sell the movies in America, and Kneale hated him. A brusque and domineering version of the character, I cannot imagine Donlevy in this movie. When the Minister tells Quatermass that the object is now exclusively under the command of Colonel Breen, Donlevy would have thrown his badge at him and resigned from the force.

I used to have the original BBC serial on a double VHS set from Sinister Cinema, with Andre Morell playing Quatermass. I really like Morell, but for some reason he turned down the film version. And as I said earlier, I love Keir in the role.

If you’ve not yet seen Quatermass and the Pit (or Five Million Years to Earth, you palooka), you owe it to yourself to remedy that. Highest possible recommendation.

Every halfway-reasonably priced disc for Quatermass and the Pit is only playable on Region 2/B players. But if you have three and half hours, here’s that original TV serial:

 

P: Panic Beats (1983)

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No, no, no, I just TOLD you it wasn’t THAT Alaric de Marnac!

Well, here it is. The third of four Paul Naschy movies I managed to schedule this year. The last two, in case you’re joining us late, were Exorcismo and The Valdemar Legacy/La Herencia Valdemar. It was my intent to spread my nets wider for movies this year, and this was the unintended result, aided by the fact that I hadn’t watched many of his movies, I’m sure.

Anyway, let’s just get this out of the way: SPOILER ALERTS FOR A 35 YEAR-OLD MOVIE. I’ll try not to give everything away, but then, up to a point, Panic Beats is pretty predictable. (Also, if you’re a Mondo Macabro fan, their disc-opening promo has already shown you most of the money shots)

We start with that Paul Naschy standard, an opening scene with murder and a naked woman. She’s running bloody through some woods, pursued by a mounted man in a full suit of armor. This is the infamous Alaric de Marnac, last seen in Horror Rises From the Tomb, tracking down and killing his unfaithful wife. Okay, so it’s not really that Alaric de Marnac, but it’s still Paul Naschy.

Yep, that’s Paris, all right.

After credits, cut to present day Paris, where Paul Marnac (still Naschy) is told he has to take his rich wife Genevieve (Julia Saly) away from the hectic life of a Paris socialite, or her heart condition will kill her. Marnac will take her to his remote ancestral home to recuperate, along the way running into bandits (so we’re still having Horror Rises From the Tomb flashbacks), the fright of which nearly kills Genevieve on the spot.

At the house she meets Mabile (Lola Gaos), the housekeeper who has been there forever, and her young thug niece Julie (Frances Ondivela), whom Mabile is trying to reform. Mabile is the receptacle of all the folklore associated with the Marnac family, especially the guy who opened the movie and whose sardonic portrait graces the wall: Good old Alaric, who in this version was not beheaded, but did turn to Satanism and got burned down with his castle. This house was built on its ashes. Supposedly Alaric comes back every hundred years or so to clean house again. This tale gives Julie nightmares because we really needed something interesting to happen at this point.

Slight digression: I’m still not sure if it was wise or not for the movie to name-check Rebecca.

Genevieve slowly regains her strength over the next month. Julie rather sadistically tells her the story of Alaric, and then things go downhill again. Nightmares, snakes and figures in armor appearing mysteriously in the night. Dinner plates covered with blood and eyeballs. Stuff like that.

Now, it’s going to be obvious to anyone that it’s all a plot to literally scare Genevieve to death. The only question is who, and since there are only two possible suspects, the mystery is not all that engaging. Remember the fright shows with a similar intent in The Tingler? Those were studied models of speed and efficiency compared to the ones in Panic Beats. It is tempting to brand it Milk That Scene: The Movie. I did a lot of time-remaining checking.

Then Genevieve’s heart finally cashes in, the mystery, such as it is, is solved… and there’s still a half hour of movie?!?

At this point Panic Beats  actually managed to engage my interests, as plots and counter-plots emerge, more people have to be killed, and a mysterious figure from Julie’s past emerges, though we’re not allowed to see his face. It does get complicated to a point where we’re not really sure what is real and what is not, and that is generally a type of movie I enjoy.

I was once told that you had to endure the first hour and fifteen minutes of Evilspeak, the Clint Howard shower scenes and puppy killing, just to get to the cool ending. I guess the same criteria holds for Panic Beats, except that first hour wasn’t all that terrible. The best part is Lola Gaos as the housekeeper, really. She can really turn on the scary when she needs to.

Hm. I see Amazon has one DVD available for seventy bucks. Here… Happy Hubrisween!

 

O: Onmyoji: The Yin Yang Master (2001)

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220px-onmyoji-2001-film-posterOne of the best things about casting the nets wider for this year’s Hubrisween offerings is finding that occasional gem you had no idea existed and being dazzled and deeply satisfied by it. And such a gem is Onmyoji.

An onmyoji is a practitioner of onmyodo, “a traditional Japanese esoteric cosmology, a mixture of natural science and occultism” according to Wikipedia. The article goes on to point out that in the Heian period (roughly 794-1185), the onmyoji had real political clout.

The movie begins in a fairly enigmatic fashion, with a ritual sealing of Shogun’s Mound, a tomb to trap the wrathful spirit of the wrongly persecuted Prince Sawara; he had cursed the former capitol city, so the new capitol – which will come to be known as Kyoto – is built over the tomb.

150 years later, the city has grown, and is quite prosperous under its current Mikado. The leader of the Court Onmyoji, Doson (Hiroyuki Sanada) is craftily playing the powerful Minister of the Left against the Minister of the Right to cause chaos in the palace, to what end, we shall just have to let the plot develop and see.

We are introduced to our actual title character, Abe no Seimei (Mansai Nomura), an extremely powerful magician. One of the more venal lords demands he prove his power by killing a butterfly without touching it; when a leaf blown by Seimei slices the butterfly in half, the lord flees in terror. Also witnessing this is Hiromasa (Hideaki Itô), a minor lord who is further discomfited when the master of his house sends him to Seimei to beg him to investigate supernatural goings-on.

vlcsnap-2017-01-04-13h02m47s51Hiromasa protested when the lord demanded Seimei kill the butterfly, and he is honestly delighted to find that the death was an illusion, and in fact the pretty girl who greeted him at Seimei’s gate is the butterfly in human form (Eriko Imai). These two things cause the normally cool Seimei to warm toward Hiromasa, and they are going to become close companions in the course of the story.

The Japan of this period, we are told, is a time when demons walk the land, and it is the onmyoji who protect mankind from them and their curses. Doson’s power games in the palace are going to require Seimei’s intervention more than once, until the wizard’s master plan is revealed: unleashing the spirit of Prince Sawara, and binding it to himself for ultimate power.

"Oh my! You ARE sick!"

“Oh my! You ARE sick!”

I’m going to enjoy any movie involving magic that’s done well, and Onmyoji is certainly that; Abe no Seimei is a freaking 10th century Doctor Strange, and the revelations of his power are continually surprising and delightful. Hiromasa is a fine Dr. Watson character, providing someone to whom Seimei can explain things (and thereby explain them to us), and a humanizing counterbalance to Seimei’s otherworldly aloofness. In a reversal of one aspect of the Holmes/Watson dichotomy, Hiromasa is the musician of the two, and his masterful ability on the flute is pertinent to the story, as is his continually doomed love life (more on those in the sequel, which we’ll get to eventually).

The intriguing characters don’t stop with our heroes. There is the enigmatic Lady Aone (Kyôko Koizumi), apparently immortal. And Dosun’s familiar, possibly the most metal crow ever committed to film.

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“O soundless, invisible God of woe – may you reap all you have sown.”

Onmyoji is based on a series of novels by Baku Yumemakura, popular enough to be adapted to both manga and television. And after finding all this out, this gaijin was surprised to discover that Abe no Seimei is an actual, historical person. Was he truly a combination of Doctor Who and Harry Potter? We will never know, but it’s nice to think that he was.

As I said, I found this movie tremendously entertaining. I am alternately thrilled that there is a sequel and saddened that there is only one sequel. We will get to that one later. Like in ten letters later.

Buy Onmyoji on Amazon

N: Nightwish (1989)

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If a lifetime of watching horror movies teaches you anything, it’s that if a movie opens with a sequence that seems like a fully-contained and realized horror movie in itself, it is either going to be a) a dream, or b) somebody else making a movie with an impossibly complex series of continuing shots. Yes, I am still bitter about Frankenstein 1970.

In the case of Nightwish, it is the former, as a debutante leaves some sort of prom night party and finds first a single shoe, then a bloody sock, then a severed hand, then some ghoul eating a corpse. A chase scene ensues, ending with her being cornered outside a locked trailer and screaming.

Let’s get our exploitation out of the way right off the… top…

But, as mentioned, this is all the dream of Donna (Elizabeth Kaitan), who wakes up inside an isolation tank. This is all part of the graduate program under the slightly sinister Professor No Name (Jack Starrett), who is conducting experiments in “guided dreaming”, with the intent of his students experiencing their death in a dream to toughen them up for what they have to face. The trouble is, every one of them has awakened before that moment.

But never mind that, let’s have some credits and then get on with our movie, as the students drive toward their first field exercise. We have Donna, Kim (Alisha Das), Jack (Clayton Rohner) and Kim’s rather disagreeable boyfriend Dean (Brian Thompson). They’re headed through the desert to a mining magnate’s abandoned home, perched atop an equally abandoned mine in an area known for earthquakes, mutants, and UFOs. Already at the house with the Professor is Bill (Artur Cybulski), the last of our graduate troupe.

The house is also known to be haunted, and Satanists were frequent visitors. After an attempt at a high-tech seance à la The Legend of Hell House involving an ectoplasmic tentacle, things generally go to hell, as we find out the Professor is a genuinely mad scientist with a brutish and sadistic assistant (Robert Tessier, of course) intent on raising a demon from hell. On the other hand, all the weirdness seems to be alien invaders needing human bodies to host their larva. On the other other hand, all these may be hallucinations created by the tentacle-wielding “Entity” to increase paranoia and dissension among the students. On the other³ hand…

Oh, hell, SPOILER ALERT FOR A 30 YEAR OLD MOVIE. This is, as you figured out three minutes after the opening credits, Kim’s guided dream, and she actually manages to make it to her own death. In the isolation tank lab, everybody congratulates her on her fine work, but Kim isn’t sure she’s actually awakened. In a nicely Bava-esque closer, it seems that she hasn’t, and may not.

As a movie that tries very hard to be a nightmare put to film, Nightwish should be a lot more interesting. It tries to hit every horror setup you might be able to think of, from Texas Chainsaw Massacre torture dungeons to ghosts to Alien body horror, and yet somehow makes so much of that tedious. There are a lot of other mixmaster movies that don’t even achieve this level of competence – Spookies comes to mind – but more than once I had to hit the fast forward because okay, okay, I get it, move on. It’s to the movie’s credit that I didn’t do it more than twice.

The actors are a game lot, but the script does them no favors. Brian Thompson’s career was just starting to take off, and he manages to take the one note he’s given and turn it into at least an interesting rock riff. Robert Tessier could do the Menacing Hulk role in his sleep. All the others have varied careers, and it’s worth noting that none of them are one-movie johnnies, which is the case in most of these forgotten flicks. KNB (Robert Kurtzman, Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger, for all you non-Fango readers) handle the special effects, but don’t really get to strut their stuff until the last half-hour.

Information about the making of Nightwish is very scarce. We know that it was shot in 1988 but not released until 1990 – both Starrett and Tessier had passed away by then – and then it was direct to video. These were the dark days of VHS, which means every copy out there – I’ve yet to see any mention of a letterboxed version – is open matte to 4:3, so the boom mike should have been given an onscreen credit. That’s not the fault of the director or the boom operator – that’s the fault of people allergic to black bars at the top and bottom of the screen. They are the real monsters.

Writer/director Bruce R. Cook worked his way up the ladder from camera & electrical to the director’s chair on two flicks – this one and The Census Taker. Nightwish can’t be described as a gem in the rough, it’s more like a semi-precious stone. Worth a look, if you like semi-precious stones.

It’s okay. I wear turquoise.

Hey… it’s available in October!

M: The Mummy (2017)

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Please note I insist on using the poster without Cruise.

Good grief, where to begin?

I guess the beginning will suffice. The beginning’s okay.

In the early 12th century, Templars bury one of their own, with a mysterious jewel, in a hidden tomb. The tomb is discovered in modern times, and a odd panel of hieroglyphics tells the tale of an ancient Egyptian princess, Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), destined to inherit her kingdom – until her father has a son late in life. Ahmanet strikes a deal with the god Set, murders her father and half-brother, and is preparing to complete the rite which will incarnate Set into a living man – but the rite is interrupted and Ahmanet is mummified alive and interred in yet another hidden crypt.

All this is fine, if rather reminiscent of the opening of the 1999 Mummy. Nice to see a female version of the monster. I like Sofia Boutella.

Get out of my genre, Tom.

Back to present day, however, in Iraq, where ISIL is tearing down an ancient temple. Two Army scouts are watching from a nearby hill, One pulls down his scarf, revealing he is Tom Cruise, and everything goes to shit. Because at that point, it becomes a Tom Cruise movie.

I don’t hate Tom Cruise, as many people seem to – I just don’t watch his movies, mostly. I will admit enjoying the last two Mission Impossible movies, and Eyes Wide Shut, but he’s just not a factor that draws me to a movie. The story will continue to illustrate to me why this is so. Cruise is Nick Morton, who stole a map with some coordinates from a one-night stand with Jenny (Annabelle Wallis). He figures there’s buried treasure, and he and his partner, Chris (Jake Johnson) will be rich.

This is a bad plan, and Chris winds up calling in an airstrike just to save both their asses. The strike uncovers a hidden tomb, and re-enter Jenny, who holds an unreasonable amount of clout with the military. She gets a limited amount of time to examine the tomb, and against her better judgement is assigned Nick and Chris to assist.

Jenny represents a global organization called Prodigium. Prodigium means a number of things, among them portents, or wonders, or monsters. In this case, it seems to mean Bad Ideas ‘R’ Us as what they find is Ahmanet’s hidden prison tomb. Jenny correctly interprets all the signs and machinery as meaning DO NOT DISTURB, GO AWAY, THIS MEANS YOU, DON’T DO IT and she is still determined to bring this piece of erased history to light.

The cargo plane carrying our supposed heroes and the sarcophagus run into problems, mainly Chris getting possessed and killed and a flock of kamikaze crows causing the plane to crash (this movie can’t even get me involved enough to do the murder of crows joke). Nick manages to get Jenny into a parachute and out, but in the crash the sarcophagus is lost, and everybody is killed, including Nick. Yay!

Here’s an exciting scene from the movie we SHOULD have gotten.

Except that Nick wakes up later in the morgue. Ahmanet is loose, sucking out souls to regain her power. Nick is under some sort of curse and cannot die, or so he is told by his dead buddy Chris, who keeps following him around and trying to guide him to Ahmanet, who wants that jewel found in the Templar tomb to complete her magic dagger, and Nick’s deathless body to incarnate Set into, so she can rule the world in darkness, which is what your modern-day movie mummies do. None of that profaning-the temple or reincarnated love claptrap. That’s your grandmother’s Mummy movie.

This is still an okay setup for a movie. The major problem with the execution is that at this point the movie becomes entirely about Nick Morton, with the title character essentially becoming what seems to be an afterthought that annoyed the filmmakers. Ahmanet is captured in the second act and spends a remarkable amount of time restrained in a chamber while Prodigium embalms her with mercury (which seems to be the equivalent of silver in the Dark Universe), so that Dr. Jekyll can dissect her.

Oh, yes, the head of Prodigium is none other than Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe). His plan to dissect Ahmanet is in keeping with the organization’s credo of “The Worst Plan Possible”, as is his practice of injecting himself with the necessary drugs to prevent him from turning into Mr. Hyde (with, of course, an extreeeeeeeeme six-chambered hypo) at the very last second.

But I don’t really mind that – Russell Crowe is one of the very few bright spots in this movie. He’s the only one who seems to know what kind of movie he’s making – one that is destined to be labeled a Superfund site – and has decided “Fuck it!” and goes for it.

Reportedly Cruise used his influence during shooting and editing to emphasize his character, but whatever actually happened, the result is disastrous. Annabelle Wallis’s main function is to convince us that Nick Morton is actually a good person, and Cruise doesn’t cooperate. His usual wisecracking manchild persona just doesn’t fit here, and concentrating on that to the detriment of the intended story basically mummifies it alive. For a movie called The Mummy, there is damned little Mummy and a whole lot of some sort of Wandering Jew character that has no prior instance in the pop mythology supposedly being employed. How the hell do you hire Sofia Boutella and then not use her?

Did you know that the dictionary has a new illustration for “Hubris”?

This is rather famously Universal’s “No! Really! This time for sure!” launch of their Dark Universe titles, something that had been attempted before with 2010’s The Wolfman and 2014’s Dracula Untold, both of which apparently no longer exist, as far as Universal is concerned. The sad part is, they could have probably capitalized on the 1999 Mummy and even its sequels, which were at least entertaining, not an endurance contest like this one. As it is, it merely makes us miss that movie, and constantly ripping off An American Werewolf in London with the undead Chris doesn’t help matters, either.

As I did with I, Frankenstein, I’m going to quote a tweet from film writer A. M. Novak, who makes this very excellent point:

It has been proven over and over again that the rich heritage of Universal’s 1930s mastery of the horror genre is in very wrong hands. Supposedly The Bride is Frankenstein was next, though at the very beginning of October, Universal announced they were pulling the plug on it. Horror fans breathed a sigh of relief, since judging from The Mummy, that one would have wound up being about The Incredible Shrinking Man.

Buy The Mummy on Amazon. See if I care.