Latest in Horror Entertainment
In this issue: over 10 pages of reviews, covering:
Film Reviews monstrous hit The Mummy, Japanese animé in Perfect Blue, Jamie Lee Curtis in Virus and a slice of British Grand Guignol in Heart
Book Reviews Simon Clark's Salt Snake and other Bloody Cuts, Mark Morris' Genesis, Hollywood's Maddest Doctors, and the new X-Files and Buffy novels Video Reviews DVDs including Prehistoric Women and The Stendahl Syndrome, plus a DVD and VHS video round-up Soundtracks A spectacular new recording of Jason and the Argonauts TV Reviews The latest US X-Files include Milagro and Three of a Kind
The word on the street was Indiana Jones and the Curse of the Mummy, and thats not so far from the truth for this fantastically expensive-looking live-action comic-strip the latest Mummy movie, and the first with a direct line of descent from Karl Freunds Universal film of 1932.
Freunds film was always a little thin plotwise and the horrors were all implied, but Im still not sure that I wouldnt trade half an hour of Boris Karloffs papyrus-faced Ardeth Bey for the mayhem here.
The story? Theres quite a lot of it, set-piece after set-piece hammered together with the aesthetic of your average Playstation game. In fact, thats it, really this is more of a computer game than a film, the heroes and villains are little more than action figures.
Legionnaire OConnell (Brendan Fraser) discovers a mysterious box in the ruins of Hamunaptra, the forbidden Egyptian City of the Dead and reputedly the site of a Pharaohs ransom in treasure. The box winds up in the hands of Evelyn Carnarvon (Rachel Weisz) a loveable, if accident-prone archaeologist at the Cairo Museum of Antiquities.
Inside the box, she discovers a map to Hamunaptra, and, saving OConnell from the gallows, she sets off with him on a treasure hunt, joined by her upper-class-twit brother (John Hannah) and OConnells avaricious former gaoler whom they bribe with promises of treasure. Making their way down the Nile (from Cairo, Egypt, as the caption helpfully informs us), the party meet a group of gun-toting Americans, also off to Hamunaptra, but before long the riverboat is attacked by a squadron of black-robed Tuaregs, pledged to keep infidels away from the lost city.
Evelyn and her men escape and eventually reach the lost city, with the Americans and the nomads close behind. Exploring the underground passages, the Britishers discover a mummy, seemingly buried alive, and would you believe it, weve just about got to the point where the Universal film starts. Before you can say Scroll of Thoth (which they dont) theyve unlocked the sacred secret Book of the Dead, and Im-ho-Tep is off on a little walk once again. The walking is the least of it this Mummy walks, talks, flies and turns into a pillar of sand at a moments notice. Talk about show me the Mummy you rather wish there were times when they didnt.
Nevertheless, it is hard to dislike this film, because of its innocent bravura and the frightening lick at which it all goes by. Carpers could criticise its by-the-numbers plot, and rather characterless turns from Fraser and John Hannah, the CGI mummy is desperately cartoony, and despite a thrill-a-minute and some relentless flesh-burrowing scarab beetles, theres little in the way of real fear.
Arnold Vosloo makes Im-ho-tep a powerful enemy, but his open-wide routine is overused and theres something indefinably wrong with the CGI on his face. Its all fiendishly clever, but it just doesnt look real.
The best scene for my money is when the Mummy disguises himself as Prince Im-ho-tep in a black mask costume designer John Bloomfields work is splendid throughout, but masterful here, and like Karloffs film, its what you dont see that makes it that much more sinister.
Okay, people. So, like, whats this original Buffy novel like?
Well, its got all the characters from the totally cool TV show. Theres Buffy, of course, being cute and kick-ass as usual. Xander being in love with Cordelia (and Buffy, of course), Willow being ignored by Xander and kind-of romanced by Oz the were-boy, Giles being upper-crust and English in the way that only he can oh, and an ancient Chinese-type demon/vampire who takes over Willow and uses her body to stage a come-back attempt second to none. You see, this Chirayoju character, he is one powerful dude, and when Willow cuts her finger on a ceremonial sword, his spirit is released and takes control of her body.
Meanwhile Giles, Buffy, Xander and Cordy, try to figure out whats giving their friend the wiggins. Through some various Giles-type musty texts, plus some help from an aged Chinese Watcher, they figure out that to fight this Cheery Yoyo spirit, they must release his ancient enemy Sanno, the Mountain King. Unfortunately, Sanno is just as bad, and battle is drawn, as usual, at the Hell Mouth.
Golden and Holder do a pretty good job of capturing all the relationships and characters from the TV show, and at times the reader is left a little out on a limb as they seem to feel the need to include as much continuity as they can. That said, this really does feel like a TV episode so they must be doing something right.
Enjoyable, spooky, fun, witty and neatly plotted, this novel is a great extension to the TV series with which it shares these characteristics. Worth a look if youre a fan of the show.