Reviews header
The 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

Film Review
The Mummy
Director: Stephen Sommers
Stars: Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, Arnold Vosloo, John Hannah
Released: June 25th 1999 (UK)
selected and edited from Shivers #67

Our fantastic Mummy posterThe word on the street was “Indiana Jones and the Curse of the Mummy”, and that’s 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 Freund’s Universal film of 1932.

Freund’s film was always a little thin plotwise and the horrors were all implied, but I’m still not sure that I wouldn’t trade half an hour of Boris Karloff’s papyrus-faced Ardeth Bey for the mayhem here.

The story? There’s quite a lot of it, set-piece after set-piece hammered together with the aesthetic of your average Playstation game. In fact, that’s it, really – this is more of a computer game than a film, the heroes and villains are little more than action figures.

Legionnaire O’Connell (Brendan Fraser) discovers a mysterious box in the ruins of Hamunaptra, the forbidden Egyptian City of the Dead and reputedly the site of a Pharaoh’s 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 O’Connell from the gallows, she sets off with him on a treasure hunt, joined by her upper-class-twit brother (John Hannah) and O’Connell’s 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, we’ve just about got to the point where the Universal film starts. Before you can say ‘Scroll of Thoth’ (which they don’t) they’ve 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 moment’s notice. Talk about ‘show me the Mummy’ – you rather wish there were times when they didn’t.

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, there’s little in the way of real fear.

Arnold Vosloo makes Im-ho-tep a powerful enemy, but his ‘open-wide’ routine is overused and there’s something indefinably wrong with the CGI on his face. It’s all fiendishly clever, but it just doesn’t 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 Bloomfield’s work is splendid throughout, but masterful here, and like Karloff’s film, it’s what you don’t see that makes it that much more sinister.

David Miller

Book Review
Buffy - Blooded
by Christopher Golden and Nancy Holder

Published by Pocket Books
276pp £4.99 p/b

selected and edited from Shivers #67

Okay, people. So, like, what’s this original Buffy novel like?

Blooded, a Buffy novelWell, it’s got all the characters from the totally cool TV show. There’s 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 what’s 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 you’re a fan of the show.

David Howe