Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Ancient Script: Scream of the Viewer: "Ancient Evil: Scream of the Mummy" (1999)

David DeCoteau boldly directs an insipid cast with an insipid script, resulting in this reviewer cheering on the villains.

In one of those situations only found in B movies, half a dozen students and their professor are living at a rural compound where they are studying an ancient Aztec mummy. The stock characters include our hero Don (Jeff Peterson), jerk Morris (Michael Lutz), nerdy Norman (Trent Latta), token black guy Arlando (Russell Richardson), smart and sassy virgin Stacey (Ariauna Albright), cute Janine (Michelle Erickson), and uptight alcoholic Professor Cyphers (Brenda Blondell).

The students are all a-twitter over the mummy, a remarkably preserved specimen that will be the centerpiece of a new exhibit at the compound. Meanwhile, we have tenuous "Saved by the Bell"-type subplots happening, as Stacey waits for her boyfriend Scott (Christopher Cullen) to pick her up, Morris makes moves on Janine, Don and Arlando shake their heads at Morris, Morris picks on nerdy Norman, etc. These "modern" students even use words like "kegger" and "dude" to drive home their self-delusional coolness.

Norman is not normal, he is in fact the last remaining high priest of an ancient Aztec religion. He does what looks like tai chi over the mummy, who miraculously comes back to life and begins taking the cast out one by one with a nasty looking knife. The prof is the first to go, but not before she got some important information translated, leaving her notes as a clue for later in the film. Stacey awkwardly (to the audience) confesses she is a virgin, so we know that will come into play as well. Eventually, Norman needs Stacey's virgin blood so he can bring about the end of the world, and his servant mummy (Anton Falk) is doing his bidding.

DeCoteau continues his "The Brotherhood" series penchant for showing hunky twenty-something guys in their skivvies. The entire film takes place in just two buildings, but instead of creating claustrophobic suspense, DeCoteau creates boredom. His direction is very good, up until his obsession with slowly tilting the camera back and forth in the finale, which had me reaching for Dramamine.

DeCoteau's cast and co-written script are awful. No cast member escapes stilted dialogue and stock characterization. The film consists of a lone character talking to an empty room before being killed by the limping, yet completely silent, mummy. While the mummy's makeup is pretty good, the prosthesis on his stomach makes it look like he has a beer gut. Most of the murders involve a whole lot of hacking and dicing, yet just a splash of fake blood.

The little suspense DeCoteau generates with a well lit set and effective music score dwindle into yet another silly B effort to cash in on a big screen cash cow ("The Mummy" series, obviously). DeCoteau had the set, had the shots, had the music, had some makeup, and decided decent casting and a smart script were secondary. Not only is the mummy ancient and shuffling, so is this film.

With a budget that seemed to be spent on blue light gels and mummy makeup, you get what you pay for with this disappointing effort. (* *) out of five stars.