Among the established classics, “The Mummy” tends to be overlooked. Frankenstein, Dracula, and the Wolfman go together like peanut butter and jelly. But the Mummy? His Egyptian setting causes him to stick out among the classic European horrors. This is odd because “The Mummy” is very much a gothic story, one that wouldn’t have been out of place during the genre’s literary heyday.
There’s a world of difference between ’31 and ’32. A good third of “The Mummy” is scored, with trembling but effective pieces of music. Karl Freund, the man responsible for the look of “Dracula” and “Frankenstein,” directs with a creative, steady hand. The early scenes of Imhotep in his tomb never reveal too much. The camera roams the museum, eyeing the artifacts in one scene while slowly revealing a praying Ardith Bay in another. My favorite shot involves a cutaway from Ankh-es-en-Amon’s death-mask to the face of Zita Johann, her modern descendent. It’s a beautifully shot film. The desert dunes and dusty streets of Cairo don’t afford much opportunity for foggy atmosphere. The film makes up with its mythic, mystical tone. Similarly, the set design is more subtle then “Frankenstein” or “Dracula,” but its attention to detail lends some verisimilitude to the proceedings.
The Demoniacs (1974)
An allegory of some sort. The film revolves around “wreckers,” bandits who beached boats and raided the spoils. We are introduced to a captain, his sadistic girlfriend, a drunk, and the Other Guy. While out raiding crashes one night, out of the ocean emerges two beautiful blondes. The pirates rape the girls. The next day, the captain has visions of the girls. Still alive, they wander into haunted ruins, guarded by a woman in clown make-up and Rasputin. They make a deal with a man locked in a prison under the hill, who might be the devil. He deep-dogs them both and grants them the powers they need for revenge.
“The Demoniacs” doesn’t have much in way of pacing. We lull slowly from one location to the next. The bandits try to kill the girls, without much success. A cross-dresser plays ominous songs on a piano. It drags until we get to the ruins. The moss covered chapels and rotting churches are gorgeous and make a memorable setting. The clown woman is bizarre, especially her first appearance perched on a rock. A man drinks out of a giant bottle before tripping and slicing his neck on the glass. Dead bodies sink into mud as the tide rolls in. The bow of a ship, an animal skull placed there, disappears slowly under the waves. As you’d expect, female nudity abounds and Rollin frequently frames the nubile bodies in a greater tableau, such as a stark naked babe standing on a bed in a ruined room, chastising the cowering men.
Once empowered by the devil, you’d think the movie would become a rampage of revenge. Not quite. The girl’s abilities come with a few strings attached. In the last ten minutes, the movie descends into almost pure allegory, as the mute girls (Did I mention they’re mute?) are set upon by their attackers. Nature intercedes each time, cutting down the villains. Our protagonists are raped again, their much touted innocence further sullied. I think that’s what the movie is getting at, something about the death of innocence. I’m not sure.
“The Demoniacs” is Rollin at his most linear but also his most pretentious. Eventually, it stops making any sense on even an interpretive level. Despite the numerous rapes, the movie never looses its softcore sheen. I suspect the filmmaker was aroused by the images. I’ll be returning to the director’s vampire movies next where I suspect his talents are better suited. [6/10]
“Running in the Dead”
So, fourth episode in, and the show all ready feels it’s necessary to do a recap? I mean, the first ten minutes are composed solely of scenes from the first three episodes. That’s nearly half the run time! What the fuck? Stop making me hate you, “High School of the Dead!”
The rest of the episode is just as bad. It focuses on Boring Hero Guy and Girl. They drive around on a motorcycle, steal some guns, and get gas. The two proceed to argue about the best friend who died in the first episode for no reason. A crazed gangbanger wanders in and threatens to rape Boring Girl. So now all the pervy camera angles officially get creepy. Worse yet, Rapist Guy spews vulgarities non-stop. Takashi, despite obviously being a fucking action star, hesitates over shooting the guy before finally shooting him. The duo drives off. The plot moves forward an inch. Did I mention that Hero Guy monologues solemnly over top the whole thing? Get better “High School of the Dead” or I’m leaving you. [3/10]