AVAILABLE ON DVD AND VOD: NOW, from HIGH OCTANE PICTURES
RUNNING TIME: 80 mins
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Eleven years ago, Tina’s mother died, leaving her with a mortgage and an autistic brother Max to look after. Now, she’s very behind with bills and struggling to pay Max’s carer Brenda – and then her boss Karen tells her that she’s closing the antique shop where she works at, leaving her jobless. However, her boyfriend Luke has a really bright idea. How about getting three of her friends to steal an amulet that’s in the shop and sell it? However, said silly friends also take a large wooden box, and said wooden box just happens to have a mummy inside it, and you know what’s likely to happen when the amulet is placed on top of the mummy.…
I sometimes very quickly skim the IMDB user comments of a film just before writing a review, not for inspiration but to get some idea of what the general view on the movie in question is, and from the point of view of real film goers and watchers who are the ones who really matter most, not us critics, especially when we don’t have to pay for the privilege of seeing something. I didn’t read any write-ups of The Mummy Reborn in detail, but I did notice a hell of a lot of 1/10 reviews which I don’t think is quite fair. This is a film made on an obviously tiny budget, and so realistically you’re not going to expect polished film-making, particularly good acting, and so forth. Maybe it’s because I sit through a lot of cheapie stuff – indeed we all do on HCF, probably more than is healthy – that I’m usually able to lower my expectations and therefore treat a really primitive production more kindly than I might a bigger budgeted offering where there is far less of an excuse for sloppiness and things to have not been properly achieved. Saying that, it’s very easy for a very cheap production to resort to silliness. Of course horror/humour hybrids can be great, but quite often it seems like the filmmakers initially had a fairly serious effort in mind but then decided that the lack of money prevented this and required a switch to self mockery, basically saying to the viewer, “yes, we know this film is crap, isn’t it funny?”. It’s too easy. The Mummy Reborn seemed like it would be very much like this, and its director Dan Allen’s only previous feature was the poorly received [I have yet to see it] remake of 1982’s Unhinged, one of the worst films that ever made the Video Nasty, but I’ve had a stressful few days, and might be in the mood for some goofiness and crap film-making to chuckle at- and well, it’s a mummy film!
Well the first thing worth mentioning is the poster art, which shows us sand and pyramids, bikes, jeeps, three characters including a scantily clad lady, and a typical zombie-like face looming large above everything else. And it’s nearly all a lie. Well, the face vaguely resembles the face of the film’s mummy, and the three characters kind of correspond to three people in the film even though one of them is holding a gun which he never does in the film while the scantily clad lady never appears in the film looking like that – but that’s it! The only vehicles used are a couple of cars and we never go to Egypt, ancient or otherwise, the entire film taking place in and around two houses and a shop somewhere [accents vary] in England. It’s like the person doing the artwork never even read the film’s script and just put together something he or she thought would look good. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s this which has annoyed many of those IMDB folk, because this really does set a new standard for dishonesty, even if one can think of many other occasions of movie art misrepresenting a film. But then those of us who love the vintage stuff like Yours Truly know of the days when Roger Corman would commission somebody to design a poster with a cool looking creature to sell a movie before a single word of a script had been typed, so let’s not try to let that affect a look a the actual film. As you may have guessed, I have a particular fondness for mummy movies [though Bram Stoker’s The Legend Of The Mummy 2 did try even my patience], with their combining of the living dead with the exoticism of an ancient civilisation [be it Egyptian or Aztec] and sometimes love through the centuries, so let’s try to be kind.
Well, we begin with a quote from that well known philosopher Kanye West that goes,“nothing in life is promised except death”, then a prologue set in 2007 that’s reminiscent of an early Friday The 13th sequel opening. Two teenagers are chilling in an outdoor bath saying lame dialogue to each other when the girl gets out to go and get some more bubbly. A bit of the old subjective camera is followed by the girl staggering back into sight having been stabbed in the stomach with some guts hanging out, then the boy runs into the house to get his head crushed by a mummy who rips off the amulet he had around his neck – though the film’s title comes up before we see any gory detail. One thing that’s quite impressive is the look of the mummy himself with his hideous face, and the way that some of the bandages are nearly falling off is kind of believable, though I’m surprised that they didn’t later have a scene where he trips over one seeing how silly things get. Now we meet our heroine Tina. It’s not long after her mother has died, and she’s shown struggling with her mentally challenged brother Max and being told by his nurse that it might be a good idea for Tina to put Max into care, something that Tina totally objects to – and then we cut to 2018 and Tina is really struggling with life. Tiffany Ellen-Robertson is really rather good as this young woman who dearly loves her brother but finds the job of caring for him very stressful, not to mention the bills that are piling up. Victor Roth isn’t so good as Max, his impersonation of the character being chiefly pulling faces and stumbling about. Out of us lot on HCF, I’m probably the least PC – in fact I actively dislike it – but let’s say that Roth spending time with some real autistic people might have helped considerably with his performance. Saying that though, the scenes between the two are often well written and honest; you get a real sense of how hard it might be to care for someone like Max, and you really feel for both of them.
Of course some may be wondering what all this is doing in a mummy movie, but any fan of mummy movies will know that, unless you’re watching a big Hollywood production, it’s going to be about half way through before the mummy comes to life. Tina’s boss Karen tells her that she’s closing her antique shop where Tina work’s at due it hardly making any money, but would Tina mind doing the inventory? She can’t stay because, “I’ve got an appointment with my sex therapist which I’m incredibly late for, I am never going to come”, a good example of the many lines in the film which are a little amusing but no more and don’t always even seem wholly thought through. And things then get worse with Brenda leaving for good because Tina can’t pay her. Later on though, her boyfriend Luke notices a certain photograph. Why doesn’t Tina leave the door to the shop open tonight so three of Luke’s friends; Duncan, Ali and Jasmine, can sneak in and steal what appears to be a priceless amulet? However, they just have to take a casket too, and it’s hard to understand why they would do this. Anyway, the police suspect Karen, so all seems fine – for a short while anyway. Silly Jasmine not only puts the amulet on top of the mummy and but becomes interested in it in a rather – odd – way. “I want to look at the mummy while you’re doing me”, she says to Duncan, not seeming to care at all that Duncan just tried it on with Tina, but sadly the mummy has already gone walkabouts. Max has broken the amulet and hidden one part, so the mummy has to kill to get to it, and soon has help when he turns Ali and Jasmine into his slaves – and these two can run after fleeing people, unlike the poor mummy who, in time honoured fashion, just walks.
Some ravers in the woods are set up as some more potential victims, so you know that you’re going to get a tiny version of that scene in Freddy Vs Jason [plus the person in a sleeping bag being bashed against a tree gag from two other Fridays], a scene that wasn’t as well done as it could have been in the first place. Quite often kills in this movie just involve bloodless neck breaking, but there’s a good looking tongue ripping, a head being blown off, and a throat slashing too. The effects seem to be mostly practical with a small amount of CGI, and I’ve certainly seem worse on more expensive productions though there’s one extremely obvious wound on a head that’s not very good. But things really aren’t too bad for a while, with a reasonable old school slasher vibe which the groan-worthy, would-be comical lines like, “I am so sick of these mother****** mummies on this mother****** farm”, don’t quite succeed in ruining. At times there are even attempts to being genuinely stylish, like the elliptical edits when Tina is doing the inventory, or the red lighting during the attempted tryst beside the tomb, though the occasional flashes of black and white add nothing and are distracting. Things like Ali and Jasmine returning from death clad in Egyptian garb and being asked what they are wearing and how did they find the time to change just seems lazy. And things eventually lose themselves in lots of terribly staged slow motion fighting and random stuff like one character developing electrical powers and another reading the film’s Egyptian subtitles. The slow motion just shows up how poor the choreography is. Surely you’d think that they would try to make this stuff look good, and if it was just meant to be funny then it sure outstays its welcome. The first big fight is set to Schubert’s Ave Maria, and this doesn’t work whatsoever; it fails to function as ironic/amusing counterpoint nor as dramatic scoring, and in the end just wastes such a beautiful tune.
It seems that screenwriter Allen and Scott Jeffrey got a bit lost – or even just gave up. While it’s often nice to have things a bit of mystery, surely we could have been told more about the nameless mummy than us hearing that Karen has said to somebody, “it was extremely dangerous and was extremely worried about whoever would have it”. What was such a thing doing in this little shop? I’m guessing from the opening scene that it’s had other ‘owners’ who have been unable to prevent it from killing, but I’m not really sure. In fact, if you take away some Egyptian language spoken by the two ‘wives’ and what these ‘wives’ are wearing, this mummy could have come from just about anywhere. While some of the ensemble acting fails to jell, in the end it seems that it’s the script which is the biggest problem. Allen and Jeffrey needed to have a few more goes at it before it was ready to hit the cameras. The combination of realistic family drama, body count horror and spoofery was always going to be hard to make work but could maybe have been pulled off by folk with more time on their hands – or more experience under their belt. As it stands, I do wonder if we could have lost the spoofery, partly because it’s just not particularly funny for most of the time – and as I typed earlier I was really in the mood for a giggle. But the brother/sister relationship provides a surprisingly strong emotional centre and feeds into the climax rather well. There are a few good ideas here and there, plenty of low budget energy where you can tell they had fun making the film, and signs of talent in Allen as a director. Overall there’s far, far worse around in terms of cheapie fare.