Because the Future is Fun

Best of the Bottom Shelf: Day of the Mummy

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Halloween is almost upon us and, regardless of what Andy Williams would have us believe, this is the most wonderful time of the year for us here at DragonDark. We’re so chipper at the prospect of taking refuge from the elements with a pile of classic fright flicks and a gluttonous bucket of festive snackage that not even the constant trilling of the DragonDark Towers doorbell can bring us down; let it be known that we welcome the pitter-patter of sugar-frenzied feet at our door.

Just to be clear, everybody understands that we’re only saying this on the proviso that nobody knows the address, right?

Regardless of this talk of tricks and treats, there is always one costume from the menagerie of monsters that stalk the streets every year that entices a wider smile than any other. We’re unabashed Mummy’s boys and girls here, and not just because we’re quietly confident that every phantom Pharaoh costume has resulted in a fist-shaking father cursing the absence of loo roll in his bathroom.

Dracula, Frankenstein and his Monster, The Wolf Man and even The Phantom of the Opera may be a little more celebrated, there has been no shortage of adventures for our favourite Egyptian antagonist since Boris Karloff first bought the shuffling scoundrel to life. Sure there have been missteps along the way, most notably Russell Mulcahy’s dishwater-dull Talos the Mummy and Stephen Sommers’ CGI-stuffed sequels to his incredibly enjoyable 1999 retelling, but if a monster is good enough for Karloff, Chaney and Lee then damn it all it’s good enough for DragonDark. We’ll certainly be first in line for Universal’s official reboot next year.

DVD Case

This soft spot for sarcophagus looting had us all rather excited for Day of the Mummy, Image Entertainment’s latest entry into their ever-expanding canon of low-budget horror that hits DVD shelves and VOD catalogues today. The brainchild of director Johnny Tabor, Day of the Mummy follows the lead of countless recent genre entries by taking a found-footage approach, but don’t roll your eyes just yet; it’s safe to say this is like nothing you’ve seen before. Tabor is clearly well aware of the poverty-stricken nature of his flick, and manages to circumvent the pitfalls that befell the likes of The Frankenstein Theory and Devil’s Due by never losing sight of the need for a dry sense of humour.

More to the point, though, Day of the Mummy takes the first-person perspective to the very limits of its video game-aping aesthetic and beyond. Check out the official trailer for a taste.

Yep, it’s safe to say that this ain’t your daddy’s Mummy.

Of course difference doesn’t always equal distinction, and it would probably be pushing things too far to call Day of the Mummy a good horror movie. It is, however, so ambitious and outright bloody weird that it’s impossible not to find interesting, and the film’s flaws – of which there are a great many – are somehow never quite severe enough to render it unworthy of a viewing.

The plot is thinner than a scarab-stripped cadaver, revolving around William McNamara’s paunchy adventurer growling and seducing his way for a McGuffin named the Codix Stone, guided by Danny Glover. Yes, the Danny Glover, appearing here compliments of some ingenious and audacious starfucking stunt casting that eschews the traditional low-budget path of securing a star for two minutes of screen time and plastering their likeness all over the packaging.

Glover’s Carl appears throughout Day of the Mummy via a pair of space age spectacles. Carl forces McNamara’s Jack Wells to don a pair of Googles Glass-alikes that allows him to communicate with his cohort, and as a result spends much of the running time cropping up on the bottom left of the screen muttering “keep your eyes on the prize, Jack” while Wells makes goo-goo eyes at Andrea Monier’s one-dimensional Kate. It’s a largely pointless role that could have been excised completely with little ill-effect on the final cut, but credit is due; securing Glover for a number of scenes that were presumably filmed before breakfast without even leaving his house demonstrate an impressive entrepreneurial spirit from the filmmakers.

Day of the Mummy

The nature of Carl’s presence also adds to the video game FPS flavour, fulfilling a similar role to the Heads-Up Display in the likes of Bio-Shock – or perhaps more accurately, the short-lived interactive VHS games of the 1990s. Following some ham-fisted flirtation with political tensions, musings on the gender assignment of ancient Egyptian monickers and and brief punctuations of action, the flick moves its setting to the catacombs of Egypt, and a series of claustrophobic Aliens-esque first-person corridor shots, for its final third – which is where the first person aesthetics really spark into life. This method of cinematography may be tired and worn by now, but at least it detracts from the occasional poor choices of camera framing and angles – and besides, the movie actually becomes comparatively spooky throughout these scenes, wisely keeping the titular terror under wraps for much of the running time.

Yes, many viewers are more likely to be frightened by their Mother-in-Law than this Mummy – it’s strictly joke shop standard stuff. Tension is mined from less visceral sources throughout the final moments however, as the blood begins to flow and the body count rises as the expendable supporting cast are picked off. Allow us to re-iterate; Day of the Mummy is amateurish stuff. Suspend your cynicism and allow yourself to be swept along for the ride though, and you might be surprised at how enjoyable the film manages to be, as it somehow manages to rise above the limitations of a paint-by-numbers screenplay and schlocky effects. If you’re prepared to take a punt on one wildcard slice of horror hokum this Halloween, this is the one to try.

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