Ancient Tomb, Shallow Grave
A strange twist of fate, but I like it. For years, Universal has been considering a remake of the classic Boris Karloff gothic horror romance, but couldn’t figure out what to do with it. Who’d ever think of remaking this story as a action horror comedy?
After you get over your shocked expectations, it works pretty well. Canadian heartthrob Brendan Fraser stars as a soldier of fortune who blunders upon the ancient Egyptian lost city of the dead, home to an entombed living mummy (Arnold Vosloo of the Darkman sequels), which is guarded by a sect of dedicated warrior priests. When the key to the tomb – and the map it contains – falls into the hands of treasure hunter (John Hannah) and his sexy librarian sister (Rachel Weisz of Death Machine), they enlist Fraser to help them get to the tomb.
Despite the impediments placed in their way by a rival group of cowboy treasure hunters, everyone makes it to the lost city intact. But when they unknowingly unleash the living mummy Im-Ho-Tep, big trouble starts.
Writer/director Stephen Sommers, who delivered zippy fun with Deep Rising and The Jungle Book, takes his act to the temples and tombs of Egypt, taking with him a much bigger budget and more lavish art direction. The model here is not Karl Freund’s dense atmospherics, but the weird menace pulps and rowdy adventure serials of the 1930s. The characters are more cardboard than in the Indiana Jones series, and the action is more farfetched, with wild coincidence holding sway over logic and coherence. Semi-racist and sexist behavior is all to be taken as part of the environment.
As the title villain, Vosloo isn’t given much chance to establish his character – as in Bram Stoker’s Dracula of a few years ago, the monster spends so much time changing from one f/x generated guise to another that it’s difficult to figure out who he is.
The special effects are deserving of high praise – nearly every shot is enhanced by a digital paintbox. Animation is very well done, although at times the walking dead and whatnot are a bit showy, destroying the illusion. However, it all looks great as a whole, which bodes well for Universals planned all-digital Frankenstein film.
This is not a great movie, but it’s fast-moving, action packed and full of thrills, chills and amusements. Can’t ask for much more fun at the movies.