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Greatest Halloween Movies #18 The Mummy

“It’s just a book. No harm every came from reading a book”

No I don’t mean the old version where the mummy looks like he’s been given too much Thorazine and has severe arthritis….no I’m talking about the more action packed that can best be summed up by its own words, “Rescue the damsel in distress, kill the bad guy, save the world.”

It makes it into the horror genre for a few reasons. First and foremost is that it is a remake of one of those classic horror films I find too corny to actually put on this list. Second those flesh eating scarabs are creepy as all hell…bugs that crawl under your skin and eat you from the inside out. You have the more traditional mummies working as henchmen. And then there is of course the Mummy, Imhotep, who goes through various states of gore and decay (the creepiest moment is probably when he chews on one of the scarabs that is crawling through the hole in his face, send chills up my spine).

But this movie’s virtues aren’t really in its horror aspects; it’s more in its adventure qualities. There is a certain Raiders of the Lost Ark quality to the adventure. Granted there is a far heavier aspect of fantasy and magic, but it still has the action/adventure feel that made the first Indie film so enjoyable (a quality that was pretty much lacking from all the sequels). You have a hero with wonderfully sardonic lines that come in at just the right times, a strong-willed heroine who does as much to save herself as the hero does to save her, and a bumbling sidekick who offers just the right amount of insanity. Tombs, treasure, treachery. You can see why I draw the parallels. I had been hoping that this was going to spark a wave of similar films as the genre has been hideously under used….didn’t get that…I got a decade of movies about zombies and increasingly wimpy vampires.

And while not the most intellectual film of all time, it does make some observations that I find remarkably astute. Namely in the form of foreign relations. There is a scene near the beginning of the film, where the boat all the characters are on is being invaded. Jonathan, the British brother of our heroine, looks in distain at a group of Americans who are firing randomly at the invaders and comments, “Americans,” a line that encapsulates the European view that Americans are just a bunch of cowboys (I never understood how that’s an insult). But the minute the gun wielding Americans save Jonathan from an attacker his opinion is “I say, bloody good show chaps.” Very typical European view of the last century that America is a terrible country…until they need us.

As to my running theme of fear of death, and how overcoming it is the best option, you have only to look at the villain. Imhotep is a man so afraid of death that he is willing to betray and murder friends and cause worldwide devastation just to escape death. (Yeah you could argue it was for love, but as we learned in the sequel she doesn’t really love him, so really it’s just a fear of death.  You could also point out that when he no longer has his love he kills himself in the second film, but this is more indicative of a fear to live than of a lack  of fear of death).

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The Best Halloween Movies #22 The Monster Squad

 

“Perfect monsters hate religious stuff”

It’s insights like that that show these kids truly know what they’re talking about when it comes to monsters. In this case it’s a who’s who of classic film. Dracula. His three brides. Frankenstein’s monster. The Wolfman. The Creature from the Black Lagoon. The Mummy. The gang’s all here in their traditional laconic demeanor (except for Dracula, that guy loves to hear himself talk…and come up with little witty quips like “Meeting adjourned.”) I can’t sing this movie’s praises for too long, it’s just too silly to do so, but it gets this high on the list because it does understand the nature and style of all the classic horror movies, wraps them into one, and adds a touch of the innocence of childhood.

This movie is also a fun trip back to the 80’s. There is the power ballad montage as the squad prepares for battle. There is the truly awful fashion. Drive-in movies are still around. Parents still smoke right in front of their kids unaware that it’s a class A felony and crime against humanity. The language is so radically not P.C. that even I was a little stunned when I heard it (yeah it’s been a years…a decade…since the last time I saw this.)

Also…
There have been complaints about some of the movies I don’t seem to have included…so let me run down the list of why some other movies and TV shows didn’t make the list

Twilight Zone: Too hopeful. Yeah there were some scary scenes but overall Rod Serling wasn’t so much taken with the fear of death but with the miracle of life…just look at the episode where Redford plays death, it’s a very uplifting tale.

Outer Limits: Not well done. In either the old or the new version its quality was always inconsistent at best…and laughable at worst. The poor man’s Twilight Zone.

Gremlins: Horror movies cannot have cute furballs…and Christmas movies can’t have stories of people’s dads dying in a chimney, so it won’t be making that list either.

The Exorcist: I have comedies on this list, but they were trying to be funny, the Exorcist is funny because it’s so poorly done. I can’t help but laugh the whole way through. Honestly, how is anyone frightened by this farce?

The Ninth Gate: I’ve actually heard good things about this…and the minute director and child rapist Roman Polanski dies I’ll give it a try, but not a minute before.

House II: Several people from my generation mentioned this movie to me…we all seem to remember it fondly. How can you not? The movie actually includes the following line from an electrician called to deal with an old house’s electricity problem: “What you’ve got here is your standard transdimensional portal. I’ve dealt with this before.” But aside from a few witty (albeit bizarre) lines, it really didn’t hold up when I went back to watch it.

Evolution: I think it’s funnier than some of the comedies on this list…but I just see it as more sci-fi than horror.

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