Starring Casper Van Dien, Kristen Miller, Tom Bosley, Robert Wagner, Navid Negahban, Geoffrey Lewis, Irwin Keyes
Directed by Kevin VanHook
I swear if Cannon Films was still around today The Fallen Ones could have easily been their discount answer to the bloated Mummy franchise. Believe it or not, I mean that as a compliment.
Heck, if The Fallen Ones had been set in the 1930s, replaced the male and female leads with Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz, had a megabudget allowing for masturbatory overuse of shoddy computer effects, and went out of its way to sacrifice the tone of nearly every single scene just to work in a cheap laugh then this could very well have been Stephen Sommers’ newest Mummy sequel. But instead The Fallen Ones is a B-movie in the grandest sense. It has B-actors involved in a B-plot brought to life with a B-budget and I personally found it to be far more charming than either of those overblown moron movies.
The Fallen Ones kicks off in Sumeria thousands of years ago where Ammon the Destroyer, an angel of death of truly Biblical proportions, meets with his high priest and 42-foot giant of a son to discuss how they’re going to work around this little flood God is getting ready to unleash upon the world. The solution is simple: kill his son and mummify his corpse so that he can be resurrected at a later date while Ammon himself seeks political asylum in Hell for the next 3,000 years. Unfortunately for the forces of pure evil, something appears to go wrong during the mummification process and Ammon’s gigantic warrior son ends up becoming a gigantic mentally retarded mummy. I’m not sure what baring that particular plot point has on anything to come other than I suppose it explains why the giant mummy is only capable of growling and roaring upon its resurrection. Stephen Sommers never even bothered trying to give any possible explanation as to why the mummies in his films roared so The Fallen Ones is already one up on them even if it didn’t intend to be. And everything about this pre-title sequence from the effects to the dialogue feels like it came straight out of an episode of “Hercules” or “Xena”. Again, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
It’s off to present day Arizona where the incomparable Casper Van Dien is an archaeologist working on an excavation in the desert for development magnet Robert Wagner, who plans to develop the land in order to build a fancy resort hotel. Just as a pretty blonde is brought in to micromanage things and simultaneously annoy and arouse his Van Dieness, the place is rocked by a sudden earthquake that unearths an underground chamber containing the remains of what appears to be a 42-foot tall human being. Making things all the more bizarre, the corpse appears to have been mummified in the Egyptian style and his body is surrounded with ancient Sumerian markings.
This mysterious discovery leads Van Dien to bring in his old mentor, Rabbi Eli, to translate the Sumerian text. Tom Bosley, best remembered as Mr. Cunningham on “Happy Days”, plays the Rabbi Eli character in very much the way I’d expect him to play a stereotypical Jewish character on an episode of “The Love Boat”, and doing so makes this character so patently campy that you’d really have to be a hardened cynic not to get a kick out of it. I swear listening to Bosley milk that fake Jewish accent for all it’s worth I could envision the Fonz walking in at any moment and going, “Oy Vaeeeyyyhhh, Mr. C”.
So in between discussions about the very nature of their discovery and some very lame romancing between our impossibly bland leads, the site is attacked by a gaggle of purple-shirted goons that proceed to kidnap workers to be fed to the soon to be awakened mummy. Their attempts to kidnap Van Dien and company results in the sort of fistfight you’d have seen on the old “Batman” TV series.
Van Dien complains afterwards to the Robert Wagner character about several missing men and the fashion victim henchmen but Wagner doesn’t want to call the police because they would just shut them down and he can’t have that. Instead, he decides to bring in a top-notch private security firm to guard the site. The head of this armed band of personal security guards, you guessed it, it’s Ammon.
The surprising thing about Ammon is that he’s actually a compelling villain played with sinister zeal by Navid Negabahn, fresh from his stint as a terrorist on this season’s “24” proving yet again that if you’re an actor in Hollywood with Arab features you’re pretty much guaranteed to end up either playing terrorists or cast in mummy movies. His best moment comes during a confrontation with Rabbi Eli that manages to explain his origin and agenda in a way that doesn’t just bring the movie to a halt for an extended flashback sequence as Stephen Sommers has done before. It also features a nice exchange where Eli reminds Ammon that the Book of Revelations already makes it perfectly clear that his plan is going to fail to which Ammon casually replies that he at least has to try. You got to admire an apocalyptic destroyer with a “can do” attitude. I’ve seen so many movies with demonic entities hatching apocalyptic schemes but very few ever feature a scene where someone brings up the fact that the very thing they’re setting out to do is preordained to fail.
The biggest negative regarding the Ammon character is the revelation that the pretty blonde lead just happens to be the reincarnation of sorts of the mortal female he spawned with originally to give life to his immortal giant sons which of course means that he wants to procreate with her to bring about more. I’ve always hated when movies pull out that lame reincarnation cliché as it smacks of plot convenience and desperation. Although frankly I’d be far more concerned with her character mating with Van Dien’s since melding of their nearly flawless Aryan features could conceivably spawn Hitler’s master race. But I digress. On the plus side, this subplot does lead to one of the film’s goofiest lines of dialogue. When shaking Ammon’s hand upon meeting she becomes overcome and nearly faints. An annoyed Van Dien apologizes on her behalf and explains that she was probably just dehydrated from having been horseback riding that morning. Say what?
It seemed at times as if the objective was to make Van Dien’s character a blithering idiot without letting him in on it. He gives a speech early on attributing the giant’s size on Acromeglia, a disease that causes giantism in people such as legendary pro wrestler Andre the Giant, who was still only around seven feet in height. Van Dien’s character actually believes that disease could have caused someone to grow to King Kong size. Yep, he’s a blithering idiot all right.
The Fallen Ones also boasts the single greatest “what the f***?!” moment of any film I’ve seen in quite sometime. Ammon’s disciples somehow manage to build a giant mechanical effigy to the giant mummy they worship. By that, imagine the giant mechanical spider from Wild Wild West only built in humanoid form, covered with corpses, and piloted by a guy that repeatedly chants Ammon’s name non-stop. All of this comes from completely out of nowhere with no hint as to how or why they built such a thing, which is all for the best because the effigy is toppled just as quickly as it appeared.
Now mind you I am reviewing the Sci-Fi Channel version of The Fallen Ones and part of me can’t help but to wonder if they butchered this movie in order to squeeze it into a two hour time slot with their usual 35 minutes worth of commercial breaks. Almost every single time they came back from a commercial it seemed as if the movie had jumped ahead from where it left off and I got the feeling there were other little bits missing too. For example, the dig’s foreman played by veteran character actor (and Juliette Lewis’ dad) Geoffrey Lewis, just up and vanishes from the film with no explanation as to what became of him. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a scene that got cut out explaining the mechanical mummy. I definitely plan to check this one out again when it hits DVD just to see what I may have missed.
Now I’m sure by this point most of you want to know about the giant mummy since that is the whole point of the movie. It turns out that giant mummies when brought back to life pretty much behave like giant apes do in the movies. He roars, hurls huge boulders, chases after moving vehicles, and snatches helicopters from the sky. The sight of a giant mummy doing all of this makes things that much more entertaining. My only beef with the mummy other than his all to brief appearance is pretty much the same beef I had with all the villains in the movie; that being that they’re all too easily defeated.
And how did Ammon know to go to the dam at the end anyway?
Probably the most amazing thing about The Fallen Ones is that it was written and directed by Kevin VanHook, whose only other filmmaking credit was Frost: Portrait of a Vampire, a film so boring and pointless that I consider it to be one of the single worst movie-watching experiences I’ve ever had. Talk about a complete turnaround. It even looks and feels like a more professional, almost theatrical quality production than the typical Sci-Fi Channel movie fare. While The Fallen Ones might be goofy and more than a little nonsensical at times, it’s a lively romp that brings to mind memories of the old fashioned Saturday matinees.
Oh, for those of you that are dying to know how a giant Egyptian mummy ends up buried in the American Southwest, well, it seems Ammon had several giant sons (SEQUEL ALERT!) that he had buried all throughout the world in secret places where even God himself could not find them. I guess that means that while God is all knowing and all seeing he really sucks at scavenger hunts.
3 out of 5
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