Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Brendan Fraser, Jet Li, Maria Bello, Michelle Yeoh, John Hannah, Luke Ford, Isabella Leong, Anthony Wong
Directed by Rob Cohen
It’s kind of funny that The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor would come out towards the tail end of the summer movie blockbuster season since much of it feels like it was composed from the parts of films we’ve seen already these past few months.
Set in China, an evil Chinese ruler seeks immortality with an evil; a heroic Chinese female warrior tries to stop him while falling for a young Caucasian hero, magic and kung fu abounds, and the film co-stars Jet Li. Hmm…
The supernatural villain must be stopped before he awakens an unstoppable supernatural army that’ll conquer the world. Sound familiar?
Our tomb raiding heroes are on a globetrotting quest in search of archaeological wonders and battling militaristic villains seeking to employ paranormal forces for their ill-gotten gain. And the main hero of the previous two films is now assisted by his adult son. Where have I seen that before?
Yes; it’s like Universal put The Forbidden Kingdom, Hellboy 2, and Indiana Jones into a blender and then dumped in some freshly squeezed Stephen Sommers man-milk to make a new Mummy Smoothie.
Thankfully, Stephen Sommers was not at the helm of this installment. Nonetheless, his legacy of stupidity is still felt from time to time. Brendan Fraser’s first scene has him catching himself in the neck with a fishhook while attempting to fly fish; this is immediately followed by him taking a pratfall out of a tree. A Yeti knocks a guy through the air between two pillars that look like goal posts leading another Yeti to raise its arms like a football ref signaling the field goal to be good. A nefarious Chinese general seeking to restore China to glory following Japanese occupation of World War 2 and conquer the world in the process by bringing an ancient Chinese emperor back to life still needs a British woman to translate ancient Chinese text for him. That resurrected immortal emperor will have power over the elements and even gain the ability to transform into Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster’s little brother and something that looks like a roided up version of one of the Where The Wild Things Are creatures yet still he prefers to just walk around and fight using kung fu in his human form the majority of the time. The heroes immediately give aerial chase to the flying three-headed dragon even though it had been established that their plane and its pilot are over a day’s journey away. And who can forget the scene involving a vomiting yak that exists solely so that someone can make the obvious joke, “The yak yakked!”
Know what happens when you direct a mega-bomb like Stealth? You get saddled with Stephen Sommers sloppy thirds, that’s what. If you think the villain in this movie is cursed then try being director Rob Cohen. Cohen gets a bad wrap for some of the crap that he’s made but he’s also the same guy who did Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story and the HBO movie The Rat Pack. He’s not a bad director at all; just one who I don’t feel is at his best when he’s making big dumb action flicks. However, I think Cohen’s done a better job than Sommers; Cohen is far more disciplined a filmmaker than Sommers. Stephen Sommers strikes me as being like a variation of X-Men‘s Beast; the bigger the budget you give him the dumber he becomes.
Perhaps it can be chalked up to the power of low expectations but The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, though not great by any means, is fairly entertaining (up to a point) in an in-one-ear-and-out-the-other, use once and dispose sort of way. It’s not even anywhere near as aggressive in its idiocy as the previous two despite some moments already mentioned. It’s also rather depressing that a new Mummy movie would still prove more entertaining than a new Indiana Jones movie.
Now whereas the previous Mummy sequel led to a prequel spin-off movie based on that film’s new villain, part three more or less opens with it’s own capsulated prequel detailing the rise of the Dragon Emperor (Jet Li – Wasn’t he talking about retiring after Fearless?), his lust for conquering lands, Michelle Yeoh, and his quest for immortality. The last two result in him being cursed and transformed into a clay statue. The same fate even befell his massive army and even their horses; someone then took the time to bury them all for safe keeping.
The Dragon Emperor’s tomb is discovered in 1947 by college dropout turned tomb raider Alex O’Connell (the affably bland Luke Ford), the son of the Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz characters now an adult even he only looks about a decade younger than his parents.
Replacing Weisz and replacing Weisz’s poise with a sometimes ungainly degree of overeagerness is Maria Bello, looking remarkably like a younger Sigourney Weaver with her now raven-hair and struggling with an odd British accent that sounds like a cross between Angela Lansbury and Katherine Hepburn. Evelyn O’Connell is now a successful author of two pulp adventure novels titled “The Mummy” and “The Mummy Returns” – no doubt another case of the books being better than the movies.
Living the dull life of English aristocracy with doltish husband Alex, (Brendan Fraser, doing that special brand of overacting and yelling most of his lines as he so often does)…
Seriously, did we really need two dopey Brendan Fraser “ADD-venture” movies in one summer with him as a hapless explorer constantly imperiled by computer effects of vary quality?
The O’Connell’s currently marriage is currently in a bit of a rut after having retired from fighting mummies and spying on behalf of the Allies during WW2. Universal must have decided to skip The Mummy: Reich of the Aryan Mummy in favor of this.
Their boring life is once again given an adventurous spark when the British government asks them to return a rare gem smuggled out of China. So off to Shanghai they go to meet up with Evelyn’s fraidy cat brother Jonathan (the always hammy John Hannah), who even though he’ll repeatedly profess throughout the remainder of the film his intense disliking of mummies, he’s gone and opened up an Egyptian-themed nightclub in Shanghai called Imhotep. This would be like Chief Brody from Jaws being revealed as the owner/operator of the water park in Jaws 3.
The O’Connell’s meet up with their son and are not happy to find out what he’s been up to. But soon enough they’ll all be off on a brand new adventure when the gem revealed to contain magical resurrection properties that come in handy for bring non-mummified mummies back to life is stolen by a Chinese general played by Hong Kong movie veteran Anthony Wong.
In a more perfect world the more menacing Wong would have played the emperor instead of Jet Li. The Dragon Emperor is at his least threatening when he’s just Jet Li playing Jet Li with an evil sneer.
Fortunately, the clay encrusted emperor is stuck in his cursed walking statue form for most of the movie, sort of like a man-sized version of Daimajin with a clay shell that can be shattered and reform. One nifty moment in particular will have him break his own face off and hurl it at Fraser as a weapon. He also has control over the elements giving him the ability to shoot flames and create ice spikes in the snow. I found the Dragon Emperor in this state to be a more interesting villain than the Arno Vosloo’s Mummy or The Rock’s Scorpion King.
Funny how this Mummy movie that uses the word “mummy” more than any other film doesn’t really have any mummies in it. The Dragon Emperor and his warriors are more like terra-cotta golems.
As the Dragon Emperor seeks to break his curse and resurrect his immortal army, standing in his way are the O’Connell’s and friends, Michelle Yeoh as the also immortal one-time object of the emperor’s desire responsible for his curse, and a pretty Chinese girl (Cantonese pop singer Isabelle Leong) also out to make sure the Dragon Emperor never rises again.
That poor girl, she gets so shafted during the finale that not only does she not get to take part in the ultimate battle with the Dragon Emperor, the father she never knew shows up and she never even gets a family reunion. All this after Alex gives her a speech about not living her life on the sidelines. Was that sarcasm?
She also gets to play love interest for Alex and it’s rather depressing that the two of them have more chemistry than Fraser and Bello, so much more so I almost wish the film had left the two of them out altogether and just made this The Mummy: The Next Generation.
Now I did write “up to a point” earlier. That point comes not long after the midway point where the whole film felt like it hit a crescendo with a big fight in the Himalayas that also involved heroic Yetis that look less like Abominable Snowmen and more like albino Lycans from another Underworld movie. Everything that came after that felt flat, perfunctory at best. Seas of clashing armies slamming into one another – been there; archers filling the sky with arrows – done that. Yet another movie where a magic knife that is the only thing that can stop the all powerful villain – seen the hell out of it. The energy and imagination seemed to run out by this point along with the already threadbare logic. I mean an army of clay warriors are so brittle a group of union breakers with ball bats could probably smash them to smithereens but if they cross the Great Wall of China they’ll instantly become indestructible. Huh?
And when your movie features a martial arts fight scene between Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh that only lasts about a 90-seconds and is mostly shot in slow motion close-up, sorry, you’ve done your audience a real disservice.
2 1/2 out of 5
Through the Cracks – Trick or Treat (1986) Review
Starring Marc Price, Tony Fields, Lisa Orgolini, Glen Morgan, Gene Simmons, and Ozzy Osbourne
Directed by Charles Martin Smith
I have been a horror fan for more than half of my life at this point. Meaning I have seen most of the quality horror offerings under the sun. But that said, every once in awhile a classic sneaks past so we wanted to create this “Through the Cracks” review section for such films.
Case in point, I had never seen the Halloween horror flick Trick or Treat until last night. I know, right? How the hell did that happen? But these things do happen and so for everyone that has seen the flick a million times, this will be a review of the movie from a super horror fan that – at the age of 33 – is seeing Trick or Treat for the very first time.
Now let’s get to it.
First off you have to love the movie’s plot. Mixing horror and heavy metal seems like a given, yet preciously few films Frankenstein these two great tastes together.
Like many of you out there, I am a big metal fan as well as a big horror fan. The two seem to go together like chocolate and peanut butter. Or Jason and horny campers.
I dig bands like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and even those hair metal bands (Dokken forever!) and I’m well aware of the legends surrounding playing these records backward.
Off the top of my head, the only other flick that combines the two to this degree is the (relatively) recent horror-comedy Deathgasm. I say more horror-metal flicks! Or should we call it Metal-Horror? Yeah, that’s a much more metal title.
It only makes sense that someone, somewhere would take the idea of “What if Ozzy Osbourne really was evil and came back from the dead (you know, if he had passed away during his heyday) to torment a loner fan?” Great premise for a movie!
And Trick or Treat delivers on the promise of this premise in spades. Sammi Curr is an epic hybrid of the best of the best metal frontmen and his resurrection via speaker is one of the great horror birthing scenes I have seen in all my years.
Add to that the film feels like a lost entry in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. More specifically the film feels like it would fit snugly in between two of my favorite entries in that series, Dream Warriors and The Dream Master.
This movie is 80’s as all f*ck and I loved every minute of it.
And speaking of how this film brought other minor classics to the forefront of my brain, let’s talk about the film’s central villain, Sammi Curr. This guy looks like he could share an epic horror band with the likes of Mary Lou from Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II and the Drill Killer rocker from Slumber Party Massacre Part II.
Picture that band for a moment and tell me they aren’t currently playing the most epic set in Hell as we speak. I say let’s see an Avengers-style series of films based on these minor horror icons sharing the stage and touring the country’s high school proms!
In the end Trick or Treat has more than it’s fair share of issues. Sammi Curr doesn’t enter the film until much too late and is dispatched way too easily. Water? Really? That’s it?
That said, the film is still a blast as director Charles Martin Smith keeps the movie rocking like an 80’s music video with highlights being Sammi’s rock show massacre at the prom and his final assault on our hero teens in the family bathroom.
Rockstar lighting for days.
Even though the film has issues (zero blood, a rushed ending) none of that mattered much to this horror hound as the film was filled to the brim with striking horror/metal imagery and a killer soundtrack via Fastway and composer Christopher Young.
Plus you’ve got to love the cameos by Gene Simmons (boy, his character just dropped right out of the movie, huh?) and Ozzy Osbourne as a mad-as-hell Preacher that isn’t going to take any more of this devil music. P.S. Watch for the post-credits tag.
More than a few of my closest horror buddies have this film placed high on their annual Halloween must-watch lists. And after (finally) viewing the film for myself, I think I just may have to add the film to mine as well. Preferably on VHS.
Trick or Treat is an 80’s horror classic. If you dig films like Popcorn, and if you put the film off like I did, remedy that tonight and slap a copy in the old VHS/DVD player.
Just don’t play it backward… God knows what could happen.
All said and done, I enjoyed the hell out of my first viewing of Trick or Treat. But what do YOU think of the film? Make sure to hit us up and let us know below or on social media!
Now bring on Trick or Treat 2: The Prom Band from Hell, featuring Sammi Curr, Mary Lou Maloney, and Atanas Ilitch’s Driller Killer from Slumber Party Massacre Part II!
Charles Martin Smith’s Trick or Treat is a sure-fire Halloween treat for fans of 80’s horror flicks, as well as fans of heavy metal music.
AHS: Cult Review – Clowns, Cults, Politics, and Peters
Starring Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Billie Lourd, Cheyenne Jackson, Frances Conroy, Mare Winningham, and Allison Pill
Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk
** NO SPOILERS **
It’s here. We’ve reached the end. The newest season of “American Horror Story” has ended and now we are here to provide you guys with our season review of AHS: Cult.
To start things off let me say I’m not the world’s biggest fan of “American Horror Story”. It breaks down like this: I enjoyed the absolute hell out of the first season of the series (“Murder House”), couldn’t get through “Asylum” (I know, I know, I’ve tried), dug “Coven” for what it was, really enjoyed “Freak Show”, and again I couldn’t get into “Hotel” or “Roanoke”.
That’s the story of me and “American Horror Story”. Plain And simple. But what did I think of the new seventh season of the notorious horror anthology series? Let’s find out.
Back when the seventh season of AHS was first announced (then going by the title “AHS: Election”) I was immediately intrigued by the new season because I heard it would not include any supernatural elements. Like the fourth season, “Freak Show”.
Now I’m a fan of ghosts and weird creature-men with drills for d*cks, don’t get me wrong. But the series has thus far relied almost exclusively on horrors of the supernatural variety (other than “Freak Show”) so this major change of pace was again welcomed by this guy.
Instead of vampires, aliens, and witches this season relied on terrors of the mind. Psychological fears and anxieties. The horrors man does to man. Deep issues.
Oh, and clowns. Like a lot of clowns.
But just because this new season didn’t include anything supernatural, that doesn’t mean the 11-episode season wasn’t filled with twisted visuals and horrifically disturbing acts. No, sir. This season boasted some showstoppers including S&M, gimps, and a house of horrors that wouldn’t be out of place in a Rob Zombie flick. It was all good.
But let’s backtrack a bit here.
Allow me to rundown the season’s plot for those who may be unaware. “AHS: Cult” tells the tale of a world post-election night. The literal dawn of Trump’s America. In one corner we have Sarah Paulson’s soccer mom, trying to fight through life with a series of crippling phobias (including clowns, holes, blood, and being a good person).
And in the other corner, we have Evan Peter’s angry, white (blue-haired) male, looking to seize Trump’s new position of power to bring about the end of… Actually, I want this to be a spoiler-free season review, so I’m just going to say the dude’s got big plans.
Like Manson-size plans. Let’s leave it at that.
With these two characters established, the new season then proceeds to send them spiraling into a collision course of political sabotage, intrigue, and clown-based nope, nope, nope-ing that can only end with one – or both – of them dead as Dillinger.
Overall “AHS: Cult” belonged end-to-end to Mr. Evan Peters. The young actor has continued to show his striking range from season to season of Ryan Murphy’s horror show and this season was no different. Peters’ turn as not only Kai, the blue-haired leader of the titular cult, but as infamous leaders such as David Koresh, Jim Jones, and Charles Manson – to name a few – owed this season.
I can only hope he doesn’t pull a Jessica Lange and opt-out of more AHS next year.
Speaking of top performances, “AHS: Cult ” showcases some other chilling and memorable turns with Alison Pill’s strangely vulnerable, put-upon wife character being the best next to Peters in my eyes. This actress needs to be in more films/TV!
Along with Pill, actress Billie Lourd killed it time and time again. The “Scream Queens” breakout star and Carrie Fisher spawn was yet again a highlight in her second Ryan Murphy series. Bet she has the starring role in next season. Mark my words.
Add to that, the season also boasts a handful of fun cameos, including John Carroll Lynch’s return as Twisty the Clown, Emma Roberts as a bitchy reporter that will do anything to end up on top, and Lena Dunham as SCUM Manifesto writer Valerie Solanas. The cameo cast killed it and I wish they would have been present for more episodes. What are you gonna do?
On the sour side of the season, I didn’t dig Sarah Paulson’s character. At all. But I’m sure that was the point. Right? I’m still not sure. But, boy, I wouldn’t even want to be stuck in line behind her at a Starbucks for three minutes, let alone spend the better part of this season’s 11-hours with her and her whiny bullshite. Urgh.
That said, she pulled it out by the finale. That’s all I’ll say.
In the end, I enjoyed this season as much as – if not more – than any other of the series. “Murder House” will still no doubt go on as my favorite season of the series, but “AHS: Cult” will rank third after season one and “Freak Show”.
While I was on the fence about the season after three episodes, the show ended up ditching Paulson’s character (and/or shifting her arch) after a lull so the episodes picked up quickly. Whenever the season turned its focus back towards Peters (in whichever incarnation he was playing at the time) the show got better and better. Every time.
Not a bad way to spend my Tuesday night for the past 11 weeks.
Bring on season 12.
The seventh season of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story was Evan Peters’ show all the way through. The young actor pulled out all the stops time and time again to make what may have been a lackluster supernatural-free season a winner.
The Axiom Review – A Stylish and Clever Slice of Independent Horror
Starring Hattie Smith, Zac Titus, Nicole Dambro
Directed by Nicholas Woods
The Axiom is an ambitious, well directed, impressively acted and stunningly shot independent horror film that has just a few, teensy little flaws holding it back from greatness (and therefore will have to settle for just being really, really good, instead).
The first thing you realize when watching The Axiom is that this is a beautiful film. Everything is framed and shot in a lush and stylish manner, but one which is always tonally appropriate for the scene.
The second thing you’ll notice, and keep noticing as the film plays out, is that the movie really struck gold with this cast. Not only is there a total lack of the sort of stilted and unnatural acting seen in countless other microbudget horror affairs, but the performances are genuinely fantastic across the board. The main characters are believably chill and relatably normal in the early scenes, and the acting remains just as impressive once things start getting a bit more… intense. It’s not often that an independent horror film has so many good performances that it makes it hard to pick the movie’s acting VIP, but that is undeniably the case here. Taylor Flowers delivers what is probably the showiest performance (and does it very well, indeed), but the entire cast really is quite good.
The central premise of the film is both interesting and original, and touches upon the real life fact (given some recent attention in the ‘Missing 411’ books and documentary) that a lot more people sure seem to go missing out in the woods than seems reasonable, while simultaneously weaving all sorts of folklore, fairy tales and urban legends into the mix. It’s also clever in the way that it very naturally reveals aspects to the relationships between characters that serve to later – or sometimes retroactively – explain some of the more questionable decisions they make or attitudes they display. While that may sound like screenwriting 101, it’s surprising how many films fail to do this. The Axiom rewards the viewer’s attention in other ways as well, with many aspects of the movie that initially feel odd or unnatural receiving reasonable explanations (within the context of the movie) by the end. It’s not quite as challenging (or as rewarding) in this regard as, say, something like Session 9, but it does add a nice layer of complexity to the storytelling.
The film’s score, by Leo Kaliski, is also quite good. There may be a moment here or there where the music hits an overly familiar beat, but overall it not only fits the movie’s tone, but does quite a bit to help set that tone as well.
The only thing that I don’t feel the movie quite pulls off – and I’m trying to be vague here, because I feel like the less you know going into this film, the better – is some of the makeup effects work. The gore stuff is very well executed, but some of the other stuff feels like it was crafted with the intention of shooting it in a more… stylized manner. Instead, filmed as it is here, the result is sometimes less than impressive and can fail to make the impact that the movie seems to be implying that it should. And while some of what the makeup effects lack in execution is made up for with the ingenuity and creativity of their design, it’s still a bit of a shame when they don’t quite pull them off because, aside from a few niggles that I have with the writing, the effects are the only aspect of the film that occasionally fails to live up to the high level of technical proficiency that The Axiom otherwise demonstrates.
- Man, the acting in this movie is really good. The dialogue may stumble once or twice, but these actors always sell it anyway.
- Give back Mia Sara’s DNA, Hattie Smith!
- If you’re going to put your female lead in shorts this small, I hope you’re not sensitive to viewers unleashing a nonstop parade of “Has anyone seen my pants / OH GOD WHERE ARE MY PANTS!” jokes.
- “You just pop this here ‘Blair Witch Stick Person / Anarchy sign’ sticker up on that there windshield of yours, and them park rangers? Well – heh heh – they won’t bother you none, no sir.” Hmmmmm…
- The film really is shot amazingly well – better than a lot of mainstream releases. Cinematographer Sten Olson has a real future ahead of him.
- As does writer / director Nicholas Woods, for that matter. Any director who can get this level of quality out of their cast and crew on their first ever film is someone to keep an eye on.
- “I’ll make a run for it and get help,” says the female lead, and I’m like “Yeah, let her go – she has no pants to weigh her down.”
- The gore effects in the movie are both realized and utilized very well.
- Welcome back to horror movies, “I’ll be right back” dialogue spoken unironically by and/or to ill-fated characters.
In the end, The Axiom is a solid and entertaining flick that manages to wring a level of quality and originality out of the somewhat tired “Don’t Go in the Woods” horror subgenre not seen since 2012’s Cabin in the Woods. The cinematography and acting are hugely impressive, it features a nice, unnerving score, the premise is original and captivating, and the whole thing moves at a nice pace that helps keep the film’s flaws from dragging it down.
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