Ancient Evil 2: Guardian of the Underworld (2004)
Starring Christopher Kann, Adam Lipskey, Noel Francomano, Don Sandeen
Directed by D.W. Kann
I really don’t have any strong feelings one way or another about Ancient Evil 2: Guardian of the Underworld (aka Anubis Rising). After it was over I didn't feel as if I had totally wasted 90 minutes of my life, but by the same token I didn't feel as if I had really gotten anything out of the experience. This is another one of those "young people dabble with the black arts, conjure something evil, and run for their lives" sort of horror flicks and while this one is definitely more entertaining than countless others of its ilk, I still felt like I was watching something I had seen countless times before. I guess as far as tongue-in-cheek supernatural slasher movies filmed on a budget roughly equal to the price of a used automobile go then I suppose watching Ancient Evil 2 really isn’t that bad a way to spend and hour and a half of your life.
The film opens with a prologue set in ancient Egypt that looks an awful lot like a Mummy Returns fan film. Not exactly sure what the Egyptian God of the Underworld is doing on a beach playing Highlander with some nameless Middle Eastern warrior but the end result is that Anubis ends up being zapped away in a ray of light from the sky where he will remain in limbo until some dumb schmucks can come along and unleash him.
Jump forward to modern times where we are introduced to a pair of incredibly irritating characters. One named Weezer seems very much in the vain of Jason Mewes, or at least what I suspect Jason Mewes would be like if he completely fried his brain huffing glue. The other whose name I forget, looks a little like a skinnier, spinach-chinned Silent Bob. Unfortunately, he does not remain silent. Both actors deliver their forced banter in that unnaturally stilted manner you tend to see in a high school health class video, which only serves to make them that much more grating on the nerves; especially this Weezer character, who's just too damn retarded for words. I really, really, really wanted to see these two characters die a horrible death and to the movie's credit, they do. Therefore I won't fault the filmmakers for making them being such annoying twerps.
Then we get to meet yet another annoying character, but at least this character is supposed to be annoying since she's the human villain of the movie. What a piece of work she is. Named Oncilla Satana and looking like Pippi Longstocking if she were all skanked out and heavy into live action Vampire: The Masquerade, this wannabe witch gets her hands on an ancient Egyptian Academy Award statue – minus the base – with the intent of unleashing Anubis to do her bidding. This leads to an encounter with her mother's ghost that goes from being an ominous warning about tampering with forces beyond her control to an absurd temper tantrum as she proceeds to taunt her mom's spirit about how she’ll prove to be a superior sorceress. I'm not sure exactly what the point of this was other than to establish that Oncilla comes from a line of failed witches and that she is certifiably nuts. Not to mention evil as she schemes to lure her friends out into the woods where she will conjure up Anubis and offer him their souls in exchange for his loyalty.
Going by the rules of cinema, you already know this Oncilla character is going to die at the hands of Anubis. I expected this but I certainly didn't expect her to be the first that dies. This leaves Anubis himself without a human spokesperson to vocalize his motivations, not that he is ever given any real motivations anyway, or a secondary villain to complicate the plot. This causes the movie to simply devolve into yet another horror flick where characters just run around the woods for what seems like an eternity. The movie may have been rather unremarkable up until this point it at least had zipped along keeping things going up until the last 15 minutes when the two most personality deficient characters run and fight for their mortal souls. Man, they just do a lot of running.
I must say, these seemingly empty woods suddenly spring to life when the night comes. Short-tempered motorists, unidentified hitchhikers, comic relief hobos, and a pair of hunters so moronic they make Weezer look like the president of MENSA all start coming out of the woodwork just in time to get murdered by a rampaging Egyptian God.
Anubis himself is a hit and miss character. On the one hand, the costume is quite good considering the budget. Actually, it’s very good. On the other hand, we're told early on that being "fleshed" will cause Anubis to lose a grip on his sanity or something like that. First of all, Anubis isn't "fleshed". It's a mummy. They identify it as such. It has bandages. Its face is clearly petrified. Secondly, that explanation about being "fleshed" is about all we get in terms of motivation for Anubis’ killing spree. Other than the look of the character this could just as easily have been any generic slasher of supernatural origin instead of the Egyptian Guardian of the Underworld. I just wish the movie played more into Anubis’ nature or at the very least given him a personality - other than his howling a lot since he is part dog. Instead the film settles for just having him run around the woods killing everyone that crosses his path. I think if Anubis had been given more of a personality or more to do than just slash away at people it really would have elevated the movie.
And after being told repeatedly that Anubis was supposed to be unstoppable did I really see him get held at bay for several minutes by someone waving a large tree branch at him? I don’t even think that scene was played for laughs either.
Another problem I had is that once she-witch, dumb, and dumber have died their much deserved horrible deaths I no longer had any sort of emotional investment as to who lives or dies. We're just left with Anubis running around the woods chasing after the last two members of this group of friends – a generic everyman type and his uptight girlfriend – neither of which is interesting enough to root for or annoying enough to root against. I just felt rather apathetic. Fortunately, the final showdown involved garbage cans, brooms, and a Nerf rocket launcher so it at least kept my attention.
The screener copy I received still had the original title, Anubis: Guardian of the Underworld. The company set to distribute the film on DVD decided to change the title in order to make it a name-only sequel to another movie they released on DVD. I hate when DVD companies pull crap like that. I have never seen the original Ancient Evil: Scream of the Mummy, although I have seen the box on video store shelves. Actually, I have picked up the box on several occasions, put it back down, and moved on. I've never been much for mummy movies and that one just did not look appealing. Judging by the reviews I’ve come across it seems I made the right choice. And yet somebody decided to slap that title on this movie as if it were really an enticement. Honestly, is there even a single person out there that is going to see the title Ancient Evil 2 and immediately go, "Cool, I've been waiting for a sequel to that one"? Maybe in bizarro world but in the plane of existence you and I occupy I'm fairly certain that sentence will never be uttered. Ancient Evil 2 may not be anything special but I still think it deserved a better fate than being labeled the sequel to a movie nobody gives a damn about.
2 out of 5
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