Tag Archives: horror

My Thoughts on: The Mummy (1932)

Having made my way through most of the Frankenstein films, I decided to take a detour into a film series I hitherto knew very little about: the Mummy! Oh sure, I’m very well acquainted with The Mummy (1999) and its sequel (I don’t acknowledge the existence of Tomb of the Dragon Emperor), but until this past month I’d never seen the film that started it all, the 1932 film starring Boris Karloff as the titular Mummy.

First I have to say that every assumption I had about this movie turned out to be wrong. This is NOT one of those movies that has the Mummy shambling through the countryside wreaking havoc as he goes (that’s all of the sequels), and really the film only bears the loosest of resemblances to the 1999 remake. But speaking of, I was surprised at how identical the core premises of each film are. In this film, as in the remake, Imhotep is a high priest cursed to be mummified alive for attempting to revive his love from the dead. Here it’s the Scroll of Thoth that gives the Mummy his power instead of the Book of the Dead (no Book of Amun-Ra in sight either), but otherwise it’s the same basic principle.

My initial disappointment at not seeing more of Karloff in his Mummy bandages was quickly melted away when I saw his performance for the bulk of the film as Ardeth Bey (bet that name sounds familiar if you’ve seen the 1999 film). Even if you weren’t paying attention at the beginning, the film leaves no doubt to the viewer that Ardeth Bey is the rejuvenated Mummy. His walk is unnaturally stiff, and he speaks very slowly and carefully, as if used to speaking a language very different form those found in the modern world. I’m beginning to understand why Karloff was so acclaimed. You’d never think that just a year before Karloff had played Frankenstein’s monster. He completely embodies the Mummy with no hint of that other role, and that’s not something all actors can do.

Now on to something I found really cool. Inevitably, the film flashed back to how the Mummy came to be. It only took a few minutes for me to realize that this entire flashback to Ancient Egypt is essentially a silent film, exaggerated acting and all, spliced into the middle of a sound film.This blew my mind until I considered that The Mummy was made in 1932, silent films had been made on a fairly regular basis until just a few years prior. It wouldn’t have been that hard to put together, and it was a fairly ingenious way to make it clear that we are in the past (by using a now-outdated filming style). And that flashback is the most consistent with the 1999 remake: Imhotep steals the Scroll of Thoth to resurrect Anck-su-namum but is caught before he can finish. That’s pretty much beat for beat how the prologue of the remake plays out (minus the Pharaoh being murdered, that doesn’t happen in this one).

I really like Zita Johann as Helen/Anck-su-namum. I was fascinated to learn that Zita was a firm believer in reincarnation, which I think really helped her performance as the ramifications of reincarnation are hinted at here. See, at one point it’s hinted that Helen and Anck-su-namun are both inhabiting the same body, and feeling very confused about it. You really feel for Helen’s suffering, as she clearly doesn’t understand what’s happening to her. You also, believe it or not, feel for Anck-su-namun once she awaken’s in Helen’s body. Here’s an ancient priestess briefly living in the 20th century, and handling it pretty well if I’m honest (though being surrounded by ancient Egyptian relics int he museum probably helped). I loved how ancient magic came into play at the climax of the film. The idea that these ancient spells can still work if only the right words are spoken fascinates me.

Also, I have to talk about how amazing the Mummy makeup is. I’m referring to the Mummy as he’s seen lying in his coffin at the start of the film. In black and white, it looks for all the world like a desiccated Mummy, perfectly preserved. But then…the magic words are spoken….and the Mummy’s eyes blink open! That’s the moment that sticks with me the most out of this whole film, seeing those living eyes open in the middle of an otherwise dead face. Now THAT is horror, something that sends a chill down your spine no matter how old the film is. Also, the moment at the end when Imhotep turns into dust is very well done. I’m a little sad that Imhotep didn’t get some final words, but I understand why they didn’t go that route. Since the Scroll of Thoth is all that was keeping him alive, I can see that its destruction would ensure his immediate demise.

One last thought: I’m glad The Mummy was made pre-Code because otherwise those scenes with Anck-su-namun in her quite revealing Egyptian outfit would never have happened (and I shudder to think what might’ve appeared in its place). It’s still wild to me that such things were considered improper, why Helen looks almost modern in that outfit (yes I know, it was a different time, I just can’t help commenting on it).

The Mummy (1932) has quickly become one of my favorite horror films, and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to experience a horror classic. Just for fun, follow up a watching of this film with the 1999 remake (it’s a fun experience I promise!)

Let me know what you think about The Mummy (1932) in the comments below and have a great day!

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Soundtrack Review: Countdown (2019)

The original motion picture soundtrack for Countdown is available now, with music composed by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans (Ozark, Chef’s Table, Fear The Walking Dead). Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans are two award-winning film composers. They have been playing music together for over twenty years. In the last eight years, they have completed well over 100 acclaimed film and TV scores. As a duo, they are known for bold unpredictability, uniqueness, and their ability to interpret a wide range of genres for their scores. Drawing from an array of modern classical styles and beyond, their compositions are filled with atypical orchestrations, sensuous melodies, and visceral soundscapes.

Regarding the film, which features a seemingly deadly app, the composers had this to say:

“We had a great time scoring Countdown full of moody analog synths, atonal string orchestras and piercing jump scares.  We tried to stay true to a traditional horror score but added some of our own unique twists and unpredictability!”

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In Countdown, when a nurse downloads an app that claims to predict the moment a person will die, it tells her she only has three days to live. With the clock ticking and a figure haunting her, she must find a way to save her life before time runs out.

This soundtrack, in a nutshell, is terrifying. I haven’t been this freaked out by a film score since I listened to the soundtrack for It: Chapter Two. There’s just something about horror soundtracks that pushes all of my anxiety buttons, and the soundtrack for Countdown is no exception. Bensi and Jurriaan make sure that you now where each and every jump scare is located, which makes sense since music is integral to making these jump scares work. Even though I expected this, it still scared me every time one leapt out of the music.

That being said, there’s a bit of range in this soundtrack. Here and there the music slips into a more relaxed mode, though these moments never last long and are usually just a precursor to another jump scare. One moment in particular jumped out at me: late in the soundtrack, the composers included what sounds like an old music box, and it’s sudden appearance sent chills down my spine. I don’t know why the music box sound can feel so terrifying in the setting of a horror film, but it does.

If the actual film is as scary as the soundtrack, then Countdown will surely be a film to watch out for (I personally have no plans to watch it as I am a bona fide scaredy cat when it comes to this genre). However, as much as it scared me, I did enjoy listening to the soundtrack.

Let me know what you think about Countdown (and its soundtrack) in the comments below and have a great day!

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My Thoughts on: Midsommar (2019)

*some minor spoilers may have gotten out without me realizing it

Where do you start with a film like Midsommar? I’ve been puzzling over that ever since I got home.  See, Midsommar was nothing like what I expected going in.

In fact, I think it was better.

The biggest thing that surprised me about Midsommar was how much it resonated with me. I did not expect to identify so closely with Dani (Florence Pugh), who travels to Sweden with her boyfriend and his friends to see the titular festival. Dani really does remind me of me, especially early in the film when she talks about her fears of driving away her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor). I’ve had near identical conversations in my brain at times, and from that point on, no matter what happened, I was firmly in Dani’s corner for the rest of the story.

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And what a story. I admit I was afraid going in because Midsommar was described as belonging to the horror genre, a film genre that most of you know by now I try to avoid whenever possible. But this…this isn’t like any horror film I’ve ever seen before. There’s a few scary moments to be sure, but nothing like what I expected.

As for how to describe the story…honestly I’m still not sure if I can put it into words. On the strength of one viewing, I’d have to say a lot of Midsommar is about Dani finding herself as she’s immersed in this strange and yet oddly wonderful world deep in the Swedish countryside. I say that, despite knowing that there are some parts of this village’s life that deeply disturb me (for spoiler reasons I won’t say what they are). But apart from those, I found myself drawn to how the villagers live together. Unlike some stories, I feel like the villager’s actions are 100% genuine, there’s no evil entity in the shadows, no monsters to be fed (well, not in the conventional sense), just villagers living the life that has always worked for them.

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My favorite part of Midsommar is watching how Dani slowly, very slowly, begins to grow (the Maypole scene was superb) and learn to deal with her emotions. She goes through a lot in this story, and it was absolutely cathartic to see her end up in what is arguably the perfect support network (unlike before where she was largely left alone with her emotions).

Overall, Midsommar is one of the best films I’ve seen so far this year. It drew me in, it held me, and it certainly didn’t feel 2 1/2 hours long. If you get the chance, go see Midsommar in theaters while you can, you won’t regret it.

What do you think about Midsommar? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

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