Okay, here we go, the final film in my 90’s horror marathon, and I’ve saved a special one for last. In fact, you could say this film is my personal favorite genera staple of the era.
Much like how “The Silence of the Lambs” was a horror that dived into the crime thriller genera, “The Mummy” is a horror that dives into the Action adventure category, which I’m a huge fan of. Director Stephen Sommers intended to make an exciting period adventure in the style of the “Indiana Jones” series.
Naturally, it’s the villain who always steals the show in horror films, and Arnold Vosloo is great as the mummy Imhotep. Something about his face and presence fits the role perfectly.
Another ace up this movies sleeve is actually the cast, who are admittedly stock, but unavoidably likable, and even memorable in their own way. Brendan Fraser is one of those actors who usually gets a bad rap, but I like him in this film as our lead hero Rick O’Connell. He’s got plenty of charm, and can be genuinely cool during the action. Even the comedic side character named Jonathan can be charismatic at times. There’s also a nasty little bad guy named Beni, who serves under the Mummy in the same vain as Renfield serving under Dracula. There’s a secret society called the Medjai, who protect the mummy’s resting place, and definitely bring to mind the protectors of the Holy Grail from “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” ... but I mean that in a good way. The leader of the Madjai is called Ardeth Bay, and he’s awesome ... arguably one of my favorite characters from the series. Interesting to note that back in the 1932 version of “The Mummy”, our villain used the name Ardeth Bay as an alias.
Yet, my favorite character by far is the beautiful and intelligent Egyptologist named Evie, who's brought to life with great charisma by Rachel Weisz.
Another talent that needs to be acknowledged is the late Jerry Goldsmith, who composed the music for this film. He is personally my favorite movie music composer who ever lived, and his score for “The Mummy” is another one of his best accomplishments. Now, Jerry Goldsmith is no stranger to composing music for horror films, as he scored the music to my personal favorite horror movie “Poltergeist”, and won an academy award for the score he composed in the 1976 classic “The Oman”. With “The Mummy” he hits all the right notes again, especially with the eerie music creating a lot of atmosphere, and a foreboding mood. Yet, it doesn't stop there, as he’s also given more variety with this films sound track. He also hits it out of the park with the adventure track, the romantic track, and especially his track for the action scenes, which get me hyped every time. There’s also an instrumental baled that plays during the end credits, and it’s absolutely breathtaking to listen to.
Like the soundtrack, this film combines a variety of things that I love into one movie experience. It’s a film that combines horror, action, Sci-Fi, adventure and comedy into one perfect package, and the tone of the film is consistent all around, giving each genera trope a chance to shine. The comedy for the most part works great, even with something as over the top as the library book shelves falling over domino style. The subtle self-referential hummer also works great, and leads to some quotable lines.
The Egypt setting is also a very intriguing one, with a lot of back story and mythos to explore. I love all the little details, the objects, the hieroglyphics, and it just creates a unique world that’s fun to explore. There’s also a sub-plot in which the Mummy unleashes the ten plagues of Egypt, which leads to some awesome spectacles. There’s the river of blood, the sun eclipse, fire falling from the heavens, a swarm of locusts, and an army of lepers that become the mummy’s mindless servants. This was also the first time I’d ever seen the concept of a cursed book utilized on film, even though it has been done to death with past movies like “The Evil Dead”. Another great addition to the film are the Scarab Beetle’s ... really nasty insects that come in swarms. The best parts are when the Scarab’s come to life one at a time, and actually enter a person’s body. The effect of the insects crawling under the skin is admittedly dated, but it’s still a nasty concept.
Now for all the fun and adventure aspects of the film, it’s still not without some genuinely scary material. There's lots of little scenes which always gave me chills back when I was a kid watching it, like this one single shot of the mummy’s motionless corpse in its coffin before he even comes to life. There’s another scene in the opening in which our hero see’s a statue of an Egyptian God, and while he looks at the thing we hear this quiet, yet ominous voice whispering things, and it’s a subtly effective touch. It actually reminds me of the opening from “The Exorcist” in which the priest is on an archaeological dig and discovers the cryptic statue of Pazuzu.
The scariest moment of all which gave me nightmares as a child is this one scene in which one of the explorers in the pyramid loses his glasses, and staggers around a dark corridor, unaware that the mummy is closing in for a kill. This scene was shot and executed beautifully, with lots of atmosphere, built-up tension, and creepy sound effects. We don’t even see the creature in full detail, just the outline of his shadow, and that’s all we need to make this a relatively frightening scene. When we see the guy latter, we discover that his eyes and tongue were ripped out, and keeping that off screen actually disturbed me more, because my imagination was filling in the blanks. Having said all that, it's very amusing to look back on this film as an adult, and chuckle at the idea of this movie scaring me. It dose contain spooky elements ... but it's really not a scary movie at all. There’s also a lot of silly jump scares, some of which are actually effective, and the rest make me roll my eyes.
Now admittedly the films eerie tone and scary moments are dropped once we get to the third act of the film. This is when it becomes a strait up summer action flick, with lots of special effects and thrilling action scenes. Now, special effects were all very new for me at the time, so seeing the Mummy create a giant sand storm monster in his own image was both original, and a big eye-popping treat. The climacteric rescue of Evie from Imhotep is outstanding, and gives our hero’s a great variety of new obstacles to battle without going to over board. This climax actually gives us the best of both worlds, as we see both old school and new material at once. First we have our hero’s battling classic mummy’s all warped in bandages, staggering around, and with traditional monster make-up. Then they battle the skeleton warriors, which are more agile, great feats of computer graphics, and the whole scene is a nice homage to Ray Harryhausen’s skeleton soldiers from “Jason and the Argonauts”.
Just like “Jurassic Park” and “Back to the Future”, “The Mummy” has become a staple for Universal Studios, and one of its most marketed products. I’ll never forget going to Universals theme park in Florida and ridding the indoor Mummy roller-coaster called “The Mummy’s Revenge”, which is personally one of my favorite theme park rides of all time, and arguably the best to ever be adapted from a film.
Mummy TV series based on the film, which aired on Kids WB.
Mummy TV series based on the film, which aired on Kids WB.
In the end, I can't make any persuasive argument that “The Mummy” is any kind of meaningful cinematic achievement, but it's undeniably an entertaining experience, and still one of my all time favorites of the genera. While certainly not a traditionally scary movie, it is never the less an experience I viewed at a very young age, and it gave me both the courage, and excitement to check out other movies that might have a frightening edge to them. Honestly, had it not been for "The Mummy", I probably wouldn't have continued with movies in the vain of "Poltergeist" or "Aliens", and I probably wouldn't be the horror fan I am today without that experience.
It's also responsible for getting me hooked to the classic Black & White monsters movies in the vain of "Dracula" and "Frankenstein". Once I found out “The Mummy” was a remake, I just had to seek out the original to see what it was like, and that film in turn got me interested in viewing Universals other monster classics. As corny as it is to say, the 1999 remake of “The Mummy” is my own personal horror fountain of youth ... it's the one that started it all ... and all these years later, it's still just as fun as when I was a kid. It has a tight, well balanced screenplay, memorable characters, some decent scary material, and no shortage of fun. Plus, I feel that this film paved the way for modern adventure films. Just like how the 90’s was a transition period, I always look at “The Mummy” as the big film that ended the 90’s and began the 2000’s. Personally, I think this film as aged beautifully, dated in parts to be sure, but it still holds up as one of my all around favorite entertainment movies. It’s slick and modern, but also has this enchanting old-fashioned innocence that makes it perfect Saturday afternoon fodder.
Thanks for reading my review of the classic 1999 Horror remake of “The Mummy” ... and I wish you all pleasant dreams!