Day Of The Mummy (2014)

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I genuinely have no idea what to make of this film. It uses the strangest framing structure I think I’ve ever seen from what is trying to be a mainstream horror movie, and its technical flaws are so enormous I can’t believe they weren’t deliberate. But here I am, rather enjoying it. Anyway, let’s have a bit of introductory blah-blah, eh?

William McNamara is one of the great “That Guy” actors, although there was a time there in the mid 90s when he was a good choice or two away from stardom. Here he plays Jack Wells, a very Indiana Jones-esque fella, if a little thick in the middle and pale for an Egypt-based adventurer. He specialises in Egyptology, is a genius translator, and is a bit of a playboy, handily illustrated by the threesome he’s having when the movie starts. Danny Glover is “The Collector”, the man who’s owned some of the world’s rarest and most valuable things, and he’s after the Codix Stone, thought buried in a recently discovered tomb of some evil Egyptian pharaoh. The Collector, via video chat, sends Jack to Egypt with a group of archaeologists, ostensibly to help them translate (but really to retrieve the stone).

Here’s where the film takes a left turn into crazy. Jack is given some tech to help him along, an earpiece to communicate with, and a pair of glasses with an HD camera embedded in them. The entire rest of the film is from the perspective of those glasses, meaning aside from a few very carefully placed shots, we never see Jack again. The Collector, on the other hand, appears in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen as part of Jack’s display, but…

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Clearly, they only paid Glover and McNamara for a day or two of shooting each. Glover does his entire role sat down in a nice armchair, and he responds to the action, forces Jack along, in much the same way (and with much the same display) as a character from a computer game would. Now, what they’ve done is got him to record all his little pithy lines in a row, and certainly didn’t tell him what to react to, so he’ll be having a conversation and then his head will suddenly appear on the other side of his mini-view-screen, indicating they just spliced two bits together. It’s so poorly done, with no obvious comic payoff, I was left scratching my head as to why they’d do it.

Plus, McNamara’s dialogue. For no reason whatsoever, it sounds like he recorded his lines in a tin bath, so the rest of the cast are out in “Egypt” (actually Venezuela, but they do a good job – the film looks great) being recorded normally, then Jack will chime in and it sounds absolutely ridiculous! I can forgive low-budget films a lot, but when they have a problem that would have cost no extra to get right – just record him outside, or put better room tone underneath him! – I lose my temper a bit.

Then there’s the camera. The archaeologists are having to act to it, which isn’t that bad in our CGI days, but there’s one scene where they’re walking along and the camera turns for Jack to have a conversation with one of the other actors, continuing to move forwards. Try it. Try walking along then turning your head past 90 degrees to talk to someone while still walking. How long did you make it before falling over or hurting yourself?

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That’s enough of the truly bizarre way they chose to film this. They spend the second half of the film in the tomb, and that bit is great. Tense, the camera perspective helps a lot, and it’s got some of that spirit of the classic adventure movies. Problem is, it’s called “Day Of The Mummy” and is billed as a horror, and the damn mummy doesn’t show up til an hour has passed. Come on!

So, you might think I’d hate it – weirdly poorly made, no monster til the film’s almost over, top billed actors aren’t really in it, and so on. But I really rather enjoyed it! It’s got a great visual style to it, it’s nice and short at least, there’s a fun script from Garry Charles, the rest of the cast do their best in the circumstances, and the ending is sort of fun too. I think I’d recommend it for no other reason than you’re really unlikely to ever see another film that looks like this – I hope, anyway.

Rating: thumbs up

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