You don’t get many SyFy Channel movies that accurately predict the future (in fact, I’m pretty sure this is the only one). In 1923, Cecil B DeMille filmed “The Ten Commandments” in the sand dunes of Guadalupe, California – afterwards, so the popular myth goes, he blew up the fantastically elaborate sets for reasons unknown. This film shows an archaeological dig at the site; in 2012, there was an actual dig there which recovered, among other things, one of the Sphynxes DeMille had built, showing it hadn’t been destroyed at all, just covered by the endlessly shifting dunes.
This film tweaks the real history a little and makes a story out of it, and it’s a minor work of genius – DeMille was actually an expert on Egypt, and used a large number of real “Middle Kingdom” artefacts in the movie. One of them housed the soul of Im-La-Ra, evil god Seth’s right hand man, but he didn’t know which one, so when Im-La-Ra started killing people, DeMille created a burial chamber for the items, covered the walls with real Egyptian magic spells, and left the lot under the sand.
After brief segments in ancient Egypt and 1923, we’re back in the present day, where two groups of people are trying to dig up the set – one, John and his grandson Mark (George Kennedy and Victor Webster); the other, a huge dig supervised by Dr Alice Carter (Morena Baccarin). John was a kid on the set of the movie and wants to retrieve the amulet he buried in a time capsule; and Alice…well, she’s presumably there for the same reason the real people excavated it in 2012 (in other words, I have no idea and the movie doesn’t tell us). Alice’s estranged husband Jesse, a famous archaeologist, then shows up to try and win her back or something. Jesse is human garbage Adam Baldwin, the Tea Party-supporting, “Obama is a socialist terrorist” believing, Gamergate initiating moron. I’ll see if I can think up any more insults for him as we go along.
Naturally, Im-La-Ra is freed via the amulet that John buried all those years ago, people start dying and they need to excavate quickly, as the entire area will be under water in a few days (I didn’t quite grasp that bit either). John dies and Mark, a former Army logistics guy, goes to work for Alice helping her dismantle and move the set.
From that, director David Flores (who also did “Invasion Roswell“, which we liked) spins a really exciting story! It’s full of strong performances, especially Baccarin and Webster; but even the man who thinks women who get threatened with rape on the internet should stop crying about it, Adam Baldwin, plays his part well. The bit-part characters do a great job – Jennifer Aniston’s dad pops up to brain Mark with the real Maltese falcon; but our favourite is Buford, a redneck friend of Mark’s from the army, who they go to for military supplies. He’s funny, and has a whole believable home life sketched out in about 20 seconds. And we’ve not even talked about the Sheriff’s amazing haircut.
Most importantly, the idea of the movie is clever, at least partly because any problems with their sets can be explained away by them being old, sand-worn, and from the 1920s, and because it’s a really interesting spin on a bit of old Hollywood legend. In fact, the whole 1923 segment is great, with Dan Castellaneta as DeMille and Richard Kind as his main investor, both clearly having fun. The monster looks good, all bits of rotting flesh and cloth, there’s plenty of incident and…I’ll give this one to you, SyFy Channel. An absolute unqualified success, right up there with the best movies you’ve ever done.
Rating: thumbs up