Marvel’s Ultimate Spider-Man and The Howling Commandos will make their very first appearance on the Disney Channel with a one-hour Halloween special event on October 5th. The new animated special will show the wall crawler teaming up with none other than Blade, Werewolf, The Living Mummy, Frankenstein’s Monster, and Man-Thing. That’s quite the Halloween team, and together they must fight off Dracula. I love when they bring horror into the superhero universe, and it’s been a good while since we’ve had anything like this. READ MORE
By now you probably know that Len Wiseman (Underworld, Total Recall (2012)) will be directing The Mummy remake. And you probably know that Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci (co-writers of Transformers, Star Trek, Cowboys And Aliens) are producing it (and a Van Helsing remake), for Universal. The Mummy is one of the all time iconic Universal monsters, so you might have been wondering what direction this thing will take, and now Wiseman is acknowledging his intent.
He told Movieweb “There was skepticism. The difference between the two, if ‘The Mummy’ is to be the next movie for me, is that ‘The Mummy’ is a completely different film. It is a modern day take. It doesn’t have anything to do with the Brendan Fraser films, and it is not a remake of any kind… the pitch was to go with a much different tone. It was a Mummy like I’d never heard of before. Its nothing like what you would expect, at all, oddly. I was picturing Egypt, and the sand swept settings. The mummy wrappings. When I heard what they were wanting to actually do with it, it was shocking.” He added, “It’s horror. Its epic. It’s more of a modern day version of what would happen if we came across a mummy in our world today. It is pretty fascinating.”
Okay. So I like the fact that this will be a modern-day version and will eschew the aesthetics of the last 3 or 4 films in the franchise. I think Wiseman is visually talented, but I’ve never loved one of his movies. Then again the film’s screenwriter Jon Spaihts wrote that draft of Prometheus (aka Alien: Engineers) that was better than the Lindelof version – so who knows at this point?
At least it won’t be in the desert.
Between Dracula’s publication in 1897 and his death in 1912, Bram Stoker had several other supernatural successes, including The Jewel of Seven Stars. Moving from vampires to Egyptian mythology, his tale of an archeologist obsessed with an evil mummified queen was met with a lot of criticism when it was published in 1903 due to its horrific downer of an ending. The backlash was so severe that he had to alter the ending and make it more upbeat – “Hollywoodizing” before it was even a thing – before it could be published again. Sadly, this was not the last time Stoker’s vision would be tinkered with: his novel, The Lair of the White Worm, was posthumously republished with twenty-eight chapters instead of forty.
The Jewel of Seven Stars was adapted a few times, starting with an episode of Mystery and Imagination and Hammer’s Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb in the early 1970’s. Mike Newell (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) got his shot in 1980 with The Awakening, which was shot in Egypt and starred Charlton Heston. But even with an accomplished actor, great source material, and beautiful locations in its favor, it’s one of the most uneventful Stoker adaptations ever.
Heston hams it up as archeologist Matthew Corbeck, a British Egyptologist who never quite gets his English accent down right. He’s more interested in uncovering Queen Kara’s long-lost tomb – and maybe his assistant (Susannah York) – than his pregnant wife Anne (Jill Townsend). Corbeck’s discovery of the tomb is cleverly cross-cut with Anne’s labor pains and as their daughter is born, the murderous woman’s soul possesses the lifeless baby’s body. With his interests clearly lying elsewhere, Anne flees the country with their daughter. Eighteen years later, a grown Margaret (Stephanie Zimbalist) meets her father for the first time and, as mysterious, violent occurrences start to mount, Corbeck realizes his daughter is possessed and must perform an ancient ritual to stop Kara from completely taking hold of his daughter and destroying the world – or something like that.
I say “something like that” because, despite playing the DVD on three different TVs with three different players, nobody could understand a damn word anyone was saying half of the time and the absence of subtitles hit harder than ever. I’ve only had really great experiences with Warner Archive releases in the past, but the dialogue track on The Awakening is atrocious. Claude Bolling’s score adds to the atmosphere created by Jack Cardiff’s cinematography, but it completely steamrolls everyone’s lines.
Sound gripes aside, The Awakening is often dull. The script is heavily influenced by The Omen, with everyone standing in the way of Kara’s return biting the dust in gruesome “accidents,” but the twist is given away in the first act. Aside from becoming uneasy because everyone around them is dying, none of the characters are given anything to do except discuss Kara’s past life and wonder how evil she really was. There are a few neat scenes, like Margaret seeing herself as a crumbling, decomposing old woman in the mirror, but they’re few and far between. The film tries to goes for a deeper meaning of “the awakening” with some incestuous flirtation and kissing, but they must’ve decided it was a little too creepy because it disappears almost as quickly as it’s brought up.
The Awakening finally gets to the good stuff (well, something that could be considered exciting in the context of the film, anyway) and then abruptly ends. No mass chaos, no fire and brimstone destruction; just credits. It’s a real shame the locations weren’t used in a better movie, because The Awakening, while good looking at times, puts all of its effort into drawing itself out to an expected conclusion and trying to be the next Omen instead of being effective.
Mention Bram Stoker’s name, and literature and movie buffs will conjure up Count Dracula. But there was more blood in Stoker’s pen. He also wrote The Jewel of the Seven Stars, later filmed with chilling effect as The Awakening, grippingly directed by Mike Newell (Dance with a Stranger, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) and sensuously shot on Egyptian locations by veteran cinematographer Jack Cardiff. Charlton Heston stars as an Egyptologist with a passion that will trigger several mysterious deaths. He’s obsessed with a sorceress whose return has been prophesied – and whose tomb he opened at the exact moment his daughter was born. Can ancient evil reach forward in time to curse the present? Horror movie fans know the terrifying answer.