REVIEW: American Mummy
– By Allan Lear
I imagine we’re mainly members of Western cultures here, so nobody will need much expansion when I refer to the pathetic post-Enlightenment backsliding that has witnessed the Anglophonic nations sink into increasing decadence, irrelevance and even self-parody in the past century or so. The irony is that while we view the end of the Second World War as the ultimate triumph of liberal social democracy over the forces of barbarism, its consequence for the American-led West has been permission to indulge all the worst aspects of our social psyches that made Enlightenment values a necessary correction in the first place.
The increasing shallowness of our thought is predominantly noticeable in the visual media, where the focus on cosmesis at the cost of total vapidity has increased exponentially on a daily basis since the Lumiere brothers first invented drive-in shadow puppetry. Lord Reith famously proclaimed that television should be utilised to educate, inform and ENTERTAIN, and Hollywood has taken this prescription entirely to heart.
The ludicrous and unconsidered optical hogwash that floods our occipital lobes in a constant stream of hyperactive dysaesthesia is responsible for many ills in our current society, from the desperate cult of bodily self-mutilation in a quest for plasticised immortality to the horrendous psychological damage inflicted on teenagers (mainly girls but also many boys) by the ludicrous and illusory standard of physiological perfection mandated by the tyrannous ubiquity of the airbrush.
Furthermore, it is in the nature of capitalism that entertainment will be produced by appeal to the argumentum ad populum fallacy. Any thoughtful content which may have been intended by the originator of an intellectual property will be carefully pruned away from the product, like the toxic ovaries of a fugu blowfish, lest it baffle or offput the lowest common denominator from expending their disposal income in the cinema.
Nevertheless it is extremely uncommon for any entertainer other than Michael Bay to come out into the open and proclaim, “My oeuvre is vacuous shite but it looks pretty! Devour it with your eyes while your brain atrophies and dies!” I believe this is frowned upon in the major film studies for the simple reason that it gives the game away somewhat. It is thus relatively unusual to come across a film like American Mummy.
American Mummy is a gorgeous film. It’s beautifully shot in some bleak, wonderful American desert landscape and great care has been taken not only on location but on all the sets and properties. It tells the story of an archaeological dig that discovers the mummified cadaver of a South American that had washed up in the American West after being ostracised from their own society. The dig team are keen to discover his petrified remains and find clues as to why precisely he was forced to migrate from the Mexican jungle to a cave in a mountain East of Vegas.
Of course, South American religions are notorious for being involved in extensive human sacrifice, and this gentleman was, in life, no exception. A devotee of Quetzalcoatl, he is entombed in beautiful feathered décor and he looks stunning.
Naturally, this being a horror movie, you can’t unearth a ravishing mummy without everything going to shit, and the behaviour of everyone on the dig team suddenly goes odd until they’re all covered in blood and miserable. The presence of unreliable corporate influence in their midst, qua the Alien movies, does little but exacerbate the situation.
Some truly exceptional work has been done on this film. Not only does the mummy look gorgeous, but the whole archaeological dig area is wonderfully convincing. Seemingly filmed on location, which must be tricky for a low-budget film in a desert area, the film has a wonderfully realistic central locale and the whole production department must be lauded for the great success of their efforts.
For that reason alone, it’s truly a great shame that American Mummy is a passel of shite.
It’s not that the plot is banal and uninspired, or that the dialogue is flabby and unreal, though they are. More than anything, it’s the acting. Oh, fuck me, the acting. Almost none of the so-called actors who infest the celluloid of this film, getting in the way of the lovely scenery and messing up the props, have ever been taught in their lives to deliver a line. Every one of them sounds like a reality TV star reading a script to camera, or an English footballer semi-literately bluffing his way through an autocue spiel for Sport Relief. Suzy Block, in the lead, and Rudy Marquez, trailing a long way further down the cast list in support, do their absolute best to overcome the stumbling inadequacy of the script, but the rest of the cast are millstones around their necks. And they drown.
The only hope for American Mummy is that ground-breaking new technology will enable some future director’s cut to take all the action out of it and put a better film in front of the lovely backgrounds. In the meantime, I recommend putting it on with the volume off and using it as backdrop to a party, the way some people will just put the image of a crackling log fire on the television to placebo-warm the room on a chill winter’s day. Or not bothering.