Ancient Evil: Scream of the Mummy (1999)

zKaDqCiOne of the worst things about fiction is bad exposition. It’s pretty clear from the beginning that “Ancient Evil” probably wanted, but couldn’t afford an entire shot of archaeologists discovering the evil mummy of the film, so we have to have an opening shot of a group of doctors discussing the mummy. One doctor even tells the other doctors where they found the mummy. That’s just bad writing. Why would she reiterate what they already know? Clearly, it’s for the audience.

To top it off the entire analysis of a mummified corpse is being held in a luxurious house in the middle of a suburb in what is clearly someone’s living room. It looks like they placed a bunch of antiques from the “Pottery Barn” that looked Egyptian kind of, and then tried their damndest to convince us this is a college observatory where the educated folks study this voodoo! At one point the major professor is inspecting the observatory, and you can clearly see the props master covered a bunch of kitchen counter space with props to make it look like a science lab. They even decorated someone’s indoor patio to look like a classroom! Folding chairs and a chalk board, it’s a classroom, alright. You can tell these talking heads are students, too! They have glasses, clipboards, and white lab coats. They’re legit.

The movie is only a little under ninety minutes, and spends the first ten minutes literally explaining the entire premise and setting up some awful foreshadowing for the audience. At eighty five minutes, if you cut out the credits, the filler, and intentionally time wasting sneaking around, you’d only suffer through forty five minutes of “Ancient Evil.” It’s also an Aztec mummy. I may not being a history expert, but were there ever Aztec mummies? And how do you embalm a living human? Is there such a thing as a summer camp for archaeology students in their late twenties? Where is the rest of the staff in this science camp? And why is curfew even enforced? We have to sit through the entire origin of mummy for the first fifteen minutes, in the writers vain effort to lure audiences in with some ancient horror devices.

We also have to listen for clues like “virgin” and “sacrifice.” Obviously one of these doctors are virgins because they’re science nerds. None of these young people will ever be confused for science students. And they definitely won’t be confused for actual actors. Takes are overlong or awkwardly framed revealing the inherently awful performances from the cast, all of whom are forced to deliver some painfully bad dialogue. Everyone literally spends the entire film sneaking around rooms in a rented house over-explaining every single plot point for us, and there’s never any room for a horror movie here. But of course, young Norman wants payback for being picked on, so he begins to resurrect this mummy to systematically kill off these nubile young college students.

You have to love how everything in the movie feels like someone was given three hundred dollars and spent the weekend at a Halloween decoration store. David DeCouteau directs the movie not only on a piss poor budget, but tries for no theatrics at all. When Norman stands over the mummy to resurrect him, the mummy just instinctively rises. It also has a pot belly. You have to laugh at how this top notch science facility would put a priceless ancient mummy right in front of a fire place. But DeCouteau doesn’t bother to try for suspense or tension because there’s always lightning flickering outside everyone’s window. There’s never any rain or indication rain is coming, so the flickering lightning is quite a laughable attempt to build atmosphere where there is clearly none.

This film also marks the beginning of the phase where DeCouteau is prone to habitually looking for any excuse to shoot his male characters half naked or in tight clothing. So unless you’re in to it, DeCouteau spends an uncomfortable amount of time showing his male cast shirtless, or in underwear. The women, on the other hand, are mostly just covered up. “Ancient Evil” is an embarrassing and painfully tedious horror film that fails to deliver on every conceivable element of horror, suspense, drama, or terror. Even for laughs, “Ancient Evil” will test your endurance. I leave this review on a word from the movie’s screenwriter I found online which should indicate, if anything, what “Ancient Evil” will hold for you:

“What remains is eighty minutes of Beer-Gut The Mummy waddling around these brightly lit hallways and these kids pretty much narrating the rest of the movie for us. And no blood. And no visual effects. And the plot … kids being left alone at an “archaeology summer camp”. I can’t think of anything else to say that hasn’t already been said, except, I’m sorry. I’m really, really, truly sorry.” – Matthew Jason Walsh, doom cheez cinema