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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Halloween Hoardefest: The Mummy's Tomb and Sorority House Massacre

A couple of flicks ranging from not exactly the best to outright horrid...

1942's The Mummy's Tomb is the middle piece of Universal's quintet of flicks featuring the shuffling Egyptian hitman originally made famous by Boris Karloff and likewise played by old-time cowboy star Tom Tyler in the film preceding this one, The Mummy's Hand.

Lon Chaney, Jr. takes the reigns--or wraps, if you will--in The Mummy's Tomb and while this one is entertaining on a basic level, even Chaney will tell you he wasn't fond of the title monster being reimagined from Karloff's immortal Ihmotep to the future--and long-standing--Kharis.

Nevertheless, Chaney does his job in this somewhat generic vehicle in which he is brought over from the Middle East (Kharis surviving his torching in The Mummy's Hand, natch) thirty years after to extol revenge on the Banning clan who dared "violate" his sacred tomb. Oh, wait a minute, isn't that the purported locale of this film?

If you want to count more than five minutes of hoisted footage from The Mummy's Hand in this flick, Chaney's "tomb" consists of a cemetery caretaker's cottage occupied by a new high priest Mehemet Bey (played by Turhan Bey). Bey inherits the consecrated position of watching over Kharis' remains and takes an oath bestowed by the terminally ill Andoheb (George Zucco) to snuff out the Bannings, thus setting the karma line into proper balance.

Chaney is set into lumbering action as he takes out the surviving principals of the previous story, Stephen Banning (Dick Foran), Babe Hanson (previously known as "Jenson" and fielded by Wallace Ford) and the matronly aunt. Turhan Bey sets his targets on Stephen's son Dr. John Banning (John Hubbard) to rid Kharis of the entire lineage. Only problem is, Bey gets spring fever in the loins and sets himself upon stealing John's fiancee Isobel (whom John proposes to inadvertently while getting a draft notice!).

Bey commands Kharis to kidnap Isobel, Babe's warnings of a rampaging mummy are taken seriously only after he's crushed in the city alley, and the townsfolk chase the still-shambling Chaney back to the cemetery with torches in an abhorrent ripoff of Frankenstein--and not very convincingly done, either.

The Mummy's Tomb is well filmed as always, but it does betray a lot of cheating, particularly the conclusion as Bey is dispatched by the throng by an off-camera gunshot as he issues his final utterances of mankind's doom. Kharis' chokehold killing of the aunt is nearly comedic (is he actually smiling in that frame where he barely tugs on her chin with his folded-up arm?) and the stalk 'n squash motif is relative to a lesser-fun Michael Myers romp. Otherwise...

Speaking of Halloween, it cannot go understated how frequently John Carpenter's vintage classic was (and still is, actually) regurgitated in droves in the years following. Friday the 13th reinvented Carpenter's vision, only Sean S. Cunningham slapped his nubiles in the woods and changed the sex of the unseen stalker. Of course, he converted the murderer back to alpha in his onslaught of sequels and now remakes.

One of the guiltiest take-offs from the original Halloween is 1986's Sorority House Massacre. Add hijackings of The Dorm That Dripped Blood, A Nightmare On Elm Street and Slumber Party Massacre, and what you get here is a faux psychological thriller which tumbles dreadfully into another carve 'em up T&A gig featuring awful dialogue and the biggest onscreen hair since Poison.

Ready for the plot? Oh, come on, admit it, you're curious...

A young co-ed named Beth (Angela O'Neill) takes up the offer to crash at a campus sorority house as she explores the possibility of pledging, not to mention finding a quiet space to deal with bloody dreams she's been having. Quiet, huh?

Okay, so maybe this isn't Animal House, but Beth is left with another threesome of sisters and their moronic boyfriends for a lame-o "party" in the sorority shack. Beth is a stick in the mud from her persistent dream haunts, while her girlfriends (amongst them actresses Pamela Ross and Wendy Martel) shirk their baggy astro-eighties clothes in the interest of raiding another sister's closet for a private fashion show, all as excuse by the producers to show off their goodies. Trademark stuff of the decade...

Okay, so why is "Beth" having nightmares of a chubby-faced bulldog repeatedly coming after her? Said goon is locked in an asylum and guess what? He breaks out! Then he walks into an arms store and stabs the proprietor with a knife he swipes. Then he jumps into a green woodie station wagon (oh, the thefts galore, even down to National Lampoon's Vacation!) and hightails it to the college and begins stabbing the shit out of our nonsensical cast. For the record, the only one you care about is Nicole Rio as Tracy because she flaunts a beautiful rack even with a blade rammed between them. Everybody else floats on the dead air of the script and looks atrocious as our killer torments them from the other side of the door... "I think he left!" one quips. Groan... I wonder how intelligent the ladies are permitted to be in the 1990 sequel. Maybe not, considering they reportledly consult a ouija board to fight their attacker in that one, double groan...

Here comes the utterly pathetic punchline of Sorority House Massacre: "Beth" is also known as "Laura," which is how she is referred to by the killer in her dreams, which actually are kinda nifty in the opening segments, if drawn out mercilessly. Our resident psychopath has "come home" to the sorority house as it used to be owned by his family, whom he dispatched 12 years prior. Problem is, he left one sibling behind and do you wanna take a stab (pun intended) who that sister would be? Ding ding ding! On the money if you said "Beth" or "Laura!"

How freaking stupid are we as the audience expected to be if we honestly accept Beth has come back to the house she spent her earlier childhood years in, having blacked out all that had happened to her family? Her blade-happy broski shares a psychic connection with her and somehow they rendezvous at the old scene of the crime. Jesus, at least Rob Zombie sold his psychic connection between Michael Myers and his punked-out Laurie Strode 2.0 in his own Halloween II more believably than this garbage.

I pulled this turkey from a shelf of VHS tapes filled with horror films I taped in my teens and early 20s. Why did Sorority House Massacre make the cut when I taped football and hockey games over most of them later on? Better yet, why did I watch it again this evening?

Because Nicole Rio flaunts a beautiful rack even with a blade rammed between them. Damn, how shallow...

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