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observation notes: Legion of the Dead

It's a modern-day mummy scare courtesy of writer/director and Asylum executive Paul Bales.

When daredevil weekend motocross-ers in California stumble (crash) upon an Egyptian tomb (?), they accidentally unleash an ancient evil whose bloodlust has been lying dormant too long. This brings in university Egyptologist Zach Galligan (Gremlins) and his team of student archaeologists, including the requisite bespectacled hottie (Courtney Clonch) who's had the requisite drunken fling with her professor and now it's awkward as shit, but the education must go on, so here she is. Before the excavation can even get in full swing, however, there's already a confrontation with the local law enforcement (Bruce Boxleitner) and the mysteriously authoritative coroner (Andy Lauer) over issues of safety. Ominously, and foolishly, ZG dismisses their concerns, decreeing that all will be well (It most certainly will not).

Down in the tomb, the university team is joined by an Indiana-Jones style adventurer/academic of either French, German or British decent, I couldn't tell by the accent, oddly enough, and embodied by the capable form of Rhett Giles, who not only is able to disarm millennia-old booby traps, but also offer some bizarre yet I'm sure plausibly-anchored in historical fact explanation as to why there'd be an Egyptian tomb on the West Coast of the United States. I'll admit to being slightly buzzed at this point so not entirely following this logic, but the students on screen seemed to fall for it, and it's their field, so, who am I to doubt?

Hieroglyphics in the tomb spell out certain death but still our intrepid university-team foolishly continues to poke and prod about recklessly, even going so far as to open a mummy's coffin.  Now, I'm no Egyptologist, obviously, but I'm pretty sure if there was a rule book for such a thing, a guide of basic do's and don'ts handed out to every freshman Egyptology major, rule one on page one would read in big fucking bold, block letters: NEVER OPEN THE COFFIN. Or maybe that's just me.

So while this curse is unfurling, as if it wasn't enough, we get the first flares of in-team tension. Seems ZG is pleased with the drunken sexual encounter between he and the bespectacled hottie last year, but she isn't, and furthermore, who's even less pleased is the fella, also on the team, who's been trying to win her heart, let alone her loins, for some time now but she just keeps pushing him away, while pulling others closer. Essentially, this chick's boned too many dudes on this small team, and egos are colliding. And a danger such as this, a danger of the heart, can be the most perilous of all. Until the mummy awakes, of course, and then who gives a fuck about feelings?

And awake the mummy is, thanks to four-eyes' aloud-translation of the hieroglyphics, and, surprise of surprises, the mummy manifests as an eve hotter hottie (Claudia Lynx) with a penchant for walking around butt-ass naked and sucking your...wait for it...lifeforce (sorry) with her touch. A couple of souls in her system and our hottie mummy, now all alert and potent, sets out into the modern world, where she runs into the other hottie, the student, who - thinking our naked killer mummy some poor, disoriented naked foreigner - is nice enough to dress her in a shirt that shows plenty of her midriff. The mummy then uses the human hottie as a beard that she might infiltrate the Egyptoligists and unfurl her centuries-old plan of revenge (only Rhett Giles knows the mummy is a mummy, but this is no good, as he's on her side. D'oh!)

From here there be spoilers, ye be warned - but before its over there's a lot more dead and even more long-dead alive again, if that makes any sense. 

Overall, I found Legion of the Dead to be a fun scare, more heavy on gore than frights, but thanks to great FX and a solid script that kept its science light and the horror out front, balancing levity, historical accuracy, archaeological authenticity, thrills, chills and boobs like a master plate spinner. Helping this balance is an array of solid performances from the cast. ZG hasn't aged a day by the looks of things, no matter how big of a beard you put on him. And try as he might, he isn't as convincing as I would have liked at being the sleaze-ball, coed-preying university scalliwag, but he plays pathetic well, so when his character takes a turn in that direction, he really comes alive. Then, unfortunately, he really comes the opposite. Brief role for Zach, here. Also briefly on-screen is the other name, Bruce B, who as the sheriff has even less screen time than Zach. What lines he does have he reads as softly stern and likably authoritative. Feels like Greg Evigan in 6 Guns, he's on the box to get your attention, but the brunt of the action doesn't fall anywhere near him.

Of the two girls, Courtney the student hottie has the bigger role, which she plays as simultaneously capable and naive, a little doe-eyed but  intelligent, so not helpless. She was a lot of fun to watch, mostly because of her talent, but a little to do with that cut-off-collar sweatshirt she rocked for most of the film. I'm a sucker for off-duty-librarian-chic (you'll know what I mean if you need to). Claudia, our Egyptian minx, played her role of royalty as just that: poised, severe, breathtakingly beautiful, and all while frequently naked, to boot, so ascending to a whole new level of the aforementioned traits.

Writer/Director Paul Bales has written several other Asylum films, but to date this is his only trip behind the camera. The tricks of light and sound and tremors of camerawork he employs, along with his script, help to make this one more than a mere low-budget modern-day mummy flick, and instead a grade-A historical horror film that never takes itself too seriously, while never letting itself grown too light. 

Pretty damn good time, if you ask me.

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