Stephen King’s book, Danse Macabre, is a fascinating take on writing, horror and society. He begins the book by offering three main archetypes. There is the werewolf, the vampire and the thing without a name. He spends much of the next few chapters reflecting on these monsters and what they mean, and why humans seem so horrified by them. I suppose it says something about the state of films today that, in the case of 2017’s The Mummy, Universal Studios would have you think these archetypes mostly mean modern buzzwords like shared universe and reboot.
I tried comparing the old black-and-white Karloff films to what I see in this new iteration of The Mummy. I can’t say I saw much that seemed at all similar. Now, if we take that sometimes scary and sometimes fun adventure movie from ’99, I can see a sort of tie in to the old Karloff film. After all, the stories aren’t that different. The titular monster comes back for love and wishes to resurrect his bride. The 1999 take on The Mummy simply adds some more humor and action elements, and has a surprisingly dashing — and, dare I say, Indiana Jones-esque — performance from Brendan Fraser. All in all, 1999’s The Mummy was one of my favorite movies growing up, and it produced its own slew of sequels and spin-offs. Not mentioning this movie in a discussion about Universal Studios and mummies just seems silly.
I’ll be honest and say I took more joy out of re-watching those old trailers than I did from the new 2017 trailers. This version of The Mummy looks like an excuse for a franchise, and frankly appears to be more of a Mission: Impossible movie with a goth aesthetic. Now, don’t get me wrong. I enjoy most of Cruise’s films. Oblivion and Edge of Tomorrow were original, interesting and altogether enjoyable. The last few Mission: Impossible movies are mainly why Tom Cruise is still a household name. As the lead in this reboot, I could go either way, honesty. Here’s what I’d like to see:
Don’t over focus on action for the sake of action. This is a Mummy film. It’s horror and too much mindless action, however intricate and impressive, will ruin the feel of the story. I want my intricate sets and crazy action scenes to stay in Mission: Impossible where they belong.
The villain needs good motivation. The Mummy and Dracula archetypes rely on the monster being human and not human, with shades of emotion and sexuality that makes the non-human parts all the more horrifying.
Be scary. Mostly what I saw in the trailer was some spooky visuals and a jump scare. I’m gonna need a little more than that to take the Dark Universe seriously.
I want some tasteful humor. The 1999 Mummy film wasn’t afraid to add a little levity, even in the scariest moments.
I don’t care about a shared universe. I want a good movie. A shared universe does not a franchise make. Remember the fiasco that was The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen?
Do the original story justice. It is a reboot. I’d like to see a few nods to Boris Karloff and old Hollywood cinema, though I imagine this will all take a backseat to the introduction of Universal’s Dark Universe.
Mostly though, don’t dress up your Dr. Jekyll like this:
I can’t even imagine how silly Russell Crowe would look.