Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy

Mummy Maniac | Shadow Puppets

By Steve Anderson
October 1st, 2007

Mummy ManiacMummy Maniac
zero stars
DVD
Directed by Max Nikoff
Written by Max Nikoff
Starring Erica Cruz, Colette Claire, Hollie Overton, Elissa Dowling
Produced by Nola Roeper
81 mins
R
2007

When I first slipped this into my DVD player, I thought I'd finally gone completely over the edge. It looked like yet another Ulli Lommel shitheap, with its poor video quality and its heavy dependence on gratuitious violence and gore. Not to mention the necessity of text crawls to advance the plot--it's standard Lommel to not even bother giving up the plot with things like exposition and character development. No, you see, these things just get in the way of reasonably attractive young actresses getting strangled and rendered, so why bother?

But no...unless "Max Nikoff" is a psuedonym for "Ulli Lommel"--and frankly I wouldn't be a bit surprised if it were--this is just another godawful shitheap of a movie that has absolutely nothing to do with Ulli Lommel and instead with Nola Roeper and the Hollywood House of Horror.

The Hollywood House of Horror, you see, is the company that brought us so many of Ulli Lommel's syrup of ipecac replacements. And this time, in a truly Lommelesque move, Hollywood House of Horror brings us the based-on-a-true-story story of a serial killer who mummifies the heads of his victims. And of course, not mummifies in the true sense because that would require things like prosthetics and research and money that Hollywood House of Horror clearly does not have. No, instead all we get is strangulations with strips of linen followed by wrapping the head up in said linen. And as a parade of young no-names goes from truck to room and then to corpsing-up, we begin to realize that this is why Hollywood House of Horror does these "based on a true story" serial killing movies.

Because their writers are just full-blown incompetent. First Lommel, and now Nikoff--not a one of their writers can actually make a story and develop it beyond this progression of killings. All "Mummy Maniac" is, start to finish, is just a series of girls getting killed in this exact same room almost the exact same way broken up by some very limited exposition into a character I care absolutely nothing about. Perhaps the worst part was when I was watching it, and for about ten minutes, I forgot the killer's name until someone said it again.

And frankly, I'm still wondering if Nikoff's just a false front for Lommel who has taken such a critical beating (and not just from me, either!) that he can't get a movie out there unless he's doing it from cover.

Either way, and I can't believe I have to APOLOGIZE to ULLI LOMMEL on this one, but he's not the only one out there making truly revolting wastes of time and calling them films. No, Max Nikoff is also an up-and-comer to watch in the field of "Movies No One Should Bother Watching", and frankly, this just dismays me.

The ending involves flashbacks, and corpses and a whole lot of flashbacks, but really, it doesn't matter HOW they end it, as long as it ends. I've lost all interest in this pathetic waste of plastic long before now, so why even bother to carry on through the end.

The special features include English and Spanish subtitles and trailers for "Mummy Maniac", "H.P. Lovecraft's The Tomb", "Return of the Living Dead 5: Rave to the Grave", "Zombie Nation", "Chicago Massacre: Richard Speck", and an advertisement for Fearnet.

All in all, I'm beginning to reconsider my censure of Ulli Lommel as, perhaps, misplaced. Perhaps the blame for the recent influx of garbage from Lions Gate lies not with the directors and writers of this swill but rather the producer. After all, to look at Lommel's films and realize that Nola Roeper had something to do with most to all of them is enough to make you wonder. But grander pictures aside, "Mummy Maniac" will waste two hours of your life. Eighty minutes watching it--assuming you even got that far--and forty minutes recriminating yourself for sitting through the whole miserable waste.

Shadow PuppetsShadow Puppets
***
DVD
Directed by Michael Winnick
Written by Michael Winnick
Starring Jolene Blalock, Tony Todd, James Marsters, Marc Winnick
Produced by Bob Crowe
NR
102 mins
2007

Ever since you were a little kid, you were probably freaked out by what was moving--or what looked like it was moving--in your bedroom at night. That's the joy of "Shadow Puppets", taking the worst of the fear of the unknown and packaging it into movie form. Not to give too much away, but several people find themselves trapped in an abandoned insane asylum. They have no idea who they are, where they came from, or what they're doing whereever it is they are. So, when they start gathering together in an attempt to find their way out and recover their lost memories, it's not going to be too much of a surprise that a lot of them will start dying. And now, they have to not only get out, but also get out alive. You've got to hand it to "Shadow Puppets" for immediately throwing us headlong into a set of circumstances that make absolutely no sense. Wake up locked in a padded room where the only furnishing is a mattress and suddenly the lights go out? Man, I'd be freaked out too, and I'm only just watching it. A normal problem I have with horror movies is that it takes entirely too long to actually get into the action. Interestingly, "Shadow Puppets" has that problem, taking fully a fifth of the movie to even suggest anybody is in any kind of clear and present danger, and nearly a third of the movie for a body to hit the floor. But, due to the spectacular levels of suspense and ominous foreshadowing built up beforehand, I genuinely fail to notice how long it took for anything to happen. Which is, frankly, amazing. A lot of movies with a lot of similar formulae make for a lot of boring experiences. But "Shadow Puppets", for all its slow, building subtlety, does not bore me. There's a lot of action, a great and not overly long buildup, a monster straight out of childrens' nightmares since time immemorial, and almost as much suspense as action. This adds up to make for one thrilling movie, probably the first genuine thrill I've had from a movie in quite some time. The ending has plenty of twists to it, and some of the best action sequences I've seen lately. There's also an excellent sequence where the metaphorical flag drops, announcing the start of the closing action. It's a great sequence, and frankly, I find it improves the whole thing. And though one might be tempted to cry foul with the very end, this is really only very minor, and given the events leading up to it was really the only feasible end. The special features include audio options, cast and crew commentary, and trailers for "Shadow Puppets", "The Thirst", "Voodoo Moon", "Room 6", "Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon", and "Hatchet".

All in all, "Shadow Puppets" is a real surprise, and proves to be horror as it ought to be. And though its only real flaw is an ending that could possibly be called trite, very little should stand in the way of enjoying this movie.

Want to receive an expanded version of Reel Advice as an E-Newsletter?? Email to thevideostoreguy@columnist.com with "The Advisor" in the subject line.  Steve Andersen, much to his own chagrin, is a five-plus year veteran of the direct to video market. He has spent an alarming amount of time in video stores and seeks to provide the public with advance information on all the video releases that they may never have heard of...whether they want to hear of them or not. Steve appears in one way or another weekly, biweekly, or monthly on such fine entertainment-related ezines as Film Threat, Dream Forge, Reel Horror, Acid Logic, Chaotic Culture Magazine, Malicious Bitch webzine, and many others. Readers, agents, or editors can email Steve at thevideostoreguy@columnist.com




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