Pig Hunt / Dark House / The Tomb / Grimm / Hunger / Fragile / Road Kill / The Haunting
STUDIO: Phase 4 Films
RUNNING TIME: 95 Minutes
- 8 Fangoria Frights Behind-the-Scenes Featurettes
Fangoria presents Wes Bentley Scowling.
Wes Bentley, Kaitlin Doubleday, Sofya Skya, Michael Madsen, Eric Roberts, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa
Based (very) loosely on Edgar Allan Poe’s short story Ligeia, The Tomb
tells the story of the successful Professor Merrick who is seduced by a
witch/scientist working to become immortal. The original story is about
a narrator who watches his dead wife come back to life and transform
into another woman. Poe’s original story contained no scenes set in an
Eastern-European-Sexy-Goth-Club. How many in The Tomb? 2. Game, set, Match, Mr. Poe.
“You think a skull is macabre? HA! You know what’s macabre? People constantly picking up a skull and going ‘To be or not to be.’ It’s the wrong character. Hamlet never did that. Everyone knows it’s Macbeth.”
The name of Fangoria holds a special place in the heart of many a geek. For me it was hours spent poring over its pages in the library, along with a few other tomes on horror films, sneaking peeks at the things my parents wouldn’t let me watch. I feel as if there is a certain sensibility to geeks who grew up foraging for information on genre films this way. These geeks are no stranger to bad movies, and while they are they can be discerning, educated cineastes they can also be quite forgiving and non-judgmental toward films of seemingly poor quality. They are often willing to sit through tedious stretches of bland characters for nothing more than the payoff of a great kill or the like. They’ll enjoy it, and they won’t call the film lesser for it.
The reason I say this is that perchance Fangoria has mistaken its audience’s forgiveness of mediocrity for an actual enjoyment of it. That’s the only reason I can see for them pushing The Tomb. Well, that and the chance to make money. Especially pushing The Tomb as a horror film, and part of a collection of “terrifying films each aiming to chill your blood.” Fangoria, knowing its fanbase to enjoy lower quality films due to various redeeming factors has now presented The Tomb, a low-quality film with little-to-no redeeming factors.
“If you will excuse me for a moment, ladies, I spy some Monte Cristo sandwiches that beg my attention.”
Wes Bentley stars as the least convincing college professor ever, Jonathan Merrick. He’s got the ideal life: His parents are rich and dead, his fiancée is a smokin’ hot blonde dancer, and his future father-in-law is Michael Madsen. But don’t worry; this is Michael Madsen plus 50 pounds, so he’s not a scary Michael Madsen. Everything’s perfect, right? WRONG! Enter Ligeia, an immortal witch/scientist who survives off of the souls of the dying but she’s not really that immortal because in exchange for immortality her family also gets the black plague so she’s going to die and not be immortal unless she can perfect some serum using a combination of witchcraft and science while also still sucking people’s souls out and keeping vials of blood in a cabinet and injecting them with a needle but also drawing the blood from them and it really just turns out she’s just got reverse-Tim-Burton-mother-issues because she’s sad about her immortal mommy dying and so she wants to beat death at his own game and there’s no real internal logic and it doesn’t make that much sense anyway and this sentence was purposely written without punctuation to draw attention to the fact that the film doesn’t make much sense and the script is kind of lazy.
The Tomb as directed by Todd Solondz.
In any case Ligeia puts Merrick under her spell in order to control him and so that way we can see way too many scenes of Wes Bentley having sex. You know how some people say Vincent Gallo did The Brown Bunny just to get some on tape? I think Wes Bentley as co-executive producer of the film is doing basically the same thing: Putting himself in a role to prove he can get some as a viable leading man. Anyway, one night while Merrick is “having relations” with his fiancée, Rowena, Ligeia draws Merrick to her through the bewitching power of pain-cum. He cannot help but leave and go to her apartment, where she proceeds to enslave him through the deadly combination of sex, absinthe and witchcraft. Here is how unconvincing a professor Merrick is: He doesn’t know what absinthe is. Ok, understandable, right? Maybe he didn’t have the same college experience so many American/Danish students have. Except that he is an English professor who specializes in poetry. How do you devote your life to the study of poetry and no know what absinthe is? There was not one artistic manifesto written between the years of 1850-1950 that was not inspired by absinthe, and that is a scientific fact. You don’t teach about the arts not hearing about absinthe. It just doesn’t happen.
“Did you see the way she was looking at me?”
“She’s a Nazi, George! A Nazi!”
“I Know, I know. Kind of a cute Nazi, though.”
So Merrick is under her power and they go to the old country and Eric Roberts is a Ukrainian butler and they buy a castle and blah blah blah. The problem is none of it is very interesting. The basic premise is, but the script is lazy and boring, and the acting is maudlin and uninteresting. Wes Bentley spends the runtime mumbling his lines and scowling at everyone – like he’s the guy at the party trying to get laid by tricking some girl into thinking he’s Christian Bale. Bentley’s highlight is his character’s lecture during the first reel. What is the topic of this lecture? Beauty. No joke. Beauty. That’s right, kids, as if one 2 hour Oscar-winning magnum opus of Wes Bentley’s pontifications on beauty weren‘t enough, this film’s establishing moments for the character are spent with the same type of monologue. It’s almost brilliant if it weren’t so stupid. Or perhaps the highlight is when he goes to Rowena to try and win her back. Apparently all it takes to win back the heart of a woman is a scowl and a mumbled, “I didn’t know how much I missed you until I saw you tonight.” No one else really comes off as bad as Bentley, but no one really shines, either. Michael Madsen enters every scene with a throaty growl and he does drunkenly sing Danny Boy, so that’s a plus.
The script has a very intriguing concept but squanders it through rote clichés and poor dialogue. What type of glorious dialogue you ask? How about “You’re vibrating with so much sexual energy,” or “Hey, man. He was bleeding from the eyes. Have you ever seen that before?” Or my personal favorite, “That’s not what you promised me when you were screwing me on your wife’s bed.” With lines like this performed with detached, unenergetic delivery how could we not have a winner? Characters pass from scene to scene mostly because they have to in order to move things along, but it never even moves along at a pace that makes you feel as if it’s going anywhere. It constantly disregards any sense of narrative consistency – Merrick and Rowena can hear Madsen singing “Oh Danny Boy” loud and clear but don’t hear him fall off a balcony and shatter a glass table? Plot points are played broadly – There’s one literal BOOM moment. Eric Robert’s housekeeper says to “Professor” Merrick, “I thought that’s why there’s all the experiments in the basement.” “Experiments?” BOOM goes the soundtrack. BOOM. Don’t get it yet viewer? Even though we’ve shown you? BOOM. Or there’s the fact that Rowena at one point goes from looking like Pollyanna to looking like Adriana La Cerva from The Sopranos. Hmmm . . . I wonder who has turned evil now? Sasha-Grey-a-Like Ligeia pours the souls she’s captured INTO A WINE BOTTLED LABELED SPIRIT OF ’08. And all of this is presented tension-free with all the visual inventiveness of an episode of CSI.
moments in the last third of the film with some good sound design.
There’s a moment with some very unsettling “gooshy” and sticky sounds
that do very well for the moment. There’s also a brief sequence of
Ligeia sneaking into someone’s room that plays with light and shadows in
a way that builds suspense and creates a nice sense of environment. And
like most bad films it passes into the realm of “So-Bad-It’s-Good” once
or twice, but not long enough or frequent enough to fully redeem the
film. There’s one sequence that’s unintentionally funny where “Dr.”
Merrick’s ex-fiancée weeps on Michael Madsen’s shoulder, as Merrick and
Ligeia are married in a ceremony worthy of any denizen of Hot Topic. The
film’s best moment comes at the 60-minute mark in a montage of moments
that empathetically connect Rowena and Jonathan’s suffering, includes
their marriage, and culminates with Rowena asking Eric Robert’s niece
how she would feel about moving to America with them. “Can I have
deep-dish pizza?” she asks. They all laugh like it’s the end of an
episode of Full House. It’s so
absurd and bizarre; played so seriously and is so out of place that it
really transcends the entire film and makes for a worthy 2 minute
The Tomb is not a horror film. It has a premise that could lend itself to a great gothic genre film, but it is not a horror film. What it reminds me of the most is an episode of The Twilight Zone. The film’s first moments, a monologue stating “We yield to death by weakness of will,” could have been delivered by Rod Serling himself. Its premise of people beating people nearly to death in order to bottle their souls and survive on them is a very interesting one, and seems to be a story that would fit well in The Twilight Zone. However, unlike The Twilight Zone, The Tomb contains very little originality, inventiveness or tension.
No matter how many times she looked or how far in she reached, Martha could never find that other half of her arm.
The DVD states boldly that it is a part of the Fangoria Frightfest. If the other films in the Fangoria Frightfest are comparable to The Tomb, I’m assuming it is acting as some sort of warning label. The special features include deleted scenes that really don’t do much to expand the story, or make sense of its convoluted, murky mythology. There are also previews for other Fangoria Frightfest films (another warning system) and a 30-minute extended preview for the Frightfest hosted by that chick whose clothes didn’t like to stay on her body and whose skin didn’t like to stay on her legs in Cabin Fever.
SCOWL ONE OUT ON OUR MESSAGE BOARDS
The “About to Bang Wednesday Addams” scowl.