Monster Kid Theater presents The Mummy

Monster Kid Theater takes in the much-berated new Tom Cruise chiller The Mummy

Monster Kid Theater is an ongoing column in which my three sons and I (just call me Fred MacMurray) get together to watch classic and contemporary monster movies. My trio of tots are young. Jack is 10. Elliot is 8. Ben is 6. I have not really pushed a cinematic agenda on them. They have just liked hanging out with me. And I watch plenty of movies. And many of them are… odd. I have ensured that when we do sit down to watch movies and when we go to the cinema, that I try to spin everything into education. I break down shots, discuss film history, talk about special effects, acting, metaphor and allegory. Some of it they get, some they will eventually get.

But they are my joy. We are a team.

Last month, I talked about Jack, who is now old enough to watch more mature genre movies with his dad and can easily discuss and dissect the pictures with his old man. In the last column, Jack’s triple bill of Aliens, The Thing and War of the Worlds was charted and since then we’ve absorbed films like Fright Night and North by Northwest. But this afternoon I took Jack to a matinee of a new film that has been raked over the critical coals and has been the object of scorn by fanboys who are balking at the direction of Universal’s proposed Dark Universe series of interconnected monster films.

Yes, we saw Alex Kurtzman‘s The Mummy.

On the drive over to the cinema, I told Jack that The Mummy was taking a beating in the press and that everyone I knew was generally savaging it.

“Yeah, but who cares, ” said Jack.

“You told me everyone hated Howard the Duck too and it’s awesome.”

That’s true. They did. And some people still do. But I love Howard the Duck. Always have. And the lads love Howard the Duck. And I’m willing to bet you do too. You do, right?

Anyway, to me, The Mummy had lots going for it. First of all, it was one of the first mummy movies I can remember since Hammer’s Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb (based on a Bram Stoker tale) and its remake, 1980’s The Awakening, that has a female mummy and that’s a very good thing. I mean, after those awful campy Brendan Fraser mummy movies (which were really just Indiana Jones ripoffs), who needed another dude prancing around the sand spitting insects at people? Not me! The other thing that looked solid was the fact that the movie’s primary action took place in England (Hammer nod again) and the presence of ever-reliable Hollywood actors Russell Crowe and Tom Cruise. Yeah, I love Tom Cruise (read my words on the man here) and I always enjoy his latter-life Charlton Heston-esque fantasy movie presence (Heston was the male lead in The Awakening, in fact). Jack likes Cruise too as he is a huge fan of War of the Worlds.

So we went in totally open to enjoy the flick, without an ounce of cynicism. If you’re a horror movie-loving parent like me, you know the buzz you get from taking your kid to the theater to share that experience. There’s really nothing like it. So Jack and I grabbed our popcorn and settled in to the pretty much empty screening room (gulp) and prepared to see some shambling ghouls, ancient curses and bloated CGI action. We got all that in the first five minutes, in which the fate of pissed off Egyptian Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) who makes a deal with the devil to become a monster and gets entombed for her troubles, is revealed. Despite the mild nudity and suggested sex, the sequence is just tame enough that Jack wasn’t uncomfortable and, after all the blood spraying and screaming was done, Jack leaned over to me and said:

“This isn’t bad at all, dad, I like it!”

I agreed. And we were off.

I get why the paid scribblers are generally sh**ting on this movie. It’s messy and weird and frantic and filled with so much stuff that can’t hope to be properly played out in the 107-minute running time it has. Much of that running time sidesteps the mummy action entirely and focuses on what will be the proposed heart and soul of the Dark Universe franchise (if there even ends up being one), that of Henry Jekyll (Crowe) who runs a center for monster research or something and aims to trap Ahmanet and use Cruise to obliterate her and the evil God she hopes to raise from the ether. It’s really rather insane. But as I adore insane, I was totally on board for all of it. In fact, The Mummy felt to me like a deluxe Paul Naschy movie, crazy, violent, kinda kinky (in a PG-13 way) and oddly charming. Cruise is just fine in the role and does his best to flesh out his Nick Morton, a cheeky rogue soldier and thief who has to tangle with a she-beast in order to become the man he’s destined to be. Like always, Cruise does much of his own stunts and does them well, with a first-reel plane crash that’s harrowing and awesome and sees the actor tossed around like a doll. It’s great fun.

When it comes to the actual horror component, The Mummy won’t rattle any adult cages but Jack was plenty spooked. There’s an endless onslaught of zombie mummies that claw and bite our heroes, the result of Ahmanet kissing them and sucking out their energy and fluids. She’s a vampire really and in some respects The Mummy is a soft, earthy riff on Tobe Hooper’s Lifeforce.

During the film, the girl in front of me answered her cell phone. She started talking on that cell phone. Loudly. I was astonished. I kicked her chair. She wrapped up her call and said “Did you kick my chair?” I said yes. I said I paid money for my son and I to see a movie, not listen to her call. “This was an emergency!”, she said. I said she should have taken the call outside if that was the case. She grumbled and turned around. Jack looked at me funny. Suddenly I felt bad. Like I created tension during an otherwise lovely cinema experience. Kicking chairs isn’t normally my beat so I told Jack I’d be right back, bought two lollipops at the concession stand and gave one to Jack and one to the girl. “Sorry I kicked your chair,” I said. She laughed and thanked me.

Onward.

By the end of the movie, I realized I had seen what was probably a wobbly start to a franchise but hey, all origin films are a bit wobbly. Wobbly or not, Jack and I loved it. After the film, we talked about how nice it was to have a woman as the monster and also, how nice it was to have a lady lead (Annabelle Wallis) who was intelligent and interesting and not shoved aside by the dudes.

“That was not a bad movie at all, dad.”

No, it wasn’t.

“Can we see all these movies together when they come out?”

We sure can.

Here’s hoping there are actually more of them. This Dark Universe has potential.

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