AUGUST 16, 2010
A while back the New Bev played Tomb Of Ligeia, and I wasn’t a fan. I didn’t even bother writing a review, because A. I had something else that day already and B. I was so bored by it I couldn’t even come up with anything to write about beyond how bored I was, which would be, er, boring. Sadly for me, you, and the makers of The Tomb (formerly Ligeia), I didn’t watch anything else today, so I have no choice but to try to write a review for this one, which I found even more dull.
Because the “original” (the films are very dissimilar in plot, and neither seems to be very faithful to the Poe story) at least had Vincent Price in the lead role, so at least there was some fun to be had there. Here, we get Wes Bentley, one of the dullest actors of his generation. Apparently he had drug problems during this time (like just about all of the Fango Frightfest films, the film was shot years ago), and has since gotten clean, which is great – but even in American Beauty (pre-drugs) he’s just always been very stiff and impenetrable, so I can’t really blame the drugs for it. Plus, his distant behavior was sort of the point in that film, so it was OK, but he’s the hero here and the plot has him doing some morally questionable things (like cheating on his fiancé, and moving to Russia) – you need someone that the audience can sympathize with and follow even when he goes into dark places. Think of something like Observe and Report – Seth Rogen is a complete prick in that movie, but our love of the guy allows us to stay on his side. Bentley had already lost my vote before the character started becoming non-sympathetic.
Plus, he’s supposed to be a Poe expert, but doesn’t seem to have any sort of mental alarm going off when he meets an obviously “off” woman named Ligeia. Also, he tells us this right after we see the credit “Based on the Edgar Allan Poe story...”, so we know it’s not going to be a very faithful adaptation right off the start – Poe’s characters were rarely experts on Poe.
It doesn’t help that absolutely NOTHING HAPPENS in this movie, either. Basically, this broad (Ligeia) needs to eat souls to survive, and has her sights set on Bentley for whatever reason (big P2 fan, probably). So she eats the soul of his professor, which gives her enough strength to return to her home in Moscow (the title card offers “Moscow, Russia” – so we know we’re not in Moscow, Iowa), where they proceed to look around the castle for a while, talk to her dad Eric Roberts (as a Russian, yes; and he’s starting to look like Peter Coyote), walk around some more, and then she dies. But then her soul goes into Bentley’s ex, who has taken him back (she goes so far as to move to Moscow with her dad! Most understanding cuckold-ress ever), and a little girl... none of this is particularly interesting, mind you. It’s not like Shocker or whatever where a villain keeps changing bodies to try to kill someone (and killing others in the process), she just DOES. And we’re apparently supposed to be surprised when someone turns out to be possessed by Ligeia.
The movie Possession (in its original form anyway) did a much better job at posing the question of whether it’s more important to have the body or the soul of your loved one if something keeps you from having both. I think that’s sort of what they were going for here, but its botched, because they never give us any reason to care. In the other film, we sympathized with Sarah Michelle Gellar, and wanted her to be happy. Bentley, on the other hand, is such a blank slate, it doesn’t even seem like HE’D care how it all turned out. As a result, why should we? I’ve never seen a movie that was so deprived of any sort of tension or stakes whatsoever. Including nature documentaries.
It also wastes a decent supporting cast. Roberts can be fun when given something to do, but this movie doesn’t qualify. Madsen’s role is entirely pointless and seems to be there just so they can actually offer a kill scene (Ligeia knocks him over a railing; a few minutes later Bentley informs his wife that he’s dead even though it seems as if he woke up and went straight to her side). And I remain utterly baffled why they hired Christa Campbell to appear in THREE lousy shots (one of which could have been a stand-in since you never see her face clearly), since she’s a far bigger name than any of the other female characters in the film. If I had to guess, I’d say the movie was originally much longer, and someone edited it down to the bare minimum to try to make up for the fact that it’s a bore. I mean seriously, our entire cast moves to Moscow over the course of the film, seemingly at the drop of a hat – I bet there are a few scenes missing between.
Not helping matters is director Michael Staininger’s insistence on using transitions borrowed from the TV show Angel, where we get quick flash cuts of buildings and such in between scenes. It was annoying ten years ago, man, why the hell did you think it would work here? The only thing this movie could have had going for it was maybe a sense of slow-building atmosphere, and these ADD-addled transitions kill any such chances.
The DVD has about ten minutes of deleted scenes; nothing that would help much, though there’s at least one where Bentley and his fiancé discuss his infidelity, which should have been left in, as it would make her seem less like a spineless loser. None have Ms. Campbell, however, so that aspect remains just as puzzling, if not more so (also puzzling, “deleted scenes” aren’t mentioned on the back of the DVD). The back DOES promise a behind the scenes featurette, but this is misleading, it’s actually a half hour’s worth of interviews with Staininger and most of the cast (even Campbell, saying more than she gets to in the film). It’s not bad, as these things go, though pretty lo-fi – they don’t give title cards to identify anyone, even crew (no idea who the hell one of the guys is – his comments do not provide enough information to solve the problem; I assume it’s a producer of some sort), and it looks like it was shot with a VHS camcorder, but they cover a lot of ground – how they got involved, their familiarity with Poe, etc. But it’s one of those things where you’re listening to them talk and it sounds like a much more interesting movie than the one you actually saw.
Look, I’m all for ‘adult’ horror films that are more than kills and effects (i.e. Dread, or even Let The Right One In, which is about kids but would probably bore audiences of that age). But the problem is, when they don’t work, they’re even worse than bad “body count” movies, because at least those you can just start to ignore and look up when something exciting is happening. This requires your full attention (to an almost comical extent - I went up to get ice cream at one point and they instantly started speaking in Russian! PAUSE.) and doesn’t reward you for it.
What say you?