HK and Cult Film News's Fan Box

Thursday, July 8, 2010

THE TOMB -- movie review by porfle

[Note: Fangoria magazine has teamed up with Lightning Media and Blockbuster for a series of eight horror/thrillers which will be available exclusively on DVD, VOD, and digital download Sept. 28 under the "Fangoria FrightFest" banner. This film is part of that series.]


Horror fans expecting this entry in the Fangoria FrightFest series to satisfy their sweet tooth for sanguinary scares may be in for a rude awakening when they watch THE TOMB, aka "Ligeia" (2009).  Or perhaps "awakening" isn't quite the right term, since this pedestrian Goth-boiler is more apt to elicit an opposite reaction. 

Wes Bentley (AMERICAN BEAUTY) plays college literary professor Jonathan Merrick, whose engagement to sweetie-pie Rowena (Kaitlin Doubleday) is threatened when he falls under the spell of a beautiful dark-haired Russian student named Ligeia (Sofya Skya).  Ligeia marries the pie-eyed prof and whisks him off to her castle in the Ukraine, where he discovers that his new wife is engaged in a dastardly scheme to prolong her life by sucking the souls from her victims by means of a weird mechanical contraption.  When faithful Rowena rushes to Jonathan's aid, the terminally-ill Ligeia chooses her as the next vessel for her wicked soul and retains her hold over unsuspecting Jonathan.


Despite some nice photography and great Russian locations, THE TOMB resembles one of those obscure low-budget flicks you might've run across in a video store back in the 80s.  Direction is a little shaky at times, and the editing is loaded with those annoying speed-up/slow-down moments and other unnecessary gimmicks.  Everything makes noise, too--jarring bangs and clangs are meant to startle us while some of the whiplash camera pans sound like a jet taking off.

Even so, the film seems as though it may be going somewhere interesting early on, when we see Ligeia applying her soul-sucking device to her victims' faces and extracting their life essence into vials.  (Although what she eventually does with these is just a tad goofy.)  When we relocate to her Russian castle, however, it starts to feel as though we're trapped inside one of those old Gothic romance comics that DC used to put out.  There's a lot of business with creepy crypts, dark basements, windy parapets, and women creeping around in the dark in their nightgowns, with very little of it managing to raise any hackles or scare up as much as a shiver.  The disjointed story sometimes makes it seem as though scenes are missing, especially when major characters die and people barely notice.


Sofya Skya is interesting as a spidery seductress who resembles a young Morticia Addams, or perhaps a grown-up Wednesday.  As the blonde, purehearted yin to her evil yang, Kaitlin Doubleday ("Cavemen") is adequate.  The main problem in the acting department is a glowering Wes Bentley, who wanders blandly through the role of Jonathan as though he thinks they're still doing a read-through.  It's funny that when I saw him in WEIRDSVILLE (which I liked), he reminded me of a young Eric Roberts--one of my favorite actors--since Roberts appears here in a tiny, thankless role meant only to add his name value to the cast.  Ditto for a disinterested Michael Madsen, grunting his way sleepily to another paycheck.  Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (PEARL HARBOR) fares somewhat better as another hapless professor lured into Ligeia's evil web.

I viewed a screener so DVD specs weren't available.  According to Fangoria.com, extras will include "behind-the-scenes footage, 8 FANGORIA FRIGHTS cable special and the eight FrightFest trailers."

Wes Bentley recites "The Conquering Worm" over the closing credits, which is about as close to Edgar Allan Poe as THE TOMB ever gets.  As a horror flick it barely registers, with a story that's so rote that if it were a fill-in-the-blanks quiz we'd all get an A+.  Even the "surprise" ending is right off the rack.


Buy it at Amazon.com
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