Monthly Archives: March 2019

Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)

*. It should be clear from my notes on these things that I don’t think there have been many decent mummy movies.
*. There have been a couple of classic treatments that I’d rate as just OK: the initial 1932 Boris Karloff offering and the 1959 Hammer version with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. And then there are two very different films that I still really enjoy: the big-budget 1999 rollercoaster ride starring Brendan Fraser and the low-budget horror-comedy Bubba Ho-Tep.
*. Purists may want to argue that these last two aren’t “real” mummy movies but I think they fit the bill just fine. They mix in a lot of other stuff with the genre but the basic rules are the same. Bubba Ho-Tep, for example, isn’t just some zombie or vampire. He has personality: dressing up like a cowboy, scribbling graffiti on the walls of the bathroom stall, and cursing a mean streak in hieroglyphics. And the fact that he stays alive by sucking the souls of his victims out from their assholes actually makes as much sense as the business with tana leaves. The soul-eating and -shitting business here is crazy, but has its own coherence, which is more than such mumbo-jumbo often has.
*. As (relatively) colourful a figure as Bubba Ho-Tep is, however, he’s a shadow of the two main characters: a man who thinks he’s Elvis Presley (Bruce Campell) and another who think he’s JFK (Ossie Davis). They both live in a Texas nursing home that the mummy has made his personal happy-hunting ground. So there are three legendary figures whose lives, or afterlives, are coming together at once.

*. There are two fortunate consequences of such a bizarre premise. In the first place, it helps deal with a perennial problem mummy movies have that director Don Coscarelli mentions in his commentary. Mummies don’t move that fast, which leaves their victims all too often frozen in terror or screaming and fainting while their fate slowly shuffles toward them. In this case, however, the victims can’t run away because they can’t run. Not that they are shrinking violets anyway. Most of them do want to put up a fight. It’s just that they don’t have enough juice left in their tanks.
*. The second thing I’d note is the neat way the plot reverts the traditional type of story where children become aware of monsters but the adults don’t believe them. In this case it’s the old folks who see the mummy but everybody at the home thinks they’re suffering from dementia. After all, these are guys who think they’re Elvis and JFK. They obviously have rich, childlike imaginary lives.
*. The whole thing was shot on a budget of just over $500,000, which is remarkable. What makes it work is the script, based on a story by Joe R. Lansdale, some great performances (not just Campbell and Davis, but Ella Joyce as well), and Coscarelli’s restraint in not rushing the story. Coscarelli took his time with a shooting schedule of a month on this one, and that’s something that’s reflected in the pace here and the attention to detail. This isn’t a horror movie for teens but one that enjoys the pleasure of good conversation without the interruptions of jump scares.
*. I don’t care for the ending much, which seems awkwardly and almost mawkishly sentimental. Out of keeping with the tone of the rest of the picture anyway. Apparently initial audiences didn’t like the scene where Campbell snaps at Ella Joyce’s nurse, but for me it worked. It grounded Campbell’s character in real emotions and a real situation, which is what I think the story needed.
*. Still, to borrow an image from that ending, the stars were in alignment here. It took someone like Coscarelli and the creative freedom of an independent production to make a movie like this, and through sheer professionalism it all works. Over the years there’s been much talk of a sequel but nothing has materialized. I think that tells you something about just how hard it is to make a good little movie. Much harder than to make a bad big one anyway.

Quiz the sixty-eighth: Screaming headlines (Part four)

Stop the press! It’s time to scan some more news of the day in another round of screaming headlines. See if you can identify where these stories first broke.

See also: Quiz the fifth: Screaming headlines (Part one), Quiz the seventeenth: Screaming headlines (Part two), Quiz the thirty-fifth: Screaming headlines (Part three), Quiz the eighty-sixth: Screaming headlines (Part five), Quiz the one hundred-and-first: Screaming headlines (Part six), Quiz the one hundred-and-thirty-seventh: Screaming headlines (Part seven).

Continue reading

The Mummy Returns (2001)

*. There are a lot of things I like about The Mummy Returns, so let’s start with that. I like the way we pick up some ten years after The Mummy. Rick and Evelyn are happily married and have a plucky but not-too-irritating sprog. For some reason this made me think of Another Thin Man.
*. I also liked several of the set-piece action scenes: the fight on the double-decker bus with the soldier mummies, for example, and the attack by the tribe of mummy pygymies in the jungle. I rolled my eyes at Izzy’s dirigible but, sure, it was fun. And I could appreciate Imhotep pitching himself into hell when realizing that his eternal love hadn’t been worth it after all. It’s hard to think of another movie of this kind where the villain kills himself rather than being destroyed by the hero.
*. I could go through a similar list for things I didn’t like, headlined by the terrible CGI work on the scorpion monster at the end. But overall I think the good parts outweigh the bad. The problem is that they don’t add up to as solid a movie as the first one.

*. I don’t know why so many mummy movies have such bewildering plots. Is it to make up for their stiff and rather dull feature monsters? That would be less necessary here, as Arnold Vosloo’s Imhotep is a compelling enough figure on his own, but there’s still way too much going on. For starters, did the film really need all the stuff with the Scorpion King? It seemed to complicate things far more than necessary, and at the end of the day it just confused me. If you awaken the Scorpion King, and then kill him, but only with the ceremonial spear, then you get to command his army, which will allow you to rule the world? Whatever.
*. There’s a lot of unnecessary stuff like this. Another example is the fact that Alex has to get the bracelet off his arm in seven days or he’ll die. The only place this really comes in to play is in the final dash to the pyramid, which hardly seems worth it. It’s just another example of too much going on. There are too many flashbacks, and too much exposition, even for a mummy movie. They really needed to streamline things. Why all the rigmarole about Alex escaping from the train at Karnak when he gets recaptured right away? Just another example.

*. I mentioned in my notes on The Mummy how improbable it was that Imhotep would mistake Rachel Weisz for Patricia Velasquez. In this movie they try to fix things up by bringing Velasquez back and making Weisz’s character into Velasquez’s step-daughter (I think). Also, Rick is now identified as one of the Medjai or bodyguards (because of some tattoo he doesn’t remember getting), which means he’s tasked with protecting Evelyn. Or at least he’s a spiritual descendant or reincarnation of one of these figures. Honestly, it’s just not worth trying to figure out, and I suspect few people even try. But if all they wanted was a flimsy bit of plot to hang the action sequences on they could have got by with a lot less.
*. Trading places. Dwayne Johnson in his first dramatic feature. Still only referred to as “The Rock” by director Stephen Sommers and editor Bob Ducsay on the DVD commentary. He’s just here for his muscles and I don’t believe he even gets a single line. Meanwhile, Brendan Fraser seemed like one of Hollywood’s fastest-rising and most bankable leading men.
*. Was there a curse of The Mummy? This movie did well but the franchise died, leading only to a mongrel sequel (The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor) and a spin-off for Johnson’s character (The Scorpion King). But Brendan Fraser, as noted, mostly disappeared. Perhaps the mummy’s curse, or the curse of Monkeybone. Stephen Sommers has never lived up to this early promise either, going on to direct Van Helsing and G.I. Joe movies and not much else. Arnold Vosloo, Oded Fehr, Kevin J. O’Connor: they were all great in supporting roles but just followed up with more supporting roles in worse pictures. Rachel Weisz fared best of all, becoming Yorgos Lanthimos’s It girl. But you would have thought with a pair of hits this big much more was to come from these people in terms of mainstream success. So was there a curse after all?

The Mummy (1999)

*. I really like The Mummy. I liked it when it came out and I still enjoyed it on my most recent re-watch.
*. It may be my favourite mummy movie. That’s an opinion I don’t think many people would share but the thing is, I don’t think there have been many good mummy movies. In large part this has been due to low budgets and substandard talent. Was this the first mummy movie that a studio actually spent some money on? It’s certainly the first that looked this good.
*. In 1999 audiences were blown away by the opening shots of ancient Egypt. We weren’t bored by CGI yet and I remember everyone in the theatre (including myself) going “ooh!” and “ahh!” And truth be told, I think the effects work has held up pretty well. Imhotep, in all of his various forms, looks swell. The plagues are adequate. The mummy soldiers actually have a bit of a Ray Harryhausen look to them, which was intentional. I’m not as thrilled by the scarabs as I was at the time, but you can’t have everything.
*. The mummy himself has always been, in the words of Kim Newman, “the poorest of poor relations among classic monsters.” He doesn’t talk, staggers around like a zombie (which is, in a sense, what he is), behaves in a mostly preprogrammed way (wreaking vengeance on those who have desecrated his tomb), and then crumbles to dust.

*. The mummy we get here, however, is a lot more fun. The first thing he does when he’s brought back to life is he grabs himself a tongue to stick in his unhinged jaw. Now he can speak (at least in subtitles). Also, he doesn’t just shuffle around strangling people but exercises all sorts of super powers.
*. I think it was also a great idea to show Imhotep slowly reconstituting himself, sort of like the thing in the attic in Hellraiser. (Side note: Clive Barker had been attached to this project at one point but his vision had been too dark.) When he’s fully back in human form, Arnold Vosloo has a great presence, communicating someone both cunning and damned in a way that recalls Christopher Lee’s performance in the 1959 Hammer film.

*. Things start on a high note and the pace never lets up. The clear model was Raiders of the Lost Ark, right down to the period dressing. This undercuts its status as a horror film somewhat, but there’s no need for criticism to be that rigid about respecting genre rules. Neither writer-director Stephen Sommers or the studio wanted a horror film. This is a movie that was meant to be fun and it is. Rachel Weisz didn’t even consider it to be horror but pure “hokum” and a “comic book.”
*. The Raiders and Harryhausen connections are obvious. Less obvious is Sommers’s love of Michael Curtiz’s Captain Blood, which he mentions on the DVD commentary track as having been a model for the love story. I hadn’t thought of that, but it’s a nice influence to have in mind.
*. The cowardly character is a stock type but Kevin J. O’Connor’s Beni I find to be both original and very funny. He’s such a sleazy worm, and I like that he can even be sadistic at times. He’s the kind of heel you genuinely love to hate.

*. In some previous mummy movies the princess and her modern day incarnation were played by the same actress. Here Imhotep immediately takes Rachel Weisz for Patricia Velasquez, who she doesn’t remotely resemble. The character Evelyn Carnahan doesn’t even have Egyptian ancestry (originally she was to be the daughter of the guy who discovered Tutankhamen’s tomb, something that is only hinted at in the film).
*. So it’s a loveable movie. Surprisingly, critics weren’t all that kind. Roger Ebert said “There is hardly a thing I can say in its favor, except that I was cheered by nearly every minute of it. I cannot argue for the script, the direction, the acting or even the mummy, but I can say that I was not bored and sometimes I was unreasonably pleased.” This seems like backhanded praise to me. Why not praise the direction, the writing, the acting, or the mummy? They all seem fine to me.
*. Ebert adds “Look, art this isn’t. Great trash, it isn’t. Good trash, it is. It’s not quite up there with Anaconda, but it’s as much fun as Congo and The Relic, and it’s better than Species.” I would rate it well above all of these other pictures (and I’m not sure what made him think of Species). I wonder why Ebert was so reluctant to say something good about it.

*. Kim Newman is more negative in Nightmare Movies. In large part this is because he thinks the story strays too far from its roots, but as I’ve said I don’t think that’s a strike against it. Here’s his summary: “The Mummy is an entertaining series of theme park rides, but sorely misses magic, with cardboard villains, fundamentally unlikable heroes, non-stop pig-ignorant blunders and endlessly irritating comic bits. It also offers offensive Egyptian stereotypes — smelly, corrupt, venal, lecherous, whining, cowardly, boil-ridden, murderous, sadistic, ugly – unacceptable in the dignified 1932 movie.”
*. Some of this comes down to taste, but I’m surprised he got so upset at the portrayal of Egyptians. Actually, there are a number of heroic local figures, headlines by Oded Fehr’s Ardeth Bey, who turned out to be such a likeable hero Sommers had to change the ending to let him live. Otherwise, most of the negative descriptors Newman gives apply only to Beni, who is not Egyptian. I believe he’s supposed to be Hungarian (the character’s full name is Beni Gabor).
*. So maybe it’s not a great mummy movie but it’s still one of the better entertainments of its period with quite a lot to be said in its favour and not much to be said against it except frustrated expectations. I wasn’t that picky twenty years ago and I’m glad I’m still relaxed enough to enjoy it.

Bram Stoker’s Legend of the Mummy (1998)

*. Sheesh. They give Stoker credit (presumably trying to make a connection in people’s minds with Bram Stoker’s Dracula) but that’s not even his title. The movie is based on Stoker’s novel The Jewel of Seven Stars. Now I can see how that wouldn’t fly with studios since nobody would know what it meant. And to be fair The Jewel of Seven Stars has been filmed several times, but never under that title. I mean, if you’re going to make a mummy movie you’d better put “mummy” in there somewhere.
*. It’s also the case that Stoker’s novel is unfilmable. I talked about this in my notes on Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb so I won’t go over it again here. Suffice it to say that this is another very loose adaptation.
*. What’s funny — and this is a very funny movie — is that instead of streamlining the novel’s obscure plot they’ve gone and made it even more confusing. I’ve read The Jewel of Seven Stars and still had no idea what was going on here. There’s the same basic idea of the archaelogist having a daughter who shares a “double existence” with ancient Queen Tera, but from there I got lost in a hurry.
*. If you’re a mummy fan, however, you do get to see a real mummy stumbling around, not doing much. I guess that’s a plus, though I was wondering what his connection to everything was.
*. I called this a very funny movie and it is. It represents one of those rare instances where you can enjoy a movie’s badness. What it made me think of was some VHS porn tape from the 1980s where the “actors” have to stumble around a house trying to suggest a smattering of plot until they can get their clothes off. Everything about the production here is on that same level, but what really makes it fun are all “Huh? What?” moments.
*. Examples include a maid who has a vision of a couple making out in a tub. I don’t know what that was supposed to represent. Then there’s an introductory scene where Robert suggests they move Margaret’s comatose father to a hospital and she tersely responds “No, my father hates hospitals.” So there! Then, even after they receive the father’s strict instructions that two people remain in his room watching over him at all times we see various characters get up and leave, even just to get a breath of fresh air. Then in a later scene we will see Margaret leave Robert because she needs some fresh air, despite the fact that they are both sitting outside!
*. Also a lot of fun is Richard Karn providing the comic relief (as though any were necessary) and Louis Gossett Jr., sounding as though he’s been dubbed, playing an archaeologist who is so crazy he’s had himself committed. What his plan here is a little hard to figure out — it has something to do with becoming a new pharaoh I think — but then he’s crazy anyway.
*. Another curious thing about the film is that, despite being a very free adaptation of Stoker, it keeps a lot of the late-Victorian feel of the novel. The action has been transplanted to San Francisco but we may as well be in London circa. 1900. The setting is a big house with lots of servants, a personal doctor (played by Aubrey Morris, who also played the doctor in Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb), and a detetcive (actually the head of security) who apparently hails from “the Yard” and has the accent to go with it.
*. As I’ve said before, most mummy movies aren’t very good. This one is so bad it’s a bit better than the average. Impossible to sit through twice though.

Dawn of the Mummy (1981)

*. The Mummy genre meets gore. Or: The Mummy genre goes full zombie. Or: The Mummy genre as Eurotrash. Or: The Mummy circa. 1981. Or all of the above.
*. If nothing else at least it’s an eclectic mix. And I don’t think it’s anything else. The individual elements are all familiar and none of them particularly well done. Once the army of the dead start rising out of the desert sand we might be in any bargain-basement sub-Fulci movie, like Oasis of the Zombies (1982) to take an obvious comparison. This is not good company to be in.
*. It’s the sheer dreariness of these movies that gets to me. The muddy photography and colour. The use of crude camera work to inject some sense of urgency into the proceedings. Because really all we have here are some stiff zombies lurching about and falling on top of people. Then there’s the obligatory zombie feast, where the undead always look bored to tears while they’re stuffing their faces.
*. There are a few noteworthy points. It was shot in Egypt by an Egyptian director, which may have been a first for a mummy movie. The dummy heads used for the decaptations and the cleaver-in-the-brain scene are actually pretty good. And there’s one glorious bit of overacting when the head graverobber starts screaming for Sefirama and then finds the doorway to the treasure chamber, unleashing an orgasmic ecstasy of gold.
*. Aside from that it’s pretty dull, despite all of the different plot elements they threw into the mix. A gang of scruffy tomb raiders meeting up with a bevy of American models doing a photo shoot in the Egyptian desert discover a cursed burial site? Flesh-eating mummies? This should have been a lot more fun.
*. Of course there was no budget and no talent involved. Still, there’s nothing here that boosts this one out of the ghetto.

Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb (1971)

*. I’ve made notes on several mummy films, most of them dreadful, but with this one it might be worth taking a step back and looking at one of the earliest instances of mummy horror in the literature: Bram Stoker’s widely unread 1903 novel The Jewel of Seven Stars.
*. I can honestly say I have read The Jewel of Seven Stars, and it wasn’t easy. Not quite as tough a slog as Dracula (which is a truly terrible book), but difficult in its own way. That way being an incredibly awkward plot involving a bunch of different characters falling asleep or into trances or under hypnotic spells. It doesn’t take long before you start wondering what is going on, which is a mystery that is never entirely explained.
*. The reason I bring the Stoker novel up here is because Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb is loosely based on it and also because the novel makes a big deal out of a strange element that, for reasons I can’t explain, mummy movies have had a tendency to retain. This is the way the female lead is usually seen as the reincarnation of the mummy’s ancient love, with the same actress usually playing both roles.
*. I say I can’t explain why this is a plot point so regularly adopted from The Jewel of Seven Stars because when you think of it (1) it’s a huge stretch that usually makes no sense at all, and (2) there’s no particular need for it. I mean, the cast could just accidentally wake a mummy up and defile his tomb and become victims of his curse without all of the trappings of an ancient romance and the transmigration of souls being roped into it. But instead, mummy movies keep going back to this same stupid idea.
*. The Jewel of Seven Stars is, as I’ve said, a tough read. It’s also unfilmable, which is yet another reason I wonder why studios have bothered going back to it. They could have a scary mummy come to life and not bother with a jewel that somehow contains within it an astrological map. But here we are.
*. As a title, The Jewel of Seven Stars was never going to fly, and it was jettisoned here and in subsequent treatments of the same material (The Awakening and Bram Stoker’s The Legend of the Mummy). Screenwriter Christoper Wicking explains the process used to come up with Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb as a title: “we just took all the words associated with the mummy genre . . . and that combination came up.”
*. This is later Hammer so it’s set in the present day and it’s a little sleazier and has more blood. The first shot after the credits run is of Valerie Leon’s heaving bosom as she writhes in bed. Then we go back in time and we’re introduced to her in her guise as Tera, wearing another very revealing top. As she describes her role: “I used to show an enormous cleavage, everything but the nipple, but I was never ever nude.” She had a body double in the scene where she gets out of bed naked and we see her bum.
*. Also typical of a Hammer production is the solid cast of veterans with a young couple thrown in as the love interest. What’s interesting this time out is the way Margaret’s young man is killed off, leaving her alone with her father and the last surviving archaeologist. This is especially odd given that her young man (named “Tod Browning” here) is the sole survivor who lives to tell the tale at the end of the first edition of the novel (a subsequent edition has Margaret surviving as well so that she can marry her beau).
*. It’s a talky film, and no easier to follow for all of its talk. They did what they could to make the novel comprehensible but could only get so far. The idea of there being three relics that have to be acquired from the other tomb raiders makes for a good storyline, even if the scenes where the relics come to life and tear the throats out of their victims have to be rendered through crazy editing and camera tilts and wild reaction shots that do nothing to disguise how ridiculous it all is.
*. I wonder why they introduce the ambiguously gendered fellow at the end for the death of the female archaeologist. He doesn’t seem to have any purpose in the story at all except to surprise us with his fingernails before disappearing.
*. In the end I find this a hard movie to rate. It’s a mess, but not nearly as big a mess as the novel it’s based on. The blood-and-tits sleaziness gives it a cheap and tawdry flavour. It’s fun to see the old guys chew the scenery and emote for the ages but in the end none of it adds up to much. I imagine Hammer fans will enjoy its retro Brit-horror vibe, but for me it was only another underwhelming chapter in a genre (the mummy film) that rarely fails to disappoint.

The Mummy’s Shroud (1967)

*. 1967? Too late, far too late, for a movie like this.
*. It’s a Hammer production that came out when the bloom (or blush) was off the rose for that studio. Hammer’s mix of stylized violence and titillation just seemed out of date by the late ’60s, and the British accents didn’t help. Perhaps most damning of all, there seemed to be a lack of energy surrounding these productions.
*. None of these pitfalls was avoided in making yet another mummy movie. Not only are mummies not terribly interesting in themselves — being basically just zombies wrapped in ancient bandages, albeit with a romantic back story — but the plot of a mummy movie doesn’t allow for a lot of variation. The mummy’s tomb is disturbed. He awakes and wreaks vengeance because of some curse, usually while under the control of some priestly handler.
*. The mummy doesn’t even provide interesting kills either, as he usually just strangles his victims. One of the cursed graverobbers in this film gets wrapped up in a sheet and thrown out a window, which was at least different without making sense.
*. It’s a good cast. I particularly enjoyed John Phillips as the authoritarian-coward fiancier, and Michael Ripper as his toadie Longbarrow (Ripper had also appeared in a comic part in Hammer’s The Mummy). Catherine Lacey gets one killer line as the fortune teller. Unfortunately Elizabeth Sellars just looks wan.
*. But in the end this is just another cheap mummy movie. The plot is formulaic and awkward at the same time, with a number of out-of-place elements. Studio bound, with virtually no effects and a lousy-looking mummy to boot. Indeed, he only looks like a guy in a jumpsuit wearing a mask. He does get to crumble into dust quite nicely at the end though, as mummies are wont to do.

Death Curse of Tartu (1966)

*. I like the work Something Weird Video does in keeping drive-in trash in circulation, and I especially like the DVD commentaries their releases come with. In fact, a lot of the time the commentaries are more fun, even a lot more fun, than the movies.
*. This is the case with the films of Herschell Gordon Lewis. Though only a few of his movies repay a second viewing, Lewis’s commentaries are always bright and entertaining. William Grefé is a step down from Lewis both in the directing and the commenting department. There are fun spots when listening to Grefé, like when he remarks during one of his signature booty-shaking dance scenes that “the girls in the ’60s had a little meat on them. If I shot them now they’d be skin and bones.” But overall you get the sense that he’s a bit surprised that anyone should care about any of this.
*. Grefé’s movies are definitely not worth watching twice, so when I came back to this one I just plugged it in and listened to the commentary. I knew I wasn’t missing anything.
*. By the way, in case you’re wondering, if you take another step down from William Grefé you get Andy Milligan, whose movies aren’t worth watching at all. And since he died in 1991 there aren’t any commentaries. But Something Weird have done what they can for them.
*. So, Death Curse of Tartu. Grefé needed to make a movie quick and he had the funding so he took the old story of the mummy’s curse and transplanted it to the Florida Everglades, changing Tutankhamun to a more Native American-sounding Tartu. Though I don’t think Tartu is a Native American name. It’s actually the name of the second-largest city in Estonia and a residence at the University of Toronto (which is named after the city in Estonia). I lived there for a couple of years. The residence, not the city in Estonia.
*. The mummy idea wasn’t bad, and the way the mummy can turn itself into different swamp critters was kind of original. I wonder what the first film to do this was. Not just something like Cat People where you have a character who may be turning into a particular spirit animal or familiar, but one with the power to be all kinds of different animals. I can’t think of an earlier example of this, though I’m sure it had been done before.
*. Grefé wrote the script in 24 hours and then shot the whole thing in a week on a budget of $27,000. So the only response to complaints about how awful it looks is “What did you expect?” Or as Grefé himself puts it on the commentary track: “You know when you read some critics they’ll compare a movie like this with a fifty-million-dollar horror movie and you know my saying is let the guy who directed the fifty-million-dollar film and had six months, let him try to shoot a picture in seven days and see how good he does on $27,000.”
*. This is a strong defence, and up to a point unanswerable. The point being where Grefé no longer gave a damn precisely because of his limitations. Does it make sense to have Tartu take the form of a shark when (1) there’s no way a shark could crawl out of the tomb as we see the snake doing; (2) Grefé could only intercut stock footage of a shark swimming around with a guy flailing madly in the water in order to depict a shark attack; and (3) there are no sharks in the Everglades? No. But as he says, “”When you write a screenplay in 24 hours what the hell do you want?”
*. There have been low-budget auteurs who have done more with less. Death Curse of Tartu is only functional given its budget, and that’s not nearly enough. It’s just painful to watch the actors struggling through the swamp and reacting to animals that aren’t there. As a movie, it feels like we’re stuck with them in a kind of endurance test. Throughout the commentary there’s joking about how characters who are killed off have been set free. Despite its promising premise and the semblance of a structure to its nonsensical script, it was hard for me not to feel a similiar sense of release at the end.