The Mummy an' the Armadillo

Director: J. S. Cardone

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

Adapted from an evidently amateur stage play, The Mummy an' the Armadillo (2004) is badly adapted to the requirements of the cinema environment, which takes a lot more than filming a play on one set to be any good. Really there's nothing more clever in the script than there is in the title's mispelling of "and."

The Mummy an' the ArmadilloWorse, it was pretty much promoted as some kind of cheapo horror film, like the director's previous outings, implying it is in the "hick psycho family who kills together stays together" genre, such as have a fan base with or without being done well.

Though it lives up to promise of cheapo ingredient well enough, it will likely anger anyone who wasted their dollar at the cut-out table thinking they were buying a psycho hillbillies film & got instead this dialogue-heavy barely-a-ghost-story self-conscious failure at affected pop art.

A young woman (Clare Kramer) pulls over in a storm at a roadside cafe in the desert. It clearly says "closed" outside, & the lights are out, with no one inside to serve her. But she doesn't seem to notice the place is closed & it eventually rewards her with lights & a waitress (Lori Heuring). They begin to verbally spar, & verbal sparring is what we're stuck with for most of the film.

We may already suspect the situation is one of "ghosts" but don't get your hopes up, nothing ghostly is going to happen. It doesn't matter one whit what they are, living or dead they're just artificial characters on the stage chipping away at some amateur playwright's idea of wittily nutso repartee.

The Mummy an' the ArmadilloThis cafe setting is pretty close to the only set in the whole film. We briefly see a back room, & briefly a scene inside a car, as if even the director realized he was screwilng up & had to provide at least three minutes tops of other sets.

In general it is so one-location oriented that it looks like it was staged for the junior college version of Come Back to the Five & Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (1982) but with the dialogue all fucked up.

We suffer through the most moronic dialogue waiting for a story to begin, as the waitress & the wandering maiden reveal uninteresting bits of themselves to one another. In & about the banalities is a slim history of the cafe & its decorations, which include a mummy (which will never come alive) & a stuffed armadillo (which will never do squat), violating the cardinal rule for stagecraft, that if it's on the stage, use it.

After a while a policeman arrives to flirt with the waitress, meaning more dull dialogue, then he leaves, "stage right." Eventually other characters will "enter stage right" & the jibber-jabber continues. It'll take forever & by then it's too late to care, but eventually life on the single set will be spiced up with some bondage & sadism aimed at the wandering maiden. The harsher elements never rise to the level of horror but only of campy live theater.

What passes for "mystery" is whether or not the seemingly sane traveller is related to this crazy family or not, & if she is, is she secretly as crazy as they are; & whether or not the mummy is their relative in common.

No event beyond eye-rolling "revelations" grow out of such "mysteries." What passes for suspense is playing with a gun or wondering if the traveller is going to get raped then killed or what. But nothing comes of this nonsense either. The cleverest stage-exit is when a retarded character exits cage-left instead of stage-right, then watches the action center-stage through the bars.

Nothing said or done leads to any rational development or outcome. It's more like a bad writer telling himself, "Jeez, the audience might be bored by now, maybe I should write a gun into the story & tie somebody up. Yeah! That's the ticket. Oh, oh, & maybe about here a goth chick (Busy Philipps) can enter stage right, wilikers, goth chicks are great, oh god oh god, I'm such a hip playwright yay yi yam!"

Although the writing, direction, staging, & most of the acting is all just amazingly terrible, if there is even momentary saving grace, it is a couple of the character performances:

The violently insane mom (Betty Buckley) is riveting, but because she does demolish everyone else with her excellence, she's soon written into unconsciousness so as to stop showing up everyone else.

Her apparently brain-damaged son (Brad Renfro) also pulls some good moves out of his ass in order to save bad material. But the needed-to-be-better central performances for wandering maiden & waitress are tepid, & the sadistic Handsome Psycho (Johnathon Schaech) is ham-handed like any bad actor trying to get all the attention in a high school production. Sundry minor characters who wander through could all be excised without loss, they almost seemed added in order to provide the whole amateur acting club a role.

Ultimately it doesn't matter whether or not anyone does their part pretty well, because they're only cartoon cut-outs for the chattery nonstop stage dialogue, anchored by nothing as inconsequential as purpose or story. Still, if everyone else had been as good as Crazy Mom and Brain Damaged Son, the film might've been worth wasting some time on. As it stands, it's just not.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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