Lionsgate // 2006 // 81 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Joel Pearce (Retired) // August 10th, 2007
Curiosity will lure you in.
If H.P. Lovecraft could have seen the body of low-budget films his literature would inspire, he probably would have become a romance author instead. He would almost certainly be horrified by The Tomb, which takes little more from his original story than a few scattered references and a title.
I try to be gentle with such low budget productions. After all, these are not professionals supported by millions of dollars worth of studio cash. These are enthusiastic amateurs, showing a passion for film and storytelling, under challenging conditions.
Alas, horror is one of the hardest genres to handle well. Timing is crucial, and a careful balance of visceral thrills and psychological intelligence is required. The Tomb lacks both, and insults us with its lack of tact and skill. Imagine how shocked I was that The Tomb was not directed by a fresh college student but rather Ulli Lommel, an aging director with dozens of zero-budget direct-to-video titles to his credit.
But now I'm getting ahead of myself. A number of people are dumped into a basement together, sporting fake-looking wounds and little signs with dates on them. The only consistent characters are Tara (Victoria Ullmann, an Ulli Lommel regular) and Billy (Christian Behm, who has also appeared in a number of these films). They soon discover that each of the victims have pissed the same guy off, a man who goes by the names of characters from H.P. Lovecraft stories. Now, they are playing a game in which only one of them will survive.
Before I get into anything else, I want to talk about consistency. Now, I realize that nobody expects The Tomb to be Se7en or Silence of the Lambs, but even the most casual viewer expects a certain level of narrative consistency. Both the leads have massive wounds on their arms, and they spend half the film cradling their gory appendages. Unfortunately, they spend the other half of the time swinging around axes and dragging dead bodies...with the same arms. The characters are just as inconsistent. In horror, we need to have characters that we feel something for. In a dazzling show of poor judgment, the rest of the characters drop in one at a time, so we never get a chance to know them at all. Their only role is to confirm what we already know, and it gets horrible repetitive after about two of them. By the end, you will (as I did) just wish that they would all die already.
And that's most of what I have to say about the film itself. While the cinematography is not horrible (though it relies far too much on rudimentary camcorder filming techniques), every other aspect of The Tomb is atrocious. The acting is bland and silly. The gore effects are wussy, and the script is completely illogical.
What I will talk about a bit more is the complete snow job that Lions Gate has done with this package. It has been given the (inaccurate) title "HP Lovecraft's The Tomb," which implies that HP Lovecraft had something to do with the story. They created some glossy front cover art, with people that don't appear in the film. They gave it the tagline "curiosity will lure you in," suggesting that the characters have chosen to be part of this game. The back cover has this awesome looking tomb with chains hanging down, which in no way resembles the cheap-ass basement from the film.
The actual product we get doesn't begin to resemble the promises on the cover, which is, in reality, such a cheaply made production that the dialogue was recorded on set and is almost impossible to understand. The lighting gives no atmosphere to the production whatsoever, and the overall production values resemble the high school films I receive more than they do the images on the front. The disc itself is not terrible, with a clean transfer of the camcorder-recorded film, and a 5.1 track with ridiculous amounts of bass. There are no extras. My real complaints are with the film and the marketing. There's nothing wrong with releasing this film on DVD (I suppose), but consumers should be well aware of what they are getting.
And, in this case, what they are getting is a crappy little z-grade Saw ripoff, except not scary or fun. If that's what you want to see, go ahead, otherwise I guess you could just wait for Saw IV, which has just been announced.
The team behind The Tomb are found guilty of making a very bad film. They will be locked up together, and none of them will ever escape. Lions Gate gets a large fine for misrepresenting the film. If you want to sell more creepy Saw rips, produce them yourself.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 81 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Rated R