Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Tomb (2009)

Sleepy actors in atmospheric settings

This is an old fashioned horror romance loosely adapted by an unknown director and John "The Crow" Shirley from an Edgar Allan Poe short story. It also combines primitive science and magic involving a deceitful woman who wants to defeat death at whatever the cost and against whoever gets in her way that's living.

A literature professor named Jonathan, despite being engaged to an attentive blonde named Rowena, gets seduced by an exotic dark-haired eastern European woman called Ligeia Romanova who sits in during his lectures due to a supposed fascination with his work. She's conducting a darker kind of research on her own at the university to cure an ailment called Black Death that's causing her to become progressively weaker and that much closer to dying. Through witchcraft she beckons him to her apartment with indulgences of lust and absinthe, all the while with a grieving fiancee at home and a past lover for Ligeia who was assisting her with fresh corpses beforehand. They marry and Jonathan dips into his deep pockets to purchase back the Romanova Manor in Ukraine that was once in Ligeia's family's name. There Ligeia tries to perfect her diabolical experiments but is getting weaker, which leads to her hold becoming less strong on Jonathan. Suspicions arise from both their caretaker Vaslov, his teenage daughter Loreli and Jonathan himself. He starts to see clearer and brings Rowena back into his life, though Ligeia has one last attempt up her sleeve that might put everyone's life in danger.

The main aspect concentrated on here is the love triangle with everything else coming second or being brought up and not developed at all. There's no strong hero or even a steady character to crutch yourself on as a viewer with the exception of the fiancee Rowena for relating points, though who's not always on screen. The direction, dialogue and performances are hit and miss. The script feel underdeveloped by only giving limited range to the characters and making them seem more like plot devices moved from one place to the next. Jonathan doesn't pose much of a struggle or create a challenge by incorporating a fight between both sides of being entranced and shaking it off. Even the unsurety of Ligeia if she loves him or not--since she keeps him around while killing off everyone else on whim--isn't always given enough subtleties to make you second guess if she's true or not. There's little mystery past a certain point and the pacing is up and down, with the beginning transitions being rushed and not giving enough room to authentically develop the characters. The middle section drags with some filler material that doesn't carry any tension or captivation but more or less padding to the simplistic story. Not to mention there are flashbacks that return to a scene that happened earlier as if they didn't have a life beforehand. This picks up the flow for its wrap up, though its impact was somewhat abrupt and anticlimactic.

Sofya Skya, as Ligeia, no doubt brings a certain enchanting beauty but her portrayal is somewhat neutral in that she doesn't always bring more to herself that would be intriguing past a certain point. Her voice is often flat and her degrees of facial expressions limited, as if she's not affected by anything around her than indifferent. Wes Bentley is in a trance half of the time, giving a stupid and confused grin while walking around like a love sick zombie. Both Michael Madsen and Eric Roberts play unexceptional, one-dimensional parts with Madsen the drunk, layabout father of Rowena and Roberts the humble caretaker of the Romanova Manor.

As a horror film, this isn't scary or frightening but there's still a certain atmosphere at points to where the settings are periodically shot in between scenes. The R rating was most likely for cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption than anything else along the lines of gore or nudity. This was supposed to be more of a character driven tale with the technical science and supernatural aspects grazed over for more of a tone and to concentrate on human tragedy. Except the strength of the film ended up being the set designs, cinematography and music than the performances and dialogue. It's as if they don't always switch out of a lower gear, causing their performances to only break even across the board instead of doing something that expresses dramatic emotion or to remember them by as a specific personality instead of merely an actor reading lines.

Rating: 3/10

Director: Michael Staininger
Stars: Wes Bentley, Kaitlin Doubleday, Sofya Skya, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Michael Madsen, Eric Roberts, Mackenzie Rosman
Link: IMDB

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