Why is it that I prefer horror films that don’t make it to the big screen to those that do? Films like Midnight Meat Train, I Sell the Dead, and Dead Snow have appealed to me much more than films like the recent remakes of A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th. So it should come as no surprise that one film in the series marketed under the Fangoria FrightFest banner might catch my attention.
The Tomb, also known as Ligeia and Edgar Allan Poe’s Ligeia, is based on Poe’s classic tale “The Tomb of Ligeia,” which weaves love, loss, and coming back from the dead in a recipe for horror. Now, some people may be dismayed at the relative lack of blood compared to other recent splatter-fests. But never fear, this tale combines elements of Dracula, The Babysitter, and a bit of Basic Instinct to top it all off.
Professor Jonathan Merrick (Wes Bentley, American Beauty, Ghost Rider) has it all – a posh teaching position at a small university, wealthy deceased parents, and a beautiful fiancée whose career in music is taking her places. But when he asks his friend and colleague Len Burns (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Showdown in Little Tokyo, Rising Sun, Mortal Kombat) about the woman who’s attended his last six lectures, including one at a different college, he learns that she is Ligeia Romanova (newcomer Sofya Skya), a graduate student studying ancient religion and mysticism, he’s intrigued.
Soon he finds himself under the spell of this beautiful dark witch and watches as everything he knows and loves starts falling apart. She is fighting against time and a fatal genetic illness, seeking not only a cure but immortality itself. Ligeia steals souls in an attempt to merge ancient black magic with cutting edge science to avoid her fate. Can anything stop her mad quest?
A few things about this production really captured my interest… Director Michael Staininger and screenwriter John Shirley manage to channel Ligeia’s occult interests throughout the film without going totally overboard. They never try to explain what’s going on, choosing instead to show the process a few times until you get the hang of it. The “show, don’t tell” philosophy serves them well in the movie.
Second, the psychological aspects become front and center as they do in most of Poe’s stories. These characters are easy to read. Jonathan’s quick slide down to the depths of depravity at Ligeia’s side shows the constant battle between good and evil fought every day in the conscious and unconscious minds all over the planet. Ligeia obviously represents the dark, more evil nature of mankind and Jonathan’s fiancee Rowena (Kaitlin Doubleday, TV’s Bones, Brothers & Sisters, and CSI: Miami) represents the light, creative nature of mankind. These two women act as the little devils sitting on Jonathan’s shoulders suggesting where he should go and what he should do.
The set in the Ukraine with the castle/mansion that serves as the setting for a good portion of the film was absolutely beautiful. However they found that place, I might consider living there even if it was haunted by a vengeful spirit!
And it would be unfair not to mention some of the other actors in the picture. I’ve never seen Michael Madsen ever play as understated a character as Rowena’s father George. The same holds true for Eric Roberts as the groundskeeper Vazlov. These two actors typically eat up the scenery and yet both showed amazing restraint in these quieter roles. And then there’s Mackenzie Rosman who played Loreli, Vazlov’s nearly silent niece. It took me a few minutes to realize where I’d seen her, but she used to play Ruthie Camden on TV’s 7th Heaven for eleven years (1996-2007). Now in her very early 20s she’s matured into a very beautiful woman who will hopefully transition into more mature roles as she continues her career.
The Tomb won’t be for everyone. It’s not your traditional slasher movie that most people tend to associate with the term “horror” these days. But if you’re looking for more psychological horror, this might be up your alley.
The film is available as part of a multi-faceted program hosted by Fangoria to gain fan support to choose one of eight films for a limited theatrical release in late July. If you go to LigeiaMovie.com and the “Fangoria FrightFest” site mentioned earlier. You can also click here to read Edgar Allen Poe’s short story “Ligeia”.