Posts Tagged 'Egypt'

MAGIC, PART XLII: The Priest and the Magician

Calming a Storm - Wiliam Hole

If I were to tell you, devoid of any other context, about a man who could command demons, cast curses that caused living things to wither and die, or control the weather, then you might be reasonably forgiven for thinking I was talking about a wizard. Of course, these are all actually miracles of Jesus. The line between magic and divine power is a concept you see a lot in fiction—the powers of the gods and the powers of a human sorcerer do not spring from the same source. This distinction has not always been present in human beliefs, and is in many ways somewhat rare.

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On Mummies (Apologies to Mightygodking)

Me: I wonder how you’d remake the Mummy as a horror film. Not so much a rollicking action adventure. I mean, in the old Mummy movies, he’s basically a bandaged zombie that strangles people. Not really gonna cut it in this day and age. I mean, either you make him an evil sorcerer (but a SCARY evil sorcerer) or you make him a zombie. That’s really the only way to do it. And in that case, why not just make a movie about a zombie or an evil sorcerer who isn’t an Egyptian guy in bandages? I don’t know why I suddenly started thinking about mummies

My Friend: There are stories with fast mummies, including one by Conan Doyle. And the Karloff Mummy wasn’t bandaged. So, the slowness issues are purely a modern phenomenon (but, even the recent films had fast mummies)

Me: It’s been a while since I saw the movie. Okay, so, fast mummies. That’s still just a step down from fast zombies. At least the fast zombies will rip you apart and eat you. Fast mummies do what, exactly, that zombies can’t do better?

Friend: The difference is mummies are sapient. They have personalities, desires, and inhuman patience. They’re actually closer to D&D liches than zombies.

Me: But see, that’s the issue right there. A lich is basically an evil sorcerer. He just happens to be dead. Depending on the sort of mummy you use, you could make essentially the same movie with A) an evil sorcerer or B) a zombie. What about mummies is inherently appealing?

Friend: In general a lich deliberately becomes undead in search of greater power, whereas a mummy expects to be waking up in paradise and what is all this shit I’m wrapped in? Mummies are tragic.

Me: Some mummies are tragic, I will grant that. Others are just dicks

Friend: A mummy is cursed.

Me: Wait, I thought mummies did the cursing. Sleeping in your tomb, some asshole steals your stuff, you wake up and get your curse on. Isn’t that how it goes?

Friend: The originals tend to be confused on this. Generally, though, mummies don’t want to be up and about.

Me: Okay, but can’t you make a zombie or an evil sorcerer tragic as well? I’m still missing the inherent mummyness that makes this all go around

Friend: Mummies just want you to put their stuff back where you found it. They’re not evil.

Me: And if you don’t they’ll curse you. Okay, so, the crux, the real crux of a mummy story is the curse then, right? What makes a mummy’s curse any more unique then Joe Faust’s curses?

Friend: Most films combine this with a sense of ennui etc.

Me: Well, yes, they would. I mean, at least with vampires we have the whole drinking blood thing. And crosses. And garlic. Point is, lots of stuff unique to vampires

Friend: Motivation is an important part of any nontrivial film

Me: Okay, sure, motivation is important. But my point is the motivations attributed to mummies are not unique to mummies

Friend: What ‘give my stuff back’? No, because, unlike other monsters, mummies aren’t intrinsically inhuman or evil.

Me: Neither are vampires.

Friend: Vampires think you’re prey, as do zombies.

Me: Or Frankenstein

Friend: Frankenstein’s monster has a lot in common with mummies, true. He wants people to leave him alone.

Me: But he’s got some unique stuff of his own. He’s all by himself, he’s stitched together from bodies, and sometimes he has LIGHTNING POWERS. …I digress.

Friend: So does the mummy. He’s even more alone, he’s actually dead, and he just wants his stuff back.

Me: Mummies sometimes show up in groups

Friend: Not in the originals, interestingly.

Me: Let’s say I want to make a movie. I want to make it a supernatural horror story with lots of pathos

Friend: Right.

Me: I could use an evil sorcerer or Satanist or whatever. He longs after his lost love or something. And he curses people. Or I could go with the mummy. Why should I go with the mummy?

Friend: See, none of that screams evil sorcerer to me. Motivation’s wrong.

Me: Not all evil sorcerers are obsessed with immortality or more power. And I note, in that case, to be a mummy in the first place you ALSO have to be obsessed with immortality

Friend: The mummy thing happens to protect your stuff. Meantime, your ka is off in Egyptian heaven.

Me: But your stuff follows you to heaven. That’s why you buried yourself with it in the first place

Some Jackass: The next mummy horror movie should be someone’s mum wrapped up as a mummy

Me: Duly noted