Thursday, October 13, 2016

Recap: Goosebumps "Return of the Mummy"

In the immortal words of Crow T. Robot, "Oh no, this is a sequel to something."

"The Curse of the Mummy" was one of the first Goosebumps books ever written, and the second Goosebumps book to get a sequel, the first being "Monster Blood."

"The Curse of the Mummy," to make a short story shorter, was basically one long stretch of two kids wandering through a pyramid until they finally came across the plot. Said plot being that an archaeologist has gone nuts and started worshiping an ancient priestess by dipping innocent people in molten tar. And the day may or may not have been saved supernaturally.

I don't know why they didn't adapt the first book. It could be that adapting both stories would have been too much trouble, since the second story either forgets or ignores several plot points from the first story. The discrepancies are so noticeable that Mr. Stine has been accused of hiring a ghostwriter who only read a brief synopsis of the first story.

"I didn't write a single one of these books. Must have been the other guy."
"Hey, don't be blaming me for this."
Of course, the show got around similar continuity issues with the "Monster Blood" stories by ignoring all the sequels and making one up themselves, but I'll get to that some other day.

Another possible reason for skipping "The Curse of the Mummy" could be the wicked-awesome, incredibly violent climax involving, among other things, a man getting whacked in the face with a lit torch.

As we'll soon see in this episode, they had no qualms with adapting the "two kids wander through a pyramid until they finally come across the plot" part of the story.

Apologies to anyone expecting Brendan Fraser.
The episode begins with an unmoving stock photo of the outskirts of Giza at night. You know, the pyramid district. Inside a tent, a kid named Gabe (Daniel DeSanto) is fiddling with a Polaroid camera. For those of you whippersnappers who don't know what a Polaroid is, just wait until I recap "Say Cheese and Die."

Gabe (voiceover): "I'm here in Egypt..."

Wait a minute... I recognize that voice. It's Carlos! Carlos from The Magic School Bus! Add him to the list.

Gabe (voiceover): "...visiting my Uncle Ben and cousin Sari."

Uh-oh. Bad things tend to happen to uncles named Ben.

Gabe (voiceover): "My Uncle Ben's an archaeologist. He's really cool. He knows all about ancient civilizations."

That is usually the case when one is in the archaeology profession, yes.

Gabe (voiceover): "My cousin Sari thinks she knows a lot, but she's okay."

...Alright, then?

Gabe (voiceover): "We're on the site of a secret dig."

Which is why absolutely no reporters will be showing up for an exclusive interview.

Gabe (voiceover): "My uncle has discovered a pyramid that is the tomb of an ancient Egyptian prince."

In... Giza? Hate to burst your bubble, kid, but those things aren't hard to notice.

Although, to be fair, he does describe the pyramid as a "dark, underground maze" which seems to imply that the majority of the pyramid is underground. Still... sounds more like just a tomb and not actually a full-blown pyramid.

Unless that establishing shot was supposed to actually be showing us the newly-discovered pyramid in question, in which case....

Yeah. People already knew about the gigantic pyramid there. And not just because they light it up at night.
Gabe (voiceover): "It's pretty spooky, but I'm not afraid."

You will be. You will be....

Gabe (voiceover): "I'm psyched that I get to be one of the first people inside..."
Uncle Ben: "The Tomb of Prince Khor-Ru. Or, at least, we HOPE it is."

Side note: The subtitles refer to the prince as "Horu," despite the original book claiming otherwise. I'm going to use the book spelling for things because I think this is a case of what Jeff Dunham refers to as the letter "phlegm," which is nigh-impossible to transcribe into English letters.

Anyway, it's now the next day, and Uncle Ben, Sari, and Gabe are entering the tomb for what can't be the first time, seeing as how there's a buttload of hanging lanterns lighting the place up already.

But Sari is more interested with the mummy hand sticking out of Gabe's pocket.

Gabe: "It's my summoner."

No, this is a Summoner.
Gabe: "I bought it at the airport."

More plausible than the books, where he got it in a garage sale. In America.

Sari: "Uh, a summoner?"
Gabe: "The guy said it can call forth the dead. He said it was a real mummy's hand."

If that tiny thing's supposed to belong to a real mummy...

Oh my God, that's a dead child's hand.
Uncle Ben: "I hope you didn't pay too much. That's one of the oldest scams around."

"They just chop off some poor kid's hand and wrap it in gauze.
Why, I used to run that scam back when I was on hard times."
"Oh. I was going to ask what happened to my other cousins...."
Sari: "Uhh, it's warm."
Gabe: "That's because it communicates with the dead."

I didn't realize necromancy was exothermic.

Sari: "That's because you've been carrying it around in your pocket."

I'd imagine the hot Egyptian sun helped a bit.

Uncle Ben: "I'll tell you what, you can try out your summoner on the prince. But first we have to find him, hm?"

But Gabe wants a picture of his uncle and cousin first, and he accidentally drops the summoner while he fumbles with his camera. As he sets up the shot, the summoner crawls across the ground.

Sari makes fun of her cousin's struggles to get the perfect shot, but the picture ends up successfully taken anyway, and they set off deeper into the ancient tomb. But not before Gabe notices that his summoner seems to have crawled along the ground with no particular destination in mind.

He meets up with Sari, who explains to him that the hieroglyphics on the walls represent the journey of the soul after death.

Sari: "Can't you just feel the presence of death here with us?"

I like this kid. She's weird.

Gabe: "I'd hate to be stuck in here all by myself. Wouldn't you?"

Guess what. He is. Sari ditched him.

After heading through the same corridor for a bit to both pad out the episode and make it look like they built more than one hallway set, Gabe still can't find his family. Eventually, he comes to a fork in the path.

Well, let's see. One of these paths has a lantern, indicating the presence of other human beings...
So he picks the other one.
Having picked the wrong path, Gabe falls down a trap door onto a big pile of sand. He whips out his little pocket flashlight and soon spots a big ol' tarantula on him. He quickly shakes it off. Good thing, too. Best not to be mixing Uncle Bens and spider bites.

He momentarily freaks out, but soon calms down when he spots a nifty lion head sculpture on the wall, which has its mouth open.

This will become important in one second.
He takes a picture of it before getting closer to the now-closed-mouthed-sculpture. Then he touches it, which makes a rubber cobra head pop out.

A continuity gaffe just to set up a minor jump scare.
I kind of find that charming in a B-movie sort of way. ...No pun intended.
As Gabe yells about snakes, Sari laughs at him, since she thinks he's yelling about the rope they just threw down for him to climb. Gabe successfully finds his way out of the pit, but his flailing seems to have made his summoner fall out of his pocket again.

And it's making friends with a hissing cockroach, filling in for the Egyptian scarab that it looks nothing like.
Later that night, Uncle Ben takes a look at Gabe's photo and realizes that the lion's head, being the sacred seal of Prince Khor-Ru, must be the entrance to his tomb.

"It's a good thing Gabe took a picture. People might have thought he was just lion about it."

And tomorrow, they'll go back to see what's inside the tomb. My guess? At least one dead body.

Gabe: "Wh-what about the..."
Sari: "Snakes?"

"Why did it have to be snakes?"
Sari teases Gabe for a bit over this, but Uncle Ben promises to send some guys in to get rid of the snakes before tomorrow.

Gabe: "There were some spiders too."

Ah, quit your whining, kid. In the book, you landed on a pile of spiders instead of a pile of dirt. You got off easy.

When Gabe realizes that he dropped his summoner, Ben says that the work crew will probably return that when they find it, too.

Uncle Ben: "In the meantime, here's a little something I picked up for you."

"You like touristy crap."
He hands over a little amber necklace with a scarab inside and explains to Gabe that it's 4000 years old.

"I wanted to buy you one with a mosquito in it, but some rich guy was buying them all up. Something about dinosaurs."
And as he puts the necklace round Gabe's neck, he explains the lore.

Uncle Ben: "You see, they believed that to keep a scarab meant that you would live forever."


Come on, Uncle Ben, I actually read this book as a kid. You're not going to tell him about the part where getting bitten by a scarab means death?

Gabe: "It's really 4000 years old?"
Uncle Ben: "Uh-huh."
Woman's Voice: "Yes, it's true."

A woman (Afrah Gouda) enters to see Dr. Hassad, aka Uncle Ben, and introduces herself as...

Woman: "Neela-Hram-Ed."

According to the subtitles, her name is "Nila Rahmad," but that is one thick accent.

Nila Rahmad: "Emma reporter widdeh Cairo Sun."

What the heck is that accent? She's supposedly Egyptian, but she sounds just like Inigo Montoya.

I'm not Spanish, I'm Egyptian.
I don't know what an Egyptian accent is supposed to sound like, since the various sources I've consulted are giving me somewhat conflicting answers, but none of the ones I've found sound quite like hers.

I think Miss Gouda is using her actual accent, but since this episode comprises half of her credited filmography, I don't have much to compare it to. And her professional website is unhelpfully vague, saying only she's had "a star role" in may productions. IMDb only lists two things... but we've all fudged the ol' resume, am I right?

All I can confirm about her accent... is that it's a lot of fun to render phonetically.

Uncle Ben: "I though you all called yourselves journalists these days."
Nila Rahmad: "Wull, I guess I'm jessen old-fashion ghel."

She asks about the discovery of the tomb, but Ben tries to deflect the question by saying that they haven't confirmed anything yet.

Nila Rahmad: "Dets even beddur. I wand exclusive. I wand to come with you and write oppta discovery from the beginning."

Ben gives all the credit so far to Gabe, who not only discovered the door, but is the only one to have seen it so far.

Sari: "He fell into it."

Like Obelix. (You're welcome, French readers.)

Nila Rahmad: "Wull, some of the greetest discoveries happened by accident."

Teflon. The microwave. Viagra.

She notes Gabe's amber necklace and pulls out her own, sans scarab.

Uncle Ben: "How very unusual."

What, a woman wearing jewelry? It's not unheard of.

Nila Rahmad: "De scarab's supposed to be for good lauck. I hobe mine is not bad lauck."

Nila takes a look at the photo and confirms the lion as the seal of Prince Khor-Ru. Before she can ask any questions, a man named Jefe comes over to ask where she wants her bags, but freaks out when he seals the photo. Because in fiction, it's the job of non-Americans to get freaked out when the Americans start meddling with their ancient buildings, artifacts, and history.

Bonus points if he says something about a curse.
Jefe: "No one must enter the tomb. It is cursed. Someone will die!

Bonus points awarded.
As Jefe runs off in fear, Nila comes back inside and deciphers the hieroglyphics around the seal as "Let me rest in peace."

Gabe: "What does it mean?"

...Figure it out, Gabe. Seriously.

Uncle Ben and Nila explain that since the Egyptians loved to bury their dead royalty with treasure, they had to take precautions to keep grave robbers away. Nila also elaborates that anyone who ever tried to rob this tomb never returned.

Hm. Interesting that she knows that, since this is a newly-discovered tomb. Did history really keep track of all the thieves who said "I'm gonna go find Khor-Ru's tomb and rob it"? Or was this intentional foreshadowing?

Uncle Ben: "The ancient legend says that if you repeat the sacred words three times- Kahru, Kahra, Kharee- the mummy will be awakened from his sleep to seek his vengeance."

In the book, the chant is Teki Kahru Teki Kahra Teki Kharee, which would take forever to chant three times. And I point this out because in the book, the magic words have to be said five times. Gotta say, this was a change for the better.

And I have to wonder, does this apply to any mummy? Or just Prince Khor-Ru? If so, what makes Khor-Ru so special that he gets resurrection powers?

Also, I love the look on Sari's face here.
Nila Rahmad: "Baht ef course, that's jest superstition. Is thet not so?"

The next day, after the awkward silence following Nila's question, Uncle Ben, the kids, and Nila are busy literally breaking into Prince Khor-Ru's tomb. And we also get an establishing shot of the outside of the "pyramid."

I don't think I need to tell you the problem with calling Prince Khor-Ru's tomb a "pyramid."
Nila Rahmad: "Jest think. A boy from Amurica... will be the furs twin to see the mummy."

Sari touches Gabe's neck, tricking him into thinking that there's another tarantula on him. He's more than a little freaked out, since he's still thinking about that whole curse thing, but Ben's ready to bust open the door into the prince's tomb. He knocks the stone seal off and the door simply slides open.

Ben takes a lantern as he ventures forth, but he doesn't even need it, since the room is already filled with blue light. Otherwise, the room is empty.

Uncle Ben: "It's another trick to discourage grave robbers. It's a false tomb."

Sari jokes about saying the sacred words to summon the prince, and says them twice.

Sari: "Kharoooo, Kharay, Kharee!"

Not sure why she's pronouncing the middle word funny, but whatever. She dares Gabe to say the last round of Beetlejuice Karru Marri Odonna Loma Molonu Karrano Kahru Kahra Kahree.

Sari: "You chicken?"

The Marty McFly approach works like a charm, and Gabe sarcastically repeats the magic words. And it seems as though there might be something to this curse, as the wind mysteriously howls inside the sealed tomb as soon as he finishes....

Uncle Ben: "It's probably just some cracks in the wall let in the wind."

Isn't this part of the pyramid supposed to be underground? Not only did Gabe fall down a pit to get here, but he distinctly said "underground" in the episode's opening monologue. And the establishing shot would seem to back that up. If the wind's supernatural, that's one thing, but then where is all the blue light coming from?

We don't get an answer to that question, but we do see what happened to Gabe's summoner. For some reason, it's sticking out of a crack in the wall.

"Wow, he didn't even have to look for it. That's pretty handy."

When Gabe goes to retrieve the summoner, it grabs his hand. Gabe starts screaming his head off, even though everybody else thinks he's playing a little joke.

When Sari walks over to see what he's losing his mind over, the wall flips around, trapping them on the other side of the wall where, impossibly enough, there's even more in the way of ambient light. Uncle Ben attempts to run after them, but succeeds in nothing but bonking his head and falling to the ground.

And from that day forward, Gabe knew that with great power, there must also come great responsibility.
The kids finds themselves unable to escape, but they do find a skeleton.

Who apparently died standing up, impressively enough.
Nila tries to wake Ben, but he's out cold. With nothing else to do, Gabe and Sari go deeper into the tomb to see if there's another exit. You might laugh at the idea of a tomb having a back door, but it worked in National Treasure, didn't it? Gotta have a way for all the snakes to get in!

As a hissing cockroach scarab follows them, they come across a torchlit room filled with treasures. All I can say is that if an old man asks you to choose a cup, kid, drink from the wooden one.

Gabe: "Great. We'll be the world's richest skeletons."

Sari finds the sarcophagus of Prince Khor-Ru and starts messing with it.

Gabe: "What are you doing?"
Sari: "I'm gonna open it."

Gabe's curiosity gets the better of him, and he helps his cousin to push the lid off. Inside... nothing.

As the eyes of the seal of Khor-Ru glow red, the owner and proprietor of the tomb comes a-calling to see what the ruckus is.

"Hey! Visitors!
I do find it interesting that Khor-Ru put the lid back on his sarcophagus after he got out. Although Gabe and Sari have more pressing matters on their minds right now, seeing as how they find themselves alone and unarmed against a mummy. The best advice I can give them is to make peace with whatever god they choose.

Or all of them, as the case may be. Why play favorites?
Prince Khor-Ru shuffles around for a bit before Ms. Rahmad shows back up, dressed in what appears to be some leftover threads from when Cecil B. DeMille was filming Bible stories.

Nila: "Kohm to me, my brother."

"Who are you?"
Nila: "Ess Prencess Nila."

"Could you be a bit more specific?"
Nila: "Your sisterrr."

"Oh, hey! How's it going?"
As Gabe and Sari sneak around, Nila monologues, like, 90% of the plot to her dead brother while holding Gabe's summoner. Apparently, she's alive after so many years. Somehow. And she and her brother can now rule again. Somehow.

It's never explained, but Nila was supposed to be that hissing cockroach scarab. Which would go along with her necklace having an amber chunk with no scarab inside... but all Nila does at this point is use the summoner to make her brother attack the kids.

Princess Nila: "Dere can be no witnesses."

But her brother grabs her necklace instead.

Prince Khor-Ru: "Let me... rest in... peeeeaaaace!"!"

So in response, Nila babbles more exposition.

Princess Nila: "You were weeg, I was trong. I was da one who ruled. Do you remember, Khor-Ru? Do you remember, my brahther?"

Khor-Ru remembers, and... smashes her necklace. Not sure what anyone's motivation is beyond Khor-Ru wanting to rest.

Princess Nila: "My leyfe... my leyfe! I lived inside diz tone every night for four thousann years! And now, I will nevaaaaaaaaaar...."

And she disappears in a burst of light, emerging from her fallen dress as a hissing cockroach scarab.

Having done his thing, Khor-Ru shuffles around some more, threatening the kids.

Gabe grabs his summoner and tries to say the words.

Gabe: "Horu... horah.... something or other!"


So instead, he decides to toss the summoner into a nearby fire, which apparently starts killing the mummy for good.

"Well, looks like this ordeal is...."
 Don't say it.

"All wrapped up."

Gabe and Sari run for the exit, since Khor-Ru was a load-bearing mummy. Without him, the whole place is falling apart.

Luckily, not only is the secret door open now, but Uncle Ben is lucid enough to run out of the pyramid with them, dodging bouncy stone debris as they make their way through the similar-looking hallways.

The next day or so, Gabe packs his bags to head back to America. Sari hands him his scarab necklace, but he doesn't want it.

Sari: "Something to remember me by. Old Egyptian custom. When you get a lousy gift, you're stuck with it."

No regifting in Egypt, I see.

As the summoner sneaks in to hide both itself and Nila's now-intact amulet in Gabe's luggage, Uncle Ben enters to ask what he should tell the reporters.

Gabe: "Tell them the mummy walked."
Sari: "And his sister's a 4000-year-old beetle."
Gabe: "And they almost got together and ruled Egypt again."
Uncle Ben: "You're right. Nothing but the truth."

Sari and Gabe say their goodbyes and the episode ends as Gabe vows not to buy anymore summoners at the airport.

Sari: "Can I give you a hand?"

Ah, that's why Uncle Ben didn't say the bit about a scarab's bite meaning death. They changed the original ending, where it was implied that Gabe was bitten by a scarab.

The logical result, I think we can all agree.
And with that, the episode ends. So let's review what is, sadly, not the beginning of Gabe's superhero career.

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