There's a giant mummy on the rampage, and it's looking to whomp the pretty-boy ass of Casper Van Dien. If you read this sentence, you're either going to roll your eyes because you are into the fine art of "real" cinema, or you'll get excited at the thought of giant mummies (or you really want to see Casper Van Dien get the bejeezus knocked out of him). If you rolled your eyes, then you can just move along, there's nothing to see here.
This movie is strictly for folks who want to see big monsters, hokey dialogue and plot devices that were old hat when the Republic serials were in their heyday. In other words, this movie is a big ol' wheel of cheese and if you have no tolerance for cheddar, The Fallen Ones is going to leave you with some serious cramps.
(The movie is a sci-fi original movie, and for some folks that is a word of warning that you are about to enter a world of suck.)
But having said that, The Fallen Ones is probably one of the best mummy movies I've seen since Tom Tyler and Lon Chaney, Jr. stopped wrapping themselves in gauze. Casper Van Dien is no Harrison Ford, but gosh darn it, he's actually pretty likeable as an archaeologist/adventurer who literally stumbles onto the resting place of an ancient, mummified giant. Sparks fly, of course, when structural engineer Kristen Miller shows up to make sure Van Dien digs up the mummy the way she says it should be dug up, and you know that it's just a matter of time before they stop arguing and start kissing.
But a large part of the pleasures in the film come from a pair of unexpected turns by showbiz veterans in supporting roles. Robert Wagner, perhaps best known at this point as number two in the Austin Powers movies, plays the man footing the bills for Van Dien's archaeological dig and he sells every scene he's in so well I actually didn't recognize him in his first couple of scenes. And while I was thrown off at first by Tom Bosley speaking his lines with a yiddish accent (I was surprised to learn in the commentary track that Bosley is actually Jewish), the guy has a field day with his role as a rabbi brought in to translate some ancient texts and, while I'm a little reluctant to describe a performance in a made for transvenous monster movie as revelatory, I have to say after watching this film I have considerably more respect for Bosley as an actor. It's great to see old pros doing what they do well and elevating the material a little more than it might otherwise deserve. (Geoffrey Lewis, Juliette's dad and a mainstay in Clint Eastwood's films in the 80's, also does some good work in a brief role.)
But back to the giant mummy. Before it makes its appearance, his servants (mostly played by the same actor, Irwin Keyes), begin to take out the crews from both Van Dien's dig and Wagner's construction site and, in an inspired little set piece, terrorize Van Dien in a kind of giant metal skeleton that has to be seen to be believed (and even then, you still may not believe it but it sure is fun to watch). But after a while, you can't help but check your watch. It's the same thing as watching a Godzilla movie ... you tuned in to see a guy in a suit but most of what you get is a lot of actors talking about Godzilla. It's a good hour or so before the big guy finally goes on his rampage, throwing boulders, chasing jeeps and killing bystanders, but when it does finally show up, the low-budget special effects bring it to life with a great deal of affection ... it takes love (and either a really powerful computer or a big mass of latex) to make a good monster, and this movie is obviously a labor of love for its director, Kevin Van Hook.
In the brief making-of featurette, he comes off as an unpretentious guy who knows he's not exactly making the 21st century's answer to Citizen Kane, but he takes making this film very seriously. He cites the work of Spielberg and Lucas as his inspiration for becoming a director, and their influence does hang over the film ... add a few million dollars and a couple of bigger names to the cast and this could have been one of Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment releases in the 80's. It's obvious that a great deal of prep went into the film, and the use of animatics (animated storyboards, an innovation we can thank George Lucas for) probably went a long way in selling the scenes to the cast and crew who, no doubt, spent a lot of time reacting to big red X's on the set.
Anchor Bay is releasing this film, and they come up with quite a few extras for a low-budget, made-for-cable movie. In addition to the making of featurette, we get a commentary with Van Hook with producer Karen Bailey, cinematographer Matt Steinauer (whose work is nothing revolutionary, but I'm sure it must have been difficult to shoot the effects-heavy sequences), and effects supervisor Chadd B. Cole. The commentary is pretty standard stuff that you've heard before (aside from the aforementioned revelation about Tom Bosley's ethnicity), and it repeats some things that were mentioned in the documentary, a common problem with dvd features these days. There are a few animatic sequences that can be compared to the finished scenes in the film, a commercial for the film, storyboards, and a printable screenplay if you have a DVD-ROM player in your computer.
But, as the old bit of hyperbole, goes, if you only see one giant mummy movie this year, you ought to make it The Fallen Ones. If nothing else, it's a lot less cynical and overdone than the Stephen Sommers remakes of The Mummy and The Mummy Returns.