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Plot: archeology students unleash spirit of cursed mummy.

Isis Rising: Curse Of the Lady Mummy (hereafter Isis Rising) is probably the worst mummy movie this side of Dawn Of the Mummy (1981) and Paul Naschy’s veritably insane The Mummy’s Revenge (1975) (which at least had the good grace of having both Helga Liné and María Silva in its cast). Indo-American adult star Priya Anjali Rai headlines this genderswapped riff on Karl Freund’s classic Universal horror feature The Mummy (1932) (with Boris Karloff) along with fellow adult star James Bartholet and an array of regular TomCat Films warm bodies. Written, produced, and directed by platinum blonde one-woman-industry Lisa Palenica and filmed at Mesa Museum in Scottsdale, Arizona Isis Rising is fairly typical TomCat Films fodder that could have been a whole lot worse, but also a whole lot better. As a debut outing Isis Rising is none too shabby an effort and Palenica has enough potential as a filmmaker to carve out a decent career for herself if she ever lands a project with a good script and decent funding. We sincerely hope that Lisa Palenica will be able to exchange TomCat Films and The Asylum productions for greener pastures. Supposedly those that are artistically more fulfilling than this drab.

Everybody has to start somewhere. In case of director Lisa Palenica that was Isis Rising. Not only did she direct; she wrote, produced, and starred in it as well. The only other recognizable name is Priya Anjali Rai who both played the title role and served as an associate producer. In her solitary non-porn production Priya Rai hardly fares half as good as her colleague Veronica Ricci. It makes you wonder when the inevitable TomCat Films production with Xev Bellringer, Bella Brookz, or Kayla Kiss as the female lead is bound to turn up. Isis Rising is one part a contemporary take on The Mummy (1932) and Herschell Gordon Lewis’ Blood Feast (1963) with a dash of Blood From the Mummy’s Tomb (1971) and a resurrection spell straight ouf of Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead (1981). It’s the Osiris myth from the Pyramid Texts, a collection of ancient Egyptian religious texts dating to the Old Kingdom, reimagined as a low-budget slasher horror with poster art that probably served better as a Nile or Septicflesh album cover. It’s one of the better TomCat Films production of recent memory, although that bar isn’t exactly high to begin with. Maybe TomCat Films is the new Troma, only time will tell…

In a time before time the glorious kingdom of ancient Egypt was ruled over by primeval god Osiris (Cameron Tevis) and his queen Isis (Priya Anjali Rai, as Priya Rai). His jealous brother Set (Wilman Vergara Jr.) has his sights set upon the throne and murders Osiris in cold blood to crown himself the new ruler of the kingdom. Isis’ attempts to resurrect Osiris with her ritual black magic come to naught when Set catches her in the act and scatters the remains of Osiris across the land. Isis vows to avenge the slaying of Osiris, the true monarch of Egypt, and that promises she and her king will rule over the land once more. In present day Egyptologist Dr. Nasir (Seth Gandrud) has been given the opportunity by curator Nancy Reginald (Judith Eisenberg) to catalog a cache of artifacts recently donated to the museum. To that end he has invited his good friend Professor Robert Shields (Randy Oppenheimer) and the current graduating archeology class – bookworm Amy (Aria Song, as Jing Song), stoner Jay (Michael C. Alvarez, as Michael Alvarez) and his girlfriend Felicia (Lisa Palenica), as well as airheaded jock Dustin (Joshua DuMond) and his girlfriend Serrena (Shellie Ulrich) - to assist him in that task. As Nasir and Amy study The Book of the Undead and set to translate the tablet containing The Lament of Isis, the others fool around in the basement and smoke an ancient herb used in Isis’ resurrection ceremonies. As Isis comes to life in her sarcophagus and vows to slay the descendants of her betrayers, the students one by one fall victim to the curse of the lady mummy…

It goes without saying that Isis Rising, even by the most forgiving slasher standards, is pretty damn tedious and aggravating. The screenplay jumps from one cliché plot contrivance to the next and not one stereotype is avoided. The “spam in a cabin” is the oldest of cheap horror archetypes and Isis Rising conforms to the worst conventions of its American variant. Palenica certainly has done an admirable job under what must have been far from optimal circumstances but that doesn’t remove how boorish Isis Rising is most of the time. There isn’t a whole lot to redeem what little value Isis Rising might have. The digital special effects work is tolerable but isn’t going to win anybody any prices, the cast is what charitably can be called a ragtag bunch of enthusiastic nobodies.

Aria Song and Lisa Palenica are, by far, the best among these assembled warm bodies. Aria Song and her TomCat colleague Ginny You definitely deserve something better than low-hanging cinematic fruit like this. Song and You could hold their own a Netflix, Hallmark, or LifeTime feature. That Veronica Ricci made to the jump to regular cinema is at least understandable as she could reasonably act a bit. Priya Rai on the other hand can’t and doesn’t. Perhaps with a different leading lady Isis Rising could have been something. This clearly isn’t it. Rai is a lot of things but a Valerie Leon, or Helga Liné she most definitely is not. Apparently what little budget there was was spent on bodypainting Rai’s oversized breasts rather than on important things like props, a good writer, or a decent cast.

What mostly kills Isis Rising is how unbelievably turgid and belabored it is. By the 2010s the American slasher had a history spanning three decades (with its European cousin pre-dating it by one or two more) and the mummy had been a staple at least since the old Universal Horrors in the 1930s. In other words, there was plenty of precendent and countless of avenues to take the material in. This has neither the production value of The Mummy’s Revenge (1975) nor the sheer gore of Dawn Of the Mummy (1981) and falls somewhere in that maligned shadowy region of nineties “horror” that was neither sexy nor scary. Obviously the budget was limited as Isis Rising is restricted to about one or two locations with very sparse special effects work. Most effects work is of the reviled digital variety as the budget probably didn’t allow for old fashioned practical – and prosthetic effects. All the usual low-budget criticisms apply: the cinematography from Webb Pickersgill is shoddy at best; nobody except Palenica, and Song can really act; the score is fairly typical of TomCat fodder. Short on both carnage and nudity (some versions optically fog out Raj’s exposed breasts) Isis Rising is horror for people who don’t watch horror. In her defense at least Lisa Palenica knows her horror classics. If only she could prove her directorial prowess with a decently funded production.

Most insulting perhaps is that Isis Rising could have been a halfway tolerable slasher had it been produced by anyone else than TomCat Films. Isis Rising is both torturously overwrought and horrendously undercooked at the same time. As such it is tediously predictable and predictably tedious. By the most forgiving and lowliest of slasher standards Isis Rising has both underwhelming kills and a severe lack of sleaze – and Rai’s massive mammaries alone hardly are enough to keep the viewers’ attention. In hindsight it’s understandable that Priya Rai chose to return to porn after Isis Rising as it’s even more difficult to make it as a mainstream actress (even in the margin and the dregs of Hollywood) than as an adult performer. More damning is that Isis Rising never comes around to fulfilling what little potential it had. A slasher is the easiest, most cost-effective horror subgenre known to man yet somehow Isis Rising manages to make a bodycount movie terminally uninteresting. The brunt of the blame shouldn’t be heaped upon Lisa Palenica. She made the best of what little she was given. The blame falls squarely on TomCat Films for this one. Not even The Asylum would be caught redhanded with dross like this. It makes you wonder what Palenica could do for Arrowstorm Entertainment – or what she could conjure up when paired with Rene Perez or Neil Johnson.

Plot: Horus and a mortal forge an alliance to overthrow rogue god Set

It’s entirely within the realm of possibility that Gods Of Egypt is one of the biggest Hollywood monstrosities of recent memory. There’s something to be said about a $140 million production when the first and obvious comparison is the filmography of Luigi Cozzi. Gods Of Egypt tries it darndest to pass itself off as a peplum or sword-and-sandal revival spectacular, only reimagined as a big budget special effects bonanza and Marvel and DC Comics superhero origin story but with not a single bankable actor to its name. Unless Gerard Butler, Geoffrey Rush, and Rufus Sewell suddenly became sellable names. No. Gods Of Egypt offers conclusive evidence that no amount of budget and eye-searing special effects can salvage a production from the age-old problem of terrible writing. There’s plenty of beautiful things to gawk at during its duration but that doesn’t distract from the more fundamental problems that plague Gods Of Egypt. In short, Alex Proyas’ most recent venture is the western counterpart of The Thousand Faces Of Dunjia (2017) or Luc Besson’s tragic misfire Enter the Warrior’s Gate (2016). In other words, Gods Of Egypt is the sort of big budget production you’d wish Luigi Cozzi had directed.

Gods Of Egypt was directed by Egypt-born, Australia-raised Alex Proyas. Proyas got his start directing commercials and short features in 1980-81. From 1986 to 1991 he directed music videos for the likes of INXS, Crowded House, Cock Robin, Fleetwood Mac, Mike Oldfield, Alphaville, and Sting. Proyas’ first Hollywood feature was the comic book adaptation The Crow (1994) where young action hopeful Brandon Lee was tragically killed in an unfortunate on-set firearm accident. However it was his next feature Dark City (1998) that allowed Alex Proyas to truly show his directorial prowess. The neo-noir Dark City (1998) was overshadowed by the similar The Matrix (1999) a year later and was liberally sampled by Luciferion on their swansong “The Apostate (First Step to Salvation)”. Dark City (1998) featured Kiefer Sutherland, Jennifer Connelly, and Rufus Sewell and was powerful enough to catapult Proyas into the big leagues. His next feature was the Isaac Asimov adaptation I, Robot (2004) with Will Smith and was followed by the science fiction thriller Knowing (2009) with Nicolas Cage and Jessica Biel. Gods Of Egypt is the Osiris myth from the Pyramid Texts - a collection of ancient religious texts dating to the Old Kingdom - reimagined as a Hollywood special effects bonanza and superhero origin story so terrible it could have come from The Asylum.

Gods Of Egypt was anything but well received, but was anybody surprised? It was written by the dynamic duo of Matt Sazama, and Burk Sharpless. Sazama and Sharpless wrote Dracula Untold (2014), The Last Witch Hunter (2015), and Power Rangers (2017) together, so there was little chance of Gods Of Egypt being any good. The biggest star here is Gerard Butler, he of 300 (2006), Joel Schumacher’s The Phantom of the Opera (2004), Timeline (2003), Reign of Fire (2002), and Dracula 2000 (2000). Followed closely by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau from the original Nightwatch (1994) and Game of Thrones (2011-2019). Rufus Sewell is hardly a name-star but he was in everything from Vinyan (2008), The Holiday (2006), and The Illusionist (2006), to The Legend of Zorro (2005), and Dark City (1998). The same applies for character actor Geoffrey Rush whose diverse resumé includes, among many others, The King's Speech (2010), Munich (2005), Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003), Frida (2002), The Tailor of Panama (2001), and the 1999 remake of William Castle’s House on Haunted Hill (1959). As for the leads Brenton Thwaites and Courtney Eaton they are humble unknowns. Thwaites was in Maleficent (2014), Oculus (2013), and Blue Lagoon: The Awakening (2012) whereas Eaton was one of the virgins in Mad Max: Fury Road (2015). Apparently Courtney is not in any related to former Bond girl Shirley Eaton from Goldfinger (1964) and The Million Eyes Of Sumuru (1967).

On the day of his coronation Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is witness to his father Osiris (Bryan Brown) being murdered in cold blood by his exiled overzealous brother Set (Gerard Butler). Set usurps the throne and the powers that come with it and declares a new regime where the living will have to pay riches in order to obtain access to the afterlife. This new regime installed Set strips Horus of his eyes, and thus his godly powers, before nearly killing him too. Hathor (Élodie Yung) is able to convince Set to banish Horus in exchange for the surrender of the kingdom. In the audience young thief Bek (Brenton Thwaites) has promised his love Zaya (Courtney Eaton) a life of luxury and riches. A year passes Bek has been forced into hard labour building monuments and Zaya is a handmaiden for Set's chief architect Urshu (Rufus Sewell). Zaya believes that Horus is the only one that can defeat Set and to that end she sends Bek to retrieve Horus’ eyes from a treasure vault. Zaya is found out and killed by Urshu. Bek takes the freshly deceased body of his lover to the blind and exiled Horus and strikes a deal: Horus brings Zaya back to life and Bek will help him defeat Set. Will Horus trust his young mortal ally enough to defeat the despotic Set?

It’s an absolute minimum of story that barely justifies this unrelenting two-hour digital effects assault on both the senses and good taste. It makes a rather concise case that Gods Of Egypt bears more semblance to Isis Rising: Curse Of the Lady Mummy (2013) and Luigi Cozzi's Hercules (1983) than it does to any other big budget monstrosity of recent memory. $140 million worth of digital effects and a screenplay full of fortune cookie wisdom and empty platitudes can’t distract from what really draws all the attention: the absolute dizzying multitude of breasts encased in highly impractical costumes. Gods Of Egypt is as terribly written as anything from The Asylum, TomCat Films, or Eurociné. Since it only grossed a comparatively meager $150 million worldwide and it’s unlikely that any of its proposed sequels will ever see the light of day.

Gods Of Egypt borrows liberally from Clash Of the Titans (1981), and Raiders Of the Lost Ark (1981) yet it still consistently fails to make something, anything, despite of all the resources it has at its disposal. Gods Of Egypt received five nominations at the 37th Golden Raspberry Awards and was lambasted for its predominantly white cast playing Egyptian deities. It’s an absolute feast for those for whom Emimmo Salvi’s Vulcan, Son Of Jupiter (1962), the aforementioned Hercules (1983) from Luigi Cozzi, and Alfonso Brescia’s Iron Warrior (1987) just weren’t outré enough. And there are more than enough breasts on display to satisfy even the staunchest Jim Wynorksi, Andy Sidaris, and Rene Perez fan. $140 million and the only thing we’re fascinated by are the assembled busts of Courtney Eaton, Élodie Yung, and Emma Booth. It almost makes you wonder why Emily Booth wasn’t given a role in this trainwreck of epic proportions.

Perhaps it’s the absolute overkill of vomit-inducing digital effects or the absence of any sets worthy of the name but Gods Of Egypt makes Mural (2011) and The Thousand Faces Of Dunjia (2017) look measured in comparison. Some parts look like cutscenes from a PlayStation 4 video game, some scenes feel like a video game playthrough. Hell, the treasure vault scene could have come from Uncharted 3. It’s difficult enough to take a movie seriously that spents as much time on setting up a big confrontation between rivaling gods as it does gawking at the impressive cleavage of Courtney Eaton and Élodie Yung. Apparently not a whole lot has changed in the 50 years since Bella Cortez and Chelo Alonso steamed up Italian exploitation. Judging by the sheer amount of time that the camera spents fixated on Eaton’s bust you’d imagine this to be something down the line of Blue Jeans (1975). However Courtney appears in the beginning and then is pretty much a nonentity until the third act. Nothing is more telling that a production is in trouble then when it spents inordinate amount on what the assorted lead women are wearing than on the more fundamental problems of its screenplay. Gods Of Egypt has plenty of both but that doesn’t make it any less entertaining as the big budget shlock that it is. It understands the old adage that everything can be made better by the presence, or promise, of boobs.

It’s nigh on incomprehensible how a director and cast of this magnitude were roped into a production that had disaster written all over it. Alex Proyas is a director with an excellent eye for visuals (as most of his repertoire is testament to) but he seemed way over his head here. If there’s anything that really killed Gods Of Egypt it was the screenplay from Matt Sazama, and Burk Sharpless. Had this just been a big budget popcorn flick (and not a supposed superhero origin story) there could have been some merit to this. It would’ve worked even better had Gods Of Egypt fully embraced its innate ridiculousness. How else can you describe Gods Of Egypt than a contemporary Luigi Cozzi sci-fi/fantasy, complete with chiseled heroes and bosomy women? Personally, we would have loved to see Courtney Eaton as the lead, but a gender inverted romance would probably be too progressive or woke for a general audience. The audience, after all, never knows what the audience wants. Gods Of Egypt probably won’t be ushering in a big-scale peplum revival which is truly unfortunate.

That Gods Of Egypt supposedly intended as a franchise launcher is obvious enough. It certainly looks the part. $140 million can buy a producer or director a lot of things, but not a decent screenplay or writer, apparently. Instead history will remember it as one of the great disasters of modern cinematic history. Yeah, it truly is that wretched. What good is $140 million worth of special effects and a halfway marketable cast when the first thing the audience is collectively transfixed by is the fact that Courtney Eaton and Élodie Yung cut dashing figures in their figure-fitting costumes? The comparatively smaller regional cinematic industries that used to cater to this sort of thing have all either gone, or made, extinct by Hollywood itself.

Gods Of Egypt is a b-movie through and through and at least Gerard Butler (apparently the only one in the cast) was smart enough to realize what hot mess he got himself into. It’s absolutely amazing how a trainwreck of this proportion was expelled from Hollywood’s creative colon – and nobody thought that maybe the idea wasn’t all that good to begin with. There’s more than enough myths and folkloric tales from Egyptian antiquity that are worthy of a big screen adaptation. Gods Of Egypt is obviously not that movie. How often can you say that TomCat Films did the entire premise better… and probably on a tiny, tiny fraction of the budget that director Alex Proyas spent on lunches during the entire production too? Not often.