HP Lovecraft's The Tomb – DVD Review

Available at Amazon.com

Directed by
Ulli Lommel

Victoria Ullman
Christian Behm
Michael Barbour
Gerard Griesbaum
Jillian Swanson
Naidra Dawn Thompson

Running Time: 81 minutes
Rated R
DVD Release date: June 19, 2007

“The energy you have with Night of the Living Dead with all those amateurs, and the whole amateurish approach – that’s true professionalism! That is great! You add $50 million and movie stars and that film would lose everything it had.”
– Ulli Lommel in an interview with Ian Grey circa 1997.

Congratulations Ulli, you have made the most amateur film that I have ever seen.

Ulli Lommel first garnered attention in 1973 with his film Die Zärtlichkeit der Wölfe (The Tenderness of Wolves), the story of a cannibal-pedophile-necrophiliac who was beloved by his town for being such a nice guy. Wolves caught the eye of one Andy Warhol, and Mr. Lommel was soon hanging with the likes of Jackie O.

Lommel found mainstream success in 1980 with The Boogeyman, but stuck with low budget fare, splitting his time between horror flicks that aspire to be art films and direct-to-video action movies. Since 2005 he has spit out 9 (mostly direct-to-DVD) pictures with titles ranging from Green River Killer to B.T.K. Killer and Zodiac Killer .

Anyway, on to The Tomb a.k.a. H. P. Lovecraft’s The Tomb. For those who aren’t, as they say, in the know, “The Tomb” was the first story Lovecraft wrote as an adult. If memory serves (since I can’t find my copy), it tells the story of a man who is inexplicably drawn to a tomb. The man finds a key to said tomb in his own house. Once inside this tomb, he finds a coffin with his own name on it. The man gets struck by lightning, and ends up spending the rest of his life in an insane asylum with his faithful servant promising to entomb him in the eponymous structure.

Anyway forget all that, as this movie has nothing to do with that story. According to the back of the box:

[T]his terrifying film introduces the Puppetmaster. Imprisoning a group of people in a living hell of darkness and death, the Puppetmaster controls the fate of each one. One by one the captives awake in agonizing pain – some are slightly injured, others are fatally wounded. The survivors are further tortured mentally by the unseen villain, who demands that there can only be one winner at this game.

Sounds like a third-rate knock off of Saw, right? (I say third, because Saw itself is delightfully second rate.) You’d be wrong to think that, though. This film is actually a twelfth-rate knock off of Saw.

Not to critique the work of the writer of the back of the DVD, but here is a better synopsis of the picture:

A fat dude and a chick wake up in less dangerous versions of dry cleaner bags. The chick has some dry red stuff on her face that might vaguely resemble blood if one squints, tilts one’s head and turns down the color of one’s TV. Once emancipated from their shrink-wrapped prison, they find themselves in an abandoned Kelly’s Junk Store, on a surprisingly bright and sunny day. To create the proper atmosphere in his lair, the “Puppetmaster” (who is never referred to as such) has decorated the place like Target’s Dollar Spot before Halloween. Despite the bright sunlight shining through the roof, PM has also placed scary pedestal candles throughout his slightly rundown Kroeger’s, I mean, terrifying TOMB! To further add to the atmosphere, he painted one cherubish puppet to resemble Darth Maul, and another to resemble Charlie Manson. He also repeatedly chants, “eight nails who fails?” which is slightly less frightening than the Sweat Hogs’ mantra of “up your nose with a rubber hose.” To complete this ambiance of evil, Puppetmaster occasionally shows videos of himself gently rubbing a plastic axe over the naked breasts of a supine woman.

Anyway, back to our main character, Fat Dude and Chick. Fat dude and chick wander around the Kroger’s occasionally stumbling into somebody else in a dry-cleaning bag. Each one has a toe tag with a date on it. Each one tells a little bit about the “mystery” of the Puppetmaster before dying inexplicably. After that, Fat Dude and Chick put each victim into a coffin and nail them in. Occasionally, Chick has daydreams about one of the employees from Medieval Times.

As it turns out, PM has used some Lovecraft characters as aliases, such as Charles Dexter Ward and Richard Pickman. Actually, I think those are the only two. Fat Dude and Chick take this to mean that the Puppetmaster is obsessed with Lovecraft. Somehow this justifies putting Lovecraft’s name before the film’s title.

Each victim has wronged PM in some way or another. Fat Dude stole his girlfriend, another dude sold him a lemon, one lady broke his heart, another lady rejected his application for a bank loan, and so on.

Bank loan, seriously.

Main chick apparently helped nail the Puppetmaster into a coffin when both were kids. One would think that something like that would put the whole “loan rejection” thing into perspective.

So it goes.

Eventually, Chick decides that human nature is an ugly savage thing, and attacks the remaining survivors with an axe in scenes whose fight choreography resembles something designed by drunken second graders. She wins the game, subsequently allowing the film to end in three different ways.

Sadly, none of these ways is the “Scooby Doo Ending.”

The film’s tagline, as shown on the front of the DVD case, is “Curiosity will lure you in.” There isn’t a single moment of curiosity shown in the film, so I’m guessing that this refers to the sad sap wandering through the video store who rents this movie as a curiosity.

The Tomb is truly an awful movie. There is no logic, no originality, no character development, no convincing makeup, no memorable scenes, and no story to speak of. Lommel, who also wrote the script, seems to have an even bleaker view of humanity than he did when he made The Tenderness of Wolves, and sadly no longer has anything interesting to say. Furthermore, I have to imagine that he hasn’t even spoken to a human being in the last 5 years as his dialogue is even worse than that of Lovecraft (who couldn’t write dialogue to save his life).

I have seen over ten dozen bad movies on Mystery Science Theater 3000 and countless others without the benefit of talking robot puppets. I say this to you without qualification, The Tomb is the worst film that I have ever seen.


Audio and Visual
The DVD is glitchy, and played slowly at multiple points.

The Extras
According to the back of the DVD box, SPECIAL FEATURES include:
16 x 9 widescreen presentation (not really a special feature)
English 5.1 digital audio (not really a special feature)
English closed caption (almost a special feature)
Trailer galleries
Scene Selection (Not really a special feature)
Optional English subtitles (they found different words for the aforementioned closed captions)
Optional Spanish Subtitles
Digitally Mastered (i.e. it’s on DVD)
Interactive menus (Well, that is a relief!)

You know, portraying both audio and visual aspects of a DVD isn’t really a “special feature” per se. It’s more like the bare minimum of stuff you can put on a disc and still sell it as one of them “talking pictures.”

The DVD Lounge’s Rating for
HP Lovecraft’s The Tomb
(OUT OF 10)