One of our all time favorite horror movie aphorisms is that VHS cover just might not have equivalent content on the ol’ magnetic tape. Might be a super cool bit of artwork, but the film, in turn, might be a pinch lacking. Alternatively, the film might be a master class in horror, but the artwork, uh, might need a little help. In many films there’s even more grey area between the film’s content, its marketing campaign, and the overall impact it leaves on the horror community. Enter Mausoleum. A super curious film, directed by Michael Dugan, inescapably parked in a 1983 headspace.
Like most films of the era — save for our hyper-complicated Italian friends turning out hyper-complicated Giallo flicks – Mausoleum is routinely routine and doesn’t hide the ball from its audience. The film begins with a funeral with young-ish Susan Nomed traumatized by the recent death of her mother. The Nomed family (read: DEMON backwards — get it?) is a tortured an unlucky lot that has been beset by centuries of ghoulish and unfortunate happenings. Susan, possibly by fate or curiosity, enters her family’s MAUSOLEUM and is impossibly infected by demon spirits of yesteryear!
Fast forward a decade or two and young Susan is now a strapping young lass married to a hip polyester suit wearing all around good guy, Oliver. Oliver and Susan do regular 1983 things like going to discos, driving weird sports cars, having drinks at ever meal, and employing a black maid, Elsie (Lawanda Page — Aunt Esther of Sanford and Son fame). Shortly after the possession begins to take hold, Oliver and Susan head out to trip the light fantastic at their neighborhood disco. With demonism in the air, a patron of the disco inexplicably attacks Susan. Of course Susan, with her newly minted Satanic powers, is having none of this attack. Her eyes turn green, the veins on her head begin to pulse, and whammo! Disco attacker is no more.
Susan’s therapist, Dr. Andrews, eventually begins to suspect that something is up with the eerie Susan and he consults with a fellow colleague Dr. Logan. Both having a modicum of demonology education (…because what therapist doesn’t?) deduce that Susan NOMED is really Susan DEMON. Dr. Andrews, with his aforementioned demonology background, heads over to the family mausoleum to the retrieve the satanic crown of thorns.
A very well-constructed and very 1980s showdown ensues at the mausoleum where (spoiler alert) the demon is banished to, well, wherever demons go. With a couple tragic deaths along the way, Susan is returned to a normal and non-possessed state. The curse of the NOMED family is neatly tucked away — OR IS IT?!?! Mausoleum is exactly what one would expect. The practical effects are fun and goofy. The acting is simple, broad, and often nude. And the demons aren’t particularly terrifying, but mostly just annoying. Add all these things together and you’ve got yourself a fun little romp in the VHS horror wayback machine. Mausoleum may not be the greatest piece of art ever made, but it sure is a nice way to satiate your 1983 headspace.
Mausoleum is Rated R, probably available at your local video store, and DEFINITELY available through Vinegar Syndrome.
[Note: Some of the links in this review contain affiliate info so clicking on them might result in a wee bit of cashola in the ol’ Scariest Things coffers. It’s not costing you anything extra. We’re just skimming a bit off the top from the corporate fat cats and putting it towards more Scariest Things goodness.]