For a pantheon-inhabiting monster, it is odd that a good Mummy movie is a rarity. Unlike werewolves and vampires, Mummies got stuck in a familiar trope vortex of sameness. Fear not, though, The Scariest Things has found some buried treasures for you!
Most people will agree that the classic Universal Horror Monsters are Count Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, The Wolf Man, The Gill Man, and The Mummy. Of all these legendary monsters, the mummy has probably suffered more than any of his brethren, though every generation will try and come out with a version for new audiences. The problem is that a proper mummy movie often falls precisely into regular tropes that rarely vary:
Mummies are Egyptian. Usually. Sometimes they are from Texas. Or China. Or Mexico. But usually Egypt.
The mummy is ancient. They are desiccated and usually wrapped in tattered ceremonial bandages.
The mummy was a former priest or king who was buried for the sin of forbidden love. Often the lost love is reincarnated in the form of a young English woman.
The mummy is discovered by ambitious archaeologists of varying degrees of scruples.
The mummy is brought back to life by an ancient hieroglyphic written scroll, often read by a cultish priest.
Mummies are stranglers, not flesh-eaters. Mummy movies are usually fairly bloodless as horror movies go.
Mummies are slow. They amble. They shamble.
Mummies have memories. They recall their previous positions of power and look to consolidate their power and find their minions.
Rarely do mummies have mammaries. They are almost always men.
Mummies, sadly, aren’t very scary.
All these anchoring tropes were established in the 1932 Universal The Mummy, starring Boris Karloff. Since then, the vast majority of mummy-themed movies utilize the same script. With the plots of these movies as static as a sarcophagus, it’s not surprising that there hasn’t been a major push for more mummies. 1999’s The Mummy, starring Brendan Fraser and Arnold Vosloo breathed fresh life into a moribund mummyverse and managed to create a mini-trend, but that trend busted with the underwhelming 2017 Universal attempt to re-brand The Mummy with Tom Cruise and Sophia Boutella, which very well may set back our chance to see any new mummies for twenty years.
So, team Scariest Things set out to find some quality mummy movie recommendations for you. We determined which of the movies are most emblematic of the tropes, and which mummy movies actually manage to escape the trope trap and give us something a little different in the world of mummies. You will note that two prominent mummy movies will not be on our list. Which ones? You’ll have to give the Podcast a listen!