Most mummy movies follow a pretty similar pattern. A 'centuries ago' prologue introduces the character that will go on to become the living mummy and shows his death, followed by the voicing of a curse placed on whoever disturbs the tomb. The narrative then zips forward to the present, where the ancient mummy's tomb is discovered either by an archeologist or grave robbing fortune seeker. The curse is activated, death and chaos ensue, and somehow before the end of the film the hero finds a way to prevail. With little exception, the only way to really differentiate between the good movies and the bad ones is to look at how well this aforementioned plot is carried out. Universal's original Boris Karloff classic and Hammer's s MUMMY are both examples of good versions of the mummy archetype. DAWN OF THE MUMMY is the opposite.
Low-budget horror proliferated throughout the early s, fueled primarily by two trends: the zombie wave jumpstarted by the success of DAWN OF THE DEAD and the slasher deluge prompted by HALLOWEEN, both hitting in . Zombie films of the era seemed to always revolve around a group of people in a strange place assaulted by a horde of the living dead. Slasher flicks trying to capture the magic of HALLOWEEN and FRIDAY THE TH usually featured a bunch of young people having sex and getting slaughtede one-by-one. DAWN OF THE MUMMY is like a merging of the two sub-genres, and one that has, at best, only lackluster results.
Two groups of people are thrown together to face the wrath of an ancient mummy and a small gang of the undead at his command. We're first introduced to a trio of unsavory grave robbers looking for gold. Their performances are horrible across the board, leaving one to surmise that they will become quick fodder for the soon-to-rise mummy (who will then spend the bulk of the movie terrorizing what one assumes to be the primary characters in the movie, the group of models). That's not the case, though, as we soon find BOTH groups hanging around the tomb together, and the film lurches through this plodded and uninteresting exposition for a half-hour before the mummy is ever even revived. From this point forward, it's nothing but half-hearted kill sequences and goofy melodrama for the duration of the film.
Admittedly, no one goes into a film like DAWN OF THE MUMMY expecting Oscar-worthy performances or spectacular dialogue. Nevertheless, this film fails to deliver even on those elements that fans of this type of movie look for. There's barely a drop of blood in the whole film, and only one amusing kill scene. None of the 'jump' moments are effective, and half of the time the images are too dark to actually see anything at all.
Interestingly, for being so poor, DAWN OF THE MUMMY does have a somewhat impressive fan following. And true, it isn't ALL bad. The scene in which the undead army rises out of the desert sand is alright, and much of the camerawork is well done (with a very Bava/Fulci look to it). But these moments are so minimal and so short that they fail to make up for the rest of the film, which is really nothing more than an unappealing, unsatisfying mess.
This combination of a zombie film and a slasher flick could have had a lot going for it, but DAWN OF THE MUMMY misses the mark almost every time. Horrible writing, horrible acting, and only the slightest hint of gore add up to one boring film, one that doesn't even qualify for 'so bad it's good' status. Laying in a sarcophagus for , years would be much preferred to watching DAWN OF THE MUMMY again.