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Stream to Scream: “THE TOMB”

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As many fright fans already know, FANGORIA offers a great selection of gruesome movies, old and new, for free at our Hulu channel. To give you a better idea of what’s available, FANGORIA is taking in-depth looks at some of the channel’s terrifying titles with Stream to Scream. Today: Michael Staininger’s Poe possession tale THE TOMB!

As a longtime horror fan, this writer has long since been curious about why Edgar Allan Poe is so difficult to adapt for contemporary audiences. Perhaps it’s Poe’s elegant vernacular or the era-appropriate setting of his tales, but most modern filmmakers find immense difficulty in bringing Poe’s voice in a fresh, palatable way. And the few filmmakers who do have a grasp on Poe often choose to bring his tales of psychological and human horror to the screen over his more supernatural fare.

So while the problems throughout Michael Staininger’s THE TOMB are many, the one glowing success the film manages to achieve is the translation of Poe’s mechanisms. An adaptation of Poe’s LIGEIA, THE TOMB understands Poe’s peculiar penchant for making evil a seductive and obsessive force. In that sense, THE TOMB does a good job of appropriating Poe’s classic terror into a relevant social context.

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Unfortunately, that’s about the strongest part of THE TOMB, which is marred by some sub-par performances, poor special effects and thin character development. To its credit, THE TOMB does provide the sets and locations seemingly ripped from Poe’s own words which add to some of the more atmospheric scenes. Yet THE TOMB seemingly stocks up on aesthetical half-measures to help bolster the creep factor, which is subdued at every turn by the poor script.

And for the most part, when not revelling in low-budget CGI, director Michael Staininger is doing a rather commendable job, visually justifying a Poe-esque world while trying to bring the script off the page. And in moments, Staininger is able to deliver some genuine scares, especially towards the top of the third act. Yet the script by John Shirley abandons Poe’s strongest aspect: patience, as building tension over the course of his pages was what made them so strong. Instead, the script rushes like a freight train, leaving Staininger, cinematographer Chris Benson and the cast struggling to keep up with all the strange turns the characters take within the narrative.

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Speaking of the cast, although they’re not uniformly great, there are some good performances throughout. Among the best is Kaitlin Doubleday, who plays the scorned lover of the tale with surprising depth and emotional range unseen in many of her co-stars. Eric Roberts is also a delight to see in a very small supporting role, although he makes the most of every second he’s on screen. And while the gorgeous Sofya Skya brings the necessary sex appeal to the character, she’s clearly trying her best to grasp the darker side of Ligeia to mixed results, as opposed to the clearly-sleepwalking Wes Bentley and Michael Madsen.

So while THE TOMB can be, and often is, a disappointment, the film at least succeeds sporadically enough to warrant a viewing, especially for hardcore Poe fans. While gorehounds will be disappointed, those who appreciate Gothic horror will find themselves lost in the atmospheric scares and mise-en-scene on display. And if you can get past the script issues and occasionally wodden acting, THE TOMB is entertaining in a way that less ambitious Poe stories do not come close to being.

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About the author
Ken W. Hanley
Ken W. Hanley is the Managing Web Editor for FANGORIA and STARLOG, as well as the former Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine and a contributing writer to YouWonCannes.com. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on screenplays, his debut novel "THE I IN EVIL", and various other projects, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.
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