Critique du C-U: MUMMY rumbles!

I noticed a while ago that the Web site for the Illini Film & Video mega-project, THE UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS VS. A MUMMY, had suddenly evaporated like a drop of water in the Egyptian sun. This conveniently tied in with director Chris Lukeman‘s move to Carbondale so he could begin law school at Southern Illinois University. But, it’s pretty apparent that you can’t keep a good (bad?) mummy down, for none other than the dearly departed “Freshman No. 4,” David Grayson, has resurrected the page in a simplified form.

I decided that it might be a good time to exhume a MUMMY review originally intended for our B-movie magazine, Backyard Cinema, which unfortunately rests in limbo like a certain Mr. Johnson. Therefore, veteran MICRO-FILM writer Jeff McCoy becomes the first de facto contributor to C-U Blogfidential other than your humble editor. (Why in the world did that take almost two full years to occur?  Anyone? Bueller?) Enjoy this refresher course on the little U. of I. movie that could as we await THE TRANSIENT from Lukeman and company.

 ~ Jason Pankoke


This over-the-top musical horror spoof is the first feature-length production of the Illini Film & Video club at the University of Illinois. While far from perfect, it’s still better than it has any right to be, especially given its approach and subject matter.

Late one night, college student Casey (Paul Karpenko) and his roommate Bill (Travis Murphy) take a couple of dimwitted co-eds, Sarah (Jenni Kitchka) and Jo-Ann (Andrea Gordon), out on a “date” to the Natural History building. There, Bill meets his maker at the hands of a living mummy, dumped off in a crate at the University of Illinois by an impatient delivery driver.

Inexplicably covering up the crime, Casey and the ladies are soon contacted by Rudolphe (Marc Morgan), a mysterious archaeologist who enlists their aid in tracking down this “mummy” – in reality, a 75-year-old fiend named Ted Johnson (huh?) from Michigan (gasp!) who seeks to gain immortality by sucking the life out of the campus! (Or, something like that.) Comic chaos ensues.

UIvsAM director Chris Lukeman adjusts the Mummy mask on an unidentified performer while actresses Andrea Gordon (left) and Jenni Kitchka (right) await their cues. (Courtesy Chris Lukeman/IFV)

No description can really do justice to this inspired piece of lunacy. THE UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS VS. A MUMMY is best viewed with an audience – and, preferably, after certain chemicals have been consumed – when viewers will be more fully receptive to its loopy sense of humor. None of this makes much sense if you think about it, but as in the SCARY MOVIE series, the “plot” is just a clothesline on which to hang a series of gags.

Some fall flat, of course, but enough hit the target to keep the chuckles coming. Highlights include: a group of perky underclassmen performing a musical tribute to their university, campus patrol volunteers Bob (Dan Reem) and Yolanda (Nellie Boonman) battling the mummy armed only with flashlights, Casey receiving advice from the statue of the Alma Mater, and students protesting both against and for the mummy.

Many of the gags shouldn’t even work yet somehow they do, thanks to impeccable timing and director Chris Lukeman’s eye for the absurd. He is aided immeasurably by a game cast, who give themselves up to this insanity with great enthusiasm and (usually) a straight face. Indeed, their deadpan delivery helps balance the film’s more campy or grotesque moments. I especially liked Kitchka and Gordon as the vapid co-eds, for their goofy dialogue and deer-in-the-headlights expressions are a constant source of amusement.

MUMMY is surprisingly well made. Lukeman emphasizes cheeky compositions and sharp editing, while that musical number is a real show-stopper and the micro-budget is trumped by some primitive green screen work and nifty effects that allow Mr. Johnson creative use of his bandages. And, when all else fails, the film club splatters gallons of fake blood about.

While definitely not for all tastes, THE UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS VS. A MUMMY is still a huge crowd pleaser. Local viewers will get the biggest kick out of it, naturally, but you’d have to be a Michigan fan to hate it entirely.

~ Jeff McCoy

THE UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS VS. A MUMMY is a production of Illini Film & Video. It was directed by Chris Lukeman and executive produced by Alex Wayman, and stars Paul Karpenko, Jenni Kitchka, Marc Morgan, Andrea Gordon, Dan Reem, Nellie Boonman, Travis Murphy, Alessandra Pinkston, Alex Wayman, Kevin Altier, Nancy Parman, David Grayson, Joe Delaney, Kevin Schmitt, Stefan Lingren, and Saheed Rosenje. It runs 85 minutes.

Questions about THE UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS VS. A MUMMY can be directed to Lukeman at chrislukeman [at] gmail [dot] com.


courtesy Chris Lukeman/Illini Film & Video

[Updated 12/20/08, 01:00 a.m. CST]


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