Several times this month, I've reviewed mummy-related horror films that are being (re)released on home video to coincide with the impending theatrical debut of the big budget The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.
Well, chalk up one more.
Lionsgate has clearly timed their release of the curious 2001 French mummy film Belphegor: Phantom of the Louvre to make a fast buck off of Universal's cash cow franchise.
Surprisingly, Belphegor: Phantom of the Louvre is modestly entertaining, despite some very familiar plot elements and so-so CGI work.
The film introduces us to the stunningly beautiful Lisa (played by former Bond Girl Sophie Marceau), a shopkeeper taking care of her ill grandmother in an apartment adjacent to the world-famous Louvre art museum. It's a spacious apartment and one wonders how she affords it. During a power outage, she meets full-time electrician and part-time rock band guitarist Martin (a likeable Frederic Diefenthal). Through circumstances a little too convenient, the two end up trespassing in the Louvre after hours just as an ancient sarcophagus is being examined by an archaeologist (Julie Christie, no less). And, as often is the case in horror movies like these, poor Lisa becomes possessed by the unconvincing glowing CGI spirit of the mummy.
Odd things start happening afterward. Lisa begins to exhibit bizarre behavior, much to the chagrin of her interested would-be lover Martin who can't decide if her behavior is linked to the passing of her grandmother. Meanwhile, a series of grisly deaths occur at the Louvre and security guards are getting antsy. So, elderly cop Martin is called in to investigate. He's been obsessed with Belphegor since the 1960s, the last time the ancient spirit got loose in the museum.
And the plot proceeds from there.
Several elements of this movie are praiseworthy. Sophie Marceau and Frederic Diefenthal are quite likeable as the leads Lisa and Martin, although over the course of the movie, it strains belief why Martin keeps returning to Lisa given her odd behavior, beauty or not. This was actually shot in and around the Louvre, so there's an air of authenticity to the movie. There's also some nice creepy moments of a robed and masked Belphegor (looking very similar to Imhotep in the 1999 version of The Mummy) sliding around the hallways of the Louvre.
Unfortunately, a few things detract from this film, keeping it from being a classic. For one thing, at 97 minutes, the movie does drag a little, especially at the midway point. In addition, the ending is surprisingly anti-climatic and includes an unnecessary CG scene of multiple spirits within the Louvre.
Still, I was entertained by Belphegor: Phantom of the Louvre and its fusion of horrific, comedic, and romantic elements. I would certainly recommend it to enthusiasts of the mummy films. Recommended.
Lionsgate gives Belphegor: Phantom of the Louvre a 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation. The image looks pretty good. I thought colors could have been stronger, and the image sharper in location shots, but they're relatively minor issues.
Two audio tracks are available on this disc: a French language 5.1 Dolby Digital and an English 5.1 Dolby Digital. The French language track appears to be the default, so the majority of American viewers might want to hit the Set Up menu first to either choose the English audio track or English subtitles. The mix itself is quite pleasing, especially considering that it's easy to lose track of the fact that the movie is dubbed. There's an odd score that predominates during key scenes, but the hybrid electronic music is pleasing and appropriate, so it's not really an issue.
There are absolutely no extras on this disc - not even trailers. This is surprising for a Lionsgate release as the company typically includes trailers for upcoming products - at the very least - on each of their discs.
Belphegor: Phantom of the Louvre may have a garish title, but this 2001 French horror film is entertaining, with a good cast and so-so effects work. If you like Universal's current Mummy films, then you'd probably enjoy this one too. Recommended.