Another campy movie. Sometimes one has to ask himself (or herself) why camp goes so well with the horror genre. But this is a topic for another day (and maybe even for another blog). The Abominable Dr. Phibes is campy enough for its characters to remark about the stupidity of the characters' names. But, unlike with other works of film and television, here it doesn't help the movie to look any better, too bad for this movie…
To put it shortly, the movie chronicles the revenge that a famous and now supposed to be dead organist on a series of surgeons and others of the medical profession for letting his wife die. For some reason he chooses to take his revenge according to the plagues that hit Egypt in the famous chapters from the book of Exodus.
Now, up until now it is a very descent premise, and the list of actors is quite remarkable and promising. The musical score is wonderful and… you get the idea. So why does this movie fail? Mainly because it chooses such a wonderful premise, such a promising pattern, and destroys what it has to offer.
You see, the actions, the killing ways, they're not in the same order as shown in the bible. The film tries so much to be scientifically accurate that it changes the order of the plagues to something else. More logically correct, far easier to believe in terms of causality, but it has a devastating effect in terms of our building dread.
Most of us remember the order of the plagues, at least in broad strokes, enough to understand when the pattern is changed. And when they change the pattern, we don't know what death scene is gonna come now. So instead of looking forward for the death scene, we're busy trying to remember what the Rabi said will be the next one, and we can't because what comes to mind are the original order and the knowledge that it was changed. So we don't look forward to the next death scene, we don't have the anticipation building the right way, and as such it's far harder to dread the upcoming death.
So please, when creating a villain, or a monster, and trying to think about a pattern for the killing, if you'll ever think about using a common knowledge pattern, don't change it. You'll just make it worse.
How about you? What did you learn from this movie? And have you enjoyed it?