J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Isis Rising: A Night in the Museum with Priya Rai

Remember the good old days, when Isis was merely a vengeful Egyptian demigod determined to wreak havoc upon the earth? Well, she’s back and more scantily clad than ever. A group of randy college students will feel her wrath in Lisa Palenica’s Isis Rising: Curse of the Lady Mummy (trailer here), now available on DVD from TomCat Films.

Centuries ago, Osiris and his wife-sister Isis were murdered by their power-mad brother Set. The thing is, you can never kill a black arts practitioner like Isis dead enough. All she needs is a half dozen college kids who frankly look too old to be undergraduates trying to get stoned off some resurrection incense and she’s back in business. As luck would have it, Professor Shields’ star pupil Amy and five of her dumbest classmates have volunteered for an all-night research session in the local natural history museum.

Evidently, some strange collector has donated a trove of hitherto unseen antiquities to the museum, including said incense, as well as Isis’s Book of the Undead and her mummified corpse. It is so spectacular, internationally renowned Egyptologist Dr. Nasir has joined the party, hoping to uncover evidence to support his theories (which basically boil down to if Isis were still here, she’d be really hacked off). So yes, you could probably say he’s in for a case of good news-bad news.

If you are wondering why Isis looks more appropriately dressed for the Luxor Hotel in Vegas than Luxor, Egypt, it might help to know she is played by adult entertainment star Priya Rai in her mainstream breakout debut. However, her established fanbase is likely to be disappointed with Rising, since it really only delivers the obvious cleavage and one carefully cropped sex scene featuring other cast members.

It is hard to fairly judge Rai’s performance because her screen time is relatively limited and what little dialogue she has is electronically distorted. Still, it is easy to see how she found success in her chosen field (feel free to insert your own joke about orbs here). Evidently, co-producer James Bartholet also works in “the business,” but you can’t really see why from his supporting turn as Henry the goofball security guard, which is probably a blessing.

As you would expect from a B-movie, the supporting ensemble varies widely in terms of professionalism. Without question, Jing Song and Seth Gandrud score the highest marks as Amy the A-student and Dr. Nasir respectively. You really have to give the latter credit for all the cheesy exposition he duly establishes with a straight face. As for the other classmates, including writer-director Palenica’s Felicia, they just can’t get killed soon enough.

The special effects throughout Rising are uniformly bad—even by the production standards of mid 1980’s straight-to-video sci-fi-horror knock-offs. However, they found a small but legit natural history museum to shoot in, so the mummy-less contemporary scenes looks surprisingly good. In fact, it is sort of bizarrely entertaining to watch them madly dash about the dinosaur exhibits, like having a museum sleepover as a kid with half a dozen of your nuttiest friends.

There was probably room in the world for a low budget film about a curvaceous mummy overstocked with awkward conversations, so Palenica and company have filled it. If you keep your expectations low enough, like basement level low, it is sort of fun, or at least hard to actively dislike. Frankly, every cult film expert probably needs to see it, just so they can address the Rai connection. For her fans and diehard mummy enthusiasts, Isis Rising is now available on DVD from TomCat Films.

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