Mausoleum (1983) -*½
Every source I’ve consulted (the print in the credits themselves was too small for me to read) concurs that Mausoleum was released in 1983, but I’d be willing to wager substantially that it was actually filmed between three and six years earlier, and then sat on the shelf unreleased— and apparently unreleasable— until the agreed-upon date. For one thing, the movie is clearly set in 1980. The 30-year-old central character is identified as having been ten at the time of her mother’s death, which the relevant tombstone inscription dates to 1960. Also hinting at an earlier production date than 1983 is the film’s general feel— were it not for all the nudity, I’d swear Mausoleum was a TV movie from the 1970’s. Not only does it exhibit the same distinctively middling degree of technical polish as Trilogy of Terror, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, and the like, it also shares those movies’ overall filmmaking sensibility, even to the point of featuring several scene transitions that look suspiciously like they were designed to accommodate a commercial break. Then there’s the curious fact that none of Mausoleum’s characters drives a car manufactured later than the 1978 model year. Finally, consider what a dicey venture it would have been to make an Exorcist rip-off a full ten years after the original film. I can, however, imagine an overeager B-list producer late in 1977 miscalculating disastrously and rushing to cash in on the anticipated success of Exorcist II: The Heretic. And imagining that, I can equally well envision the producer who stepped in that particular cowflop tossing the resulting film into a vault and leaving it to rot until the indiscriminate product-hunger that accompanied the early-80’s home video explosion suddenly made it a minimally viable property after all. What I can’t easily imagine is wanting to watch more than the last few minutes of it ever again.
Okay, so it’s the year 1960. The younger sister of Cora Nomed (Laura Hippe, who also played small roles in Logan’s Run and The Swinging Barmaids) is dead and buried, but the deceased’s ten-year-old daughter, Susan (who’ll be played by Bobbie Bresee, from Star Slammer and Evil Spawn, starting in the next scene), doesn’t want to leave the graveside. Apparently Susan doesn’t want to come live with Aunt Cora, and she figures that she won’t have to provided that she refuses to exit the cemetery. The ensuing argument between the girl and her aunt ends with Susan running off through the boneyard in what proves to be the direction of the Nomed family mausoleum. (Mom was buried in the plot beside her equally dead husband instead.) This tomb is obviously an unholy place. Even if we ignore the none-too-subtle fact that “Nomed” is “demon” spelled backwards, we’ve still got the rain and fog that envelope the family crypt— and that crypt only— to clue us in to the presence on site of the forces of darkness. Nevertheless, young Susan heads right inside the mausoleum, where a Grim Reaper-like figure that can be seen only in shadow leads her to a huge stone sarcophagus in the deepest chamber of the immense tomb. The demonic personage demonstrates its power by exploding the head of the groundskeeper who follows Susan in, and then sets up the girl’s latent possession.
Possessed or not, Susan seems to be doing fairly well twenty years later. Her husband, Oliver Farrell (Marjoe Gortner, from Starcrash and Food of the Gods), appears to be some manner of big-ticket lawyer, and makes more than enough money to finance the upkeep of the gigantic mansion Susan inherited from her mom. Her psychiatrist, Dr. Simon Andrews (Norman Burton, of Simon, King of the Witches and Hand of Death), believes her more or less fully recovered from whatever trauma she experienced that made living with Aunt Cora seem an even worse turn of events than her mother’s death, and has no patience for Cora’s oft-voiced worries that Susan “is behaving just like her mother did before she died.” Andrews does agree to read over the old Nomed family diary that Cora lends him, but one gets the impression that this is only a ploy to shut the woman up and get her the hell out of his office. Nevertheless, the doctor does indeed peruse the thing, scoffing his way through a succession of tales about how a demonic curse has been passed down the female line of the Nomed family ever since some unexplained incident involving a crown of thorns back in 1692.
Let’s just say that suspense is not this movie’s strong suit. Having already seen, on numerous occasions, Susan’s eyes taking on a cheap green glow whenever anything upsets her, we’re pretty much just waiting around for her to Linda Blair out on us. The first time it happens is at a dance club, when some goofus in a tacky suit tries to force Susan to make out with him while Oliver is in the bathroom. She psychically sets his car on fire— with him in it— on the way out of the parking lot. Then she starts spending her afternoons flirting with her horny Middle Eastern gardener, eventually leading him to an ugly demise by hand rake during a tryst in the garage. Aunt Cora is next. She comes over to the Farrell place to have lunch with her niece, and gets levitated out over a second-story railing and dropped to her death in a scene that bears more than a passing resemblance to a very famous one in The Omen. Eventually, even dumb-ass Oliver gets hit with the clue club and figures out that something isn’t right with his wife. He calls on the assistance of Andrews and a colleague of his by the name of Roni Logan (Sheri Mann) just in time to put them in harm’s way, when Susan transforms at last into an unbelievable rubber-suit demon with grinning, skull-like shrunken heads for breasts! You get no extra credit for anticipating that the secret to victory over the demon lies in the old diary that Cora gave the psychiatrist, nor that the crown of thorns that apparently started the whole mess in the first place is also the weapon that will end it.
If it weren’t for that demon suit, Mausoleum would have virtually nothing going for it. For the most part, the story, while stupid, isn’t nearly enough so to be really entertaining, and the flat, TV-style direction stifles what little energy the movie might have had. Bobbie Bresee takes her clothes off an awful lot, but I found her too generically Southern California pretty to hold my attention. The acting is perfunctory rather than bad in any noteworthy, attention-getting way, and does more than its part to make Mausoleum the kind of movie you begin forgetting about the moment you finish watching. That rubber demon, though... I wonder if there’s any place where I could get just the last ten minutes of the film...