Directed by Michael Dugan
Vinegar Syndrome Blu Ray Zone Zero
Back in the mid to late 1980s I picked up some very cheap VHS tapes while on holiday. You know the kind... I think they were ‘straight to video’ releases and they had distinctive, ‘cardboard only’ slipcases surrounding the tape. They could be had for pretty much the price of a few sticks of seaside rock and, one of the two titles I bought was Mausoleum, in what would have been a pan and scan format I would imagine. I say imagine because I never quite got around to watching it and it’s sat on a shelf, hidden away somewhere (I suspect it must be one of the tapes I kept because the slipcovers on those things were more like the one’s I’d seen people buying from America and not the standard, budget price style clamshells we usually bought our tapes in, in the UK).
Then, when I was listening to my first and, to date, only podcast from Shockwaves (I was going to download the whole lot but couldn’t find them all and then read why they were suddenly not doing them anymore*), in a special Severin edition, they briefly mentioned that Vinegar Syndrome had put out Mausoleum. So I waited patiently for the next Vinegar Syndrome sale (their half way to Black Friday sale, as it turns out) and ordered this along with another couple of their Blu Ray restorations.
So, yeah, I’ve waited well over three decades before finally getting to see it but at least I now was able to view it in a nice transfer and in its original aspect ratio. And, yeah, it really is that real McCoy of 1980s, consequence free horror movies that were churned out a lot those days, shot on a very cheap budget which, when you look at a lot of the ‘straight to DVD or stream’ micro budgeted films these days, was still far superior to what we have now.
After some nice credits using backdrops of the cemetery that houses the Mausoleum of the title, the film starts off with main protagonist/antagonist Susan, played initially in the opening scenes by Julie Christy Murray. She is attending the funeral of her mother and doesn’t want to go home with her aunt, she’d rather stay with her buried mum. She does a runner and the fluid camerawork following her soon gets into spooky, dutch angles as a mist appears and Susan hears her name being called. She is ‘siren called’ to her family mausoleum and the gate pops its explosive bolts, allowing her entry into the main tomb room, her face bathed in Bava-esque, bright green lighting. When a stranger goes in and tries to help her, a shadow in the tomb uses psychic powers on him. He runs outside and his brain explodes out of the top of his head. As Susan approaches the tomb it slides open and something demonic is unleashed. One can’t help feel that something is about to take control of her and, being as her family name is Nomed, you also can’t help but wonder when someone in her family is going to realise that their family name read backwards could inevitably spell trouble for them... but it turns out nobody in this movie is that smart, even by the end of the picture (and yeah, for the kind soul who wrote it in the ‘spoiler section’ of the IMDB trivia for this film... if you really think the audience isn’t going to cotton onto this within five minutes of the start of the picture, then you must think everyone in the audience is as severely mentally challenged as the characters in this movie).
And then, one quick edit and young Susan has grown up and is now played by former Playboy bunny Bobbie Bresee, an early to mid 1980s scream queen who really should have gotten a lot more parts than came her way, as far as I’m concerned. Apparently, she learned her demonic voice from Mercedes McCambridge (who voiced Linda Blair’s demon in The Exorcist) while shooting an episode of Charlie’s Angels with her. Susan is successfully married and her husband is played by former, four year old ‘World's Youngest Ordained Minister’ Marjoe Gortner, who you may remember as Caroline Munro’s companion in Star Crash (reviewed here).
And, with the aid of his psychiatrist friend Dr. Simon Andrews (played by Norman Burton, who was Diana Prince’s short lived boss at the start of the second series of Wonder Woman... or first series of The New Adventures Of Wonder Woman, as it technically was), they try to figure out why Susan’s been acting a bit weird of late. And that’s just the stuff they know about and it doesn’t include the strange interludes that the audience is privy to... such as seducing the gardener and having sex with him before killing him. Or when she levitates her aunt above the staircase and uses her demonic mind powers and glowing green eyes to pop her aunts rib cage out of her chest (the contact lenses Bresee had to wear damaged her eyes and made her blind for a while, a state in which she had to shoot her opening scenes). Or the plant delivery guy who she seduces into the house so she can make his head bleed all over before popping out his eye lid.
However, Simon can’t help but notice, when he uses hypnotic regression on her, that there’s a green eyed demon living inside her body and so he has to seek help from the Nomed Family journal about how to stop Susan’s demonship. I’m pretty sure her husband also cottons onto her split personality, however, when she similarly explodes open his rib cage and leaves him to bleed out in the bathtub. It’s all down to Simon to put a stop to her terrifying reign. Does he succeed? Well, I’m not saying because, you know, you might want to watch it.
The film is not particularly astounding in its use of cinematography but it certainly tries its best to be inventive and mostly its the budget which lets it down a little, I think. All I can say though is... well... I thoroughly enjoyed it. This was the kind of 1980s trash movie making which I’d forgotten all about and which you just don’t get these days. It’s fast paced, has a certain number of kills and nude scenes at the kind of frequency which would have kept even Roger Corman happy and... yeah... the no consequence, total acceptance of sudden supernatural forces at work with no real time to stop and contemplate the gravity of the situation for any of the characters.
And that’s really all I have to say on this one. The Vinegar Syndrome restoration job is about as good as you’re ever likely to see on a movie of this nature and they’re fast becoming one of my all time favourite labels... a pity US shipping to the UK is so expensive these days. Mausoleum gave me absolutely no surprises and it was everything I was expecting it to be... and it somehow hit the right spot with me for sure. Definitely the kind of film I’d screen in an all night horror marathon with a bunch of friends and as entertaining as I could hope for. Not something I’d recommend to everyone but if you have a penchant for low budget, 1980s horror films with a supernatural element (rather than one of those awful US slashers) then Mausoleum is a solid watch, for sure. Give this one some consideration.
*I've now found them, thanks.