Written By: Angela DiLella
Edited By: Grave Reviews Staff
Director: Michael Dugan
Producer: Robert Barich and Robert Madero
Screenwriter: Katherine Rosenwink
Date Released: April 29, 1983
Bobbie Bresee as (adult) Susan
Julie Christy Murray as Young Susan
Marjoe Gortner as Oliver Farrell
Norman Burton as Dr. Simon Andrews
Rating: 3/5 Graves
***May contain some spoilers***
While at the funeral for her mother, ten-year-old Susan Walker breaks away from the proceedings and ends up in a mausoleum that’s clearly a little off. She encounters a demon, who stakes her as its own and lies in wait to exert control over Susan starting on the twentieth anniversary of her mother’s death.
Mausoleum (1983) has a bit of gore with some decent effects. Susan’s demon is not afraid to slash, claw, and hemorrhage the people it deems as enemies or victims. There are some surprising and unique kills in this film. The most effective and convincing one sees Susan’s demon using psychokinetic powers to fling a shopkeeper through the air at a mall and drop him onto a table with an unusual centerpiece, which skewers him. Mausoleum will scratch your itch for gore.
The Grave Review
What a terrible day to have a family curse! After being unable to resist a demonic call as a child, Susan finds herself paying the toll at age thirty, around the same age as her mother was when she died. Her mother apparently began acting strangely before her death as Susan has started to. Although characters note the similarity of the strange behavior, they either are in denial or are simply unaware that there is a curse on the family involving the demon.
The demon starts out acting in isolated situations, it sets a man bothering Susan aflame in his car, it seduces a gardener and kills him, and from there it starts escalating. Susan/her demon may still be killing people unobserved, but it starts getting sloppy. A hypnotism session confirms the possession, as the psychologist accidentally pulls the demon’s personality up along with Susan’s younger self, but by then it’s too late for the characters who are either in denial or just don’t know about the family history. By the end of the movie, it’s just the psychologist and Susan—who has regressed to her ten-year-old self—left to confront the demon.
Mausoleum (1983) both follows conventions of other possession movies and puts a unique spin on them. One of the strongest parts of this film was the end. Though I would rather not spoil it, the demon must be defeated in a show of symbolic bravery rather than violence, which is a pleasant surprise in light of the events prior and the stereotypes related to movies of this kind. Susan’s regression is also handled in an interesting way; actress Bobbie Bresee performs her regressed character well, and the movie takes the regression a step further in a move that I loved. It almost feels as if a cue was taken from the climax of Suspiria (1977) and the screenwriters/directors pushed it further back to the next logical steps.
The demon itself is unique as well. The more Susan reverts to the demon—or it takes over—and it satisfies its bloodlust, the more it transforms. The costuming is cheesy but well-molded, creative, and a charming example of practical effects for the time. There is enough detail that you can track how much she is affected through the film. At first you just get the glowing eyes (which is a great effect, especially close-up), then her hands change, her face changes, and eventually you move into full-body transformations. There are some hideous details on the body that you just have to see to believe, and although the transformation scenes don’t always play smoothly, the make-up and practical effects make up for it.
I think the biggest weakness for me was that the demon’s motive seemed unclear. Which sounds weird, I know—I’ve certainly never questioned a demon’s motive in a movie like this before. But, thinking about it, it’s because it’s usually clear, even if it’s just to cause chaos and violence, there’s usually at least a tenuous motive. For example, Pazuzu in The Exorcist (1973) is destroying a young girl it is possessing, but Pazuzu is also thumbing their nose at God and attempting to break the faith of holy men (never mind deeper themes author William Peter Blatty intended). Susan’s demon is killing people, but I couldn’t figure out to what end. Is it violent? Sure. Is it horny? Seems to be. But why? Near the climax, we see that the bodies have been hidden in the recesses of Susan’s family’s estate, but why these bodies were saved isn’t explained—at least not that I caught—and although family history references a curse, there doesn’t seem to be a satisfying answer as to how or why.
There isn’t even really an explanation as to why the demon waited twenty years to mess around with Susan and her life, which nagged me throughout the movie. A final twist at the end implies that maybe a cult is involved—maybe—but it’s a twist that does more to make a viewer question everything I’ve outlined above more than anything else. It also cheapens that clever climax and end.
Another weakness is in the acting—some of the time. Some of the cast is terribly overdramatic, and sometimes they are terribly wooden. The wooden moments at least seem to be more the fault of awkward dialogue than the actors’ ability, though the acting skill does vary wildly between cast members. Even the best of the cast shows their weaknesses and dubbing, which is very clumsy at times, does not help matters.
Overall, this film was a pleasant surprise. It does have strong, unique elements to it that elevate it above just a schlocky slasher, though it also retains the earmarks of that type of movie as well. This is the kind of horror movie that would make for a good viewing party with friends and drinks, much in the way a movie like Creepshow (1982) is perfectly fine to watch on your own, but will really shine when you make some fun out of it with like-minded horror-loving friends.
The BluRay/DVD set for The Children was generously donated by film restoration and distribution company Vinegar Syndrome. You can check out more of their catalogue at their website or at their physical storefront, The Archive, located in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
For the foregoing reasons, Grave Reviews gives Mausoleum (1983) three graves out of five graves.
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