Getting an entire feature-length film out of a short story always seemed odd to me. Adapting a piece of fiction by H.P. Lovecraft is even more of a trick since much of his work doesn't translate to film (see my review of The Call of Cthulhu for a notable exception). Director Ulli Lommel sidesteps both issues by completely ignoring the Lovecraft story on which The Tomb (released on DVD this past week by Lionsgate) is allegedly based. Names of some of Lovecraft's characters from other stories like Charles Dexter Ward and David Pickman are kicked around, and there's mention of a "witch house" which also refers to Lovecraft's work, but it feels like an afterthought. Lovecraft's "The Tomb" concerned a man's morbid fascination with a crypt he finds as he wanders through the woods, while Lommel goes in another direction entirely, delivering a pretty blatant knock off of the Saw movies, right down to the creepy doll puppet.
Tara Griffin (Victoria Ullman) and Billy Trafford (Christian Behm) both awaken in what appears to be a warehouse basement. They don't know one another, but they've both been beaten bloody and each has a tag tied to their toe with a date written on it. A sinister and electronically filtered voice announces over a P.A. system that one of them will survive if they follow the rules of the game set out for them, or at least that's what I think he says. Poor audio is one of this film's many negative features, and the mysterious villain's distorted voice is hard to understand, as are other characters in the many scenes where Lommel is so enthralled with the musical score that he lets it play louder than the dialogue. One thing the mystery villain does say repeatedly is "eight nails, who fails," which refers to the nails driven into the many coffin lids we see in the movie and that only one person will get out alive. Someone obviously thought this line was a lot more clever than it actually is as it is repeated ad nauseum.