Quick, what’s the oldest movie monster? Not like in how old the monster is individually, but what’s been scary for the longest? Vampires? Werewolves? Goblins?
Well I don’t have an answer to that, but I can tell you that mummies are definitely notthe right answer. In fact, they may very well be the youngest.
Not that mummies are old. In fact, mummies are really old. The oldest mummies, the Chinchorro mummies of Peru, are 5000-7000 years old. The big difference between those guys and vampires though is that they weren’t feared. They were just regular old dead folk, prepared for an action-packed journey to the underworld.
The Egyptians, obviously, loved mummies too. They mummified kings, priests, kids, cats, birds, cacti, really great flapjacks, Chevy Chase’s career–you know, things that died. But much like Chevy’s career on the onset of Community those mummies came back.
At least, that’s what Bram Stoker said. In his 1903 novel The Jewel of Seven Stars, Stoker introduced us to a mummy risen from the dead to wreak havoc on the general populace. He does such a good job in fact that he put together a chapter so terribly gruesome that he was forced to write a newer, happier ending to the book for its republication in 1912. Cus you know, that totally makes scary stories better.
Later, in 1932, Universal hit us up with a new Boris Karloff flick called–you guessed it-The Mummy. It features a dead guy from Egypt who comes back after being killed because he hit on the pharaoh’s daughter. For some reason that leaves him angry 4000 years later and he wooes some lady that looks like his old flame. In the end, the forces of good prevail and Imhotep (our Mummy #1) is left to rot… again.
Shortly thereafter, Karloff came back as a new mummy, Kharis (our Mummy #2), this one shambling and rough and tough and covered in toilet paper. This is the mummy we all know and fear. And believe it or not, it was just born in 1940.