There’s a decent chance you’ve never even heard of this movie. Its provenance is patently ridiculous, the plot flimsy and wafer-thin, the production values bargain bin. Yet this made-for-television movie first aired in primetime in 1978, but I remember catching it on a Saturday afternoon around the same time. I know I was little, like six or maybe seven years old—which explains why CRUISE INTO TERROR is one of a handful of scary movies I’ve seen that managed to actually scare me. In fact CRUISE INTO TERROR scared the piss outta me. Around the same time that SALEM’S LOT would scar me for life psychologically, I became exposed to this one. I’ve never been the same.
On the surface, the movie sounds promising. At the same time as Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem 2000 years ago, the Devil also had a son, who was born in Egypt. For some reason or other, the little hellspawn ended up getting mummified. The cursed mummy was then buried about as far from Egypt as the Egyptians could get, on an island off the coast of Mexico that is now underwater. When the tomb is discovered and the sarcophagus brought onboard a ship, evil things start to happen. Sounds serviceable, right? As a little boy, I never saw past this basic premise to the inner workings of the cinematic organism, to realize how goofy it is. Those Egyptians became the Mayans? Huh? And how’d that island get underwater in the first place? And if they wanted to get rid of the little cursed sarcophagus, why bother leaving behind directions telling people where they’d put it? When you realize that the movie came about because producer Aaron Spelling, who was at the time in charge of one of the most popular shows on television, THE LOVE BOAT, had wondered how it would work to do the latter as a Horror story instead of a rom-com, the absurdity of it all seems inevitable. THE LOVE BOAT, done as a Horror movie, yields CRUISE INTO TERROR. But I was just a little kid, and the music for this movie was so ominous, so unsettling, and the actual little sarcophagus itself…it *breathed*! Like, literally breathed! No, it doesn’t make sense. Even if the mummy inside a sarcophagus was alive and breathing, the sarcophagus itself wouldn’t breathe. But it damn near made me piss myself anyway. (I wonder whatever happened to that prop. Doubtless it is long-since lost to time, but I would dearly love to own it.)
CRUISE INTO TERROR messed me up, man. Not as bad as SALEM’S LOT, but still. And that’s why it holds such a special place in my heart. You traumatize me as a kid, Ima love you forever.