"The Mummy" has survived several iterations - ranging from bad to good throughout cinematic history. But what is it that has kept mummies in the forefront of our minds for so many decades?
First - what is a mummy? Well, mummies began in Egypt from natural causes, but these natural mummifications soon became purposeful and religious rites. Egyptians saw death, and the corpse, as important steps on the road to the afterlife. The first step is to halt, as much as possible, the typical process of decomposition. This was done by removing the organs and treating the now-emptier body with palm wine and spices. However, the heart was left - as it was necessary to the afterlife. Once all this had been done, the now-hollow body was left out in the sun to dry for about 40 days. The body was then wrapped in layer after layer of linen, interwoven with little amulets. Finally, the body was coated in resin and sealed in its tomb.
Okay, so now that we roughly know what an Egyptian mummy is and the process we can begin to figure out why they are exactly so important to horror-culture.
The infatuation first began when English archaeologists began uncovering them in the 18th and 19th centuries. In fact, the discovery of mummies and Egyptian culture during the time of mummies created a bit of a mania, specifically Egyptomania, in England and surrounding countries who were hungry for a piece of the lore.
One of the reasons could be very simple - mummies are real. While the curses and re-animation part may be an invention, mummies are very real artifacts. We cannot hide from them, claim to know their power, and we don't even totally know how they were created in the first place. They hold a certain horror that only physical objects can claim.
Not to mention, there appears to be a loose 'proof' of a curse related to disturbing the tombs of great mummies. Take, for example, the entering of King Tutankhamen's tomb in 1922. Those associated with the tomb would die in grisly ways. After the tomb was discovered, opened, and infiltrated Lord Carnarvon, who was Howard Carter's main backer died. George J Gould, who toured the tomb, got a fever whilst exploring it and died. Oh, but that's not it. The trail grows longer. In fact, it might have survived decades. The airplane crew that transported the treasures taken from the tomb to the British Museum in 1972 perished. However, Carter himself died of natural causes at a relatively decent age (64). But still, the rash of deaths associated with the tomb are tough to forget. Not to mention, it wasn't only Tut's tomb that carried curses.
The mummy also acts as a go-between for the living and the dead. And, as we know, re-animation of the dead is one of humans most feared components when it comes to creating a really scary monster.
The above image is a Mummy of an upper-class Egyptian male from the Saite period, taken by Keith Schengili-Roberts. It is liscensed under Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike.