The original poster art is just The Wall. Let's get that out of the way. Not “exact” but...yeah. It's The Wall. It might seem pretty egregious now, but, ya know, no internet at the time. Who was gonna know? It's no worse than using Joseph Gordon-Levitt as your Grindr profile pic.
So I'm told.
So...Berserker! For those who don't know, berserkers were infamous Viking warriors dressed in bear, wolf, or sometimes boar pelts. Through a combination of drugs(?), and God knows what else, they would drive themselves to blind madness then be set loose on what were 'hopefully' enemy forces. This time around, there's also a bit of Wendigo sprinkled in, what with the ghostly cannibalism and all. All of this is thankfully lore dumped in a cool campfire scene at the start of the second act that sets up a very neat mythology and villain for the film to play with. In theory. This 'particular' berserker, while an imposing figure, is about as effective as death in the MCU (and shows up slightly more than Mephisto in "WandaVision").
Not to frontload, but I friggin' love this movie.
After an atmospheric credit sequence, we briefly meet an adorable old couple enjoying their rented cabin by the lake. In the space of a single cut, it's night time, they're lost and soon dead, killed by a bear(?). So yeah, there “is” a live bear wandering the woods and the way this is all cut sort of seems like the BEAR is the one doing the killing. Sure, some of the attacks are in close-up, but, based on what we find out later, the berserker is at least five miles away from most of the chaos!
Anyway, we cut to suburban Utah where we finally meet our main characters – Josh (the late Greg Dawson), Larry (Rodney Montague), Kathy (Valerie Sheldon), Shelly (Beth Toussaint), Mike (the late Joseph Alan Johnson) and Kristi (Shannon Engemann). Josh (or 'pointy Bruce Campbell') is my favorite character. He gets some well-acted development and despite being played as 'the jerk,' honestly seems like he was a delight on set. Everyone does! This is definitely a case of an early Friday thing where the actors have to carry threadbare characters with their own charisma, and it REALLY works well here. Everyone just seems so damn pleasant! I'd like to think it was one of those sets where they broke out board games between shots.
After somehow surviving a 1980s road trip and speed trap cop (John Goff - who easily adds twenty minutes to the runtime with his pausing), the group arrives at the Rainbow Valley campgrounds run by the mysterious Pappy Nyquist (George 'Buck' Flower). There's the usual activities – four wheeling, swimming, platonic male friends pouring beer on each other's bare chests, etc. But when night falls, an innocent tryst or harmless BM could lead to a 'grizzly' death at the claws of the BERSERKER! Or a regular bear.
So yeah, maybe it sounds like I'm going back and forth but I absolutely LOVE this title! This is one of those 'cozy' movies. Nothing terribly challenging, but every frame just makes you smile, endearing warts and all. It's exceptionally well shot with a lot of fog, eerie lighting, and beautiful, natural scenery. The cast is, of course, terrific and the final twenty minutes pack spectacle and some decent emotion even on the film's tiny budget. Hell, someone dies by getting 'booped' on the nose! There's also the songs by Chuck Francour (particularly “Prisoner of Rock and Roll”), which absolutely SLAP. It reminds me of a lot of those 'lost' tracks from these kind of films like “Killer Groove” in Death Spa or “Chill Out” from Night Screams.
Death Waltz? Where you at on this?
If anyone's interested in checking out this giddy madness, Vinegar Syndrome has a Blu-ray available with some intriguing cast interviews. Sure, Berserker's not a perfect movie. It's not supposed to be. Sometimes, when you can see the cracks a bit of the behind the scenes, fun seeps through. You're watching friends making a movie and that makes all the difference.
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