Sunday, December 09, 2007

Vamp or Not: Berserker: Hell’s Warrior


In the first instance, looking at a film based around the Norse sagas, specifically around Brunhilda and the Valkyries, would not seem like the place to start a ‘Vamp or Not?’ investigation. However, a little while ago, I had received an e-mail suggesting that I keep an eye out for this 2001 movie, directed by Paul Matthews, as it was most definitely within the Vamp camp. It was on Zone Horror last night, so I duly checked it out.

You know what? I can see why it was suggested to me. However, for students of Norse mythology a large amount of draining knowledge from your mind will have to be entered into prior to watching. The first section of the film is set in Norse times – before moving to the modern day – and within this, as well as some flashbacks later, we get the majority of the info we need for ‘Vamp or Not?’

Brunhilda is chainedThe film starts with a potted mythology. The Valkyrie Brunhilda (Kari Wuhrer) spurned the God Odin and was cast down to Midgard (Earth). There she was chained upon an altar and surrounded by fire, trapped for eternity. She would call to warriors to free her but all burned in the fire. Only one with a pure heart and honourable intentions could pass the flames unharmed. This tale is told by Barek (Paul Johansson), who says that it was through this that he freed Brunhilda and his brother Boar (Craig Sheffer) became damned.

bad beards are usNext we see a couple of Viking Longships transporting Barek and his father Thorsson (Patrick Bergin). This section opens up a whole new realm in bad false beards, Bergin is virtually unrecognisable and Johansson’s shorter beard looks terribly fake. It is like being in a bad chin wig convention! Anyway Thorsson would be king of the Norsemen but his enemies gather and so he seeks an alliance with the berserkers.

Boar with a couple of valkyriesOff the ships and into the berserker camp, a gift of a dead man allowing safe passage – presumably he is a snack as mention is made of the berserkers drinking blood and eating flesh. Thorsson demands to be taken to his son. Boar comes out of a tent in full Berserker get up with a couple of valkyries. Let us look at these closely for a second.

These creatures are glowy, yes, but have fangs. We discover that their bite pours Odin’s power into a warrior and turns him into a berserker. They certainly look vamp like and we also notice that the glowy effect also affects the berserkers – either when enraged or when dying (leaving their bodies). Later we discover that the only way a berserker can be killed is by immolation or by destroying the brain/removing the head.

Victory for the BerserkersBoar insists on two conditions for the berserkers' aid. Firstly that he gets land and secondly he gets his brother’s soul. He makes reference here to being turned by Barek’s whore (Brunhilda) and later we see that a badly burned Boar, who failed to free Brunhilda, was turned by said Valkyrie. After he fell Barek saved him and, as the good hearted warrior, saved Brunhilda also. At his insistence he had Brunhilda bite Boar to save his life. Thorsson agrees to the terms, later suggesting he will renege on the deal, and the berserkers are victorious in battle.

Brunhilda bites BarekHe does renege on the deal, setting fire to Boar and his men in an oil and flaming arrow ambush. Barek will not see his brother burn and so calls to Odin, who saves him and infects the camp with Valkyrie. Thorsson offers to take Bareks place but Brunhilda appears and bites Barek.

Barek chained up in modern timesCut to the modern day and Barek is in a mental institution, chained up and, as well as having killed several men in this lifetime, claims to be many of histories serial killers and warlords. He has been kept chained like this for years by the resident doctor, Clifford (Nick Boraine), but all that is about to change.

Anya in the rainA new doctor is in the place, Anya. Barek immediately recognises her as Brunhilda and yet she seems unaware of her identity. Here things get a little confused as the film suggests that these beings are immortal but then suggests that the immortality is via resurrection. Barek obviously remembers who he is but Anya does not remember her identity. There is some game playing and plot twisting here but the concept is still confused.

there can be only oneWith Barek and Brunhilda reunited it doesn’t take long for Boar and his berserker warriors (all still wearing Viking gear) to appear on the scene and the film takes almost a Highlander feel. There is only one more piece of information, mentioned by Anya/Brunhilda, that feeds into our investigation. She states that she and the berserkers are undead. No more is said on the subject but it is a stark clue. For some reason the valkyries, loyal to both Odin and the berserkers, do not appear in the modern day.

use of strange effectsThe film itself is ambitious, with period aspects, effects and unusual story. The story does not work too well as it is confused in places. I have no doubt Matthews knew what he wanted to say but it became lost in translation. The acting is fairly poor and there seems little chemistry between Barek and Anya. The film also has a tendency to go into weird effects during flashback scenes – that seemed a little pointless to be honest. All that said, is it Vamp?

Anya gets toothsomeWell we have two types of creatures here, fanged valkyries, with glowy eyes (and skin) who bite men and infect them with power beyond mortality. The men have an urge to drink blood and eat flesh, they are tough to kill and the methods (decapitation essentially and fire) are straight out of the vamp hand book. They appear to be immortal – though that is possibly through reincarnation – we do not know if in a single life time they age and die. They class themselves as undead.

I think there is enough here to go along the vamp line.

The imdb page is here.

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