BERSERKER THE NORDIC CURSE *** USA 1987 79 mins (original UK video release cut by 1 minute 4 seconds – dvd releases on budget labels uncut). Dir: Jef Richard.
Some likeable characters, atmosphere and engaging 80’s trappings keep this minor late entry in the American slasher cycle entertaining. It ambitiously opens with a 10th century prologue before in modern day, a low budget version of Henry Fonda and Shelley Winters (playing a couple named Homer and Edna!) get lost in the woods…with the old lady ending up with the wrong kind of husband-fluids splashed all over her face.
Subsequently, teens go camping at the cheerfully named “Rainbow Valley” for beer and weed and all the usual things. They’re stopped by a stern cop who would have been played by Hal Holbrook if the budget had allowed – he laments their littering ways while Norwegian-accented (we think) groundskeeper “Pappy” (“Pappy doesn’t look so friendly!”) glowers. The teens share campfire stories of the legends of flesh-eating Viking warriors that used to wander on this patch – “Berserkers” donning bearskin robes and bear snout masks – before being slaughtered by what appears to be a bonafide Berserker. There’s something oddly reassuring about this movie’s embracing of clichés, like the sequence in which a girl opts for a totally unnecessary long walk in the mist-enshrouded woods right after going for a piss. Greg Dawson is fabulous as a wise-ass Fonz-type with cool 80’s hair and an overall vibe of 80’s coolness: you would queue up to shag him if this were still 1987. Buck Flower has one of his best horror roles, while future STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION star Beth Toussaint is the hot girl with Pat Sharp’s hair who gets naked for a woodland sex scene intercut with the bloody mauling of one of her friends elsewhere in the woods. The climactic confrontation between the “Berserker” killer and a bonafide bear (at times played by Hollywood legend Bart the Bear) is impressive to watch.
Review by Steven West