April 2001

Beowulf

If you take a classic story, remove it to a post-apocalypse setting, throw in a couple of western clichés and add a few martial arts sequences you may end up with a film that is bad, but fun enough to be watchable.

However, Beowulf goes a stage further by hacking the story completely to pieces so that, instead of the classic tale of heroes, honour and monsters we have some nonsense about Beowulf (Christoper Lambert) being damned and having to seek out and fight evil in order to avoid becoming evil combined with a revenge-but-not-really-revenge plot featuring Grendels Mother (Played by former Playboy Playmate Layla Roberts… nuff said) And then there is the inevitable love interest with Hrothgars daughter, Kyra (Rhona Mitra).

Christopher Lambert appeared in Mortal Kombat… Rhona Mitra was the original live action model for Lara Croft. The trailer proudly announces that Beowulf is from the makers of Mortal Kombat. The soundtrack is the type of repetitive techno beat that sounds like it belongs in a video game. If I wanted to watch a video game Id go and stand in an amusement arcade. This is supposed to be a film, dammit!

And the nylon body bags… Okay, so the setting is some sort of unexplained post-apocalyptic future and we have the usual anachronisms of pseudo-medieval weapons (most of which look too bulky, unwieldy or blunt to be of any real use) and elderly looking electrical equipment. But with this sort of setting, it tends to be implied or (in the case of Beowulf) taken for granted that the pre-apocalypse stuff can no longer be made, is wearing out and is therefore intrinsically valuable. So the idea that the people of the a besieged outpost would still be zipping up their dead in these things before dropping them into an incinerator - especially since Grendel is still around increasing the mortality rate on a nightly basis - simply doesnt make sense.

Hrothgars kingdom has been changed to a besieged outpost. Inside is Grendel, travelling unseen through the techno-medieval corridors of the outpost and nightly killing off the occupants in the manner remeniscient of Alien. Outside is an army who appear to believe that the evil can be contained by executing (by means of an unfeasibly large straight edged razor) anyone who tries to leave. This is another plot device that makes no sense and appears to be there simply because the scriptwriters were unable to come up with a more convincing reason for keeping Hrothgars forces in the outpost. What does this besieging army expect to happen once everyone in the outpost is dead? This appears to be what they are expecting, so are they intending to keep the place quarantined forever? Hasnt it occurred to any of them that Grendel might get hungry later and leave the outpost? Who sent them?

The besieging army is symptomatic of one of the major problems with this film - if not the major problem. Inconsistent plot devices and illogical settings are put in front of us without even a vague attempt at an explanation.

Im an easily pleased sort of person and Ill swallow most nonsense if it fits into the film, but here… nothing fits. Throughout the film there is a sense that someone has said There was this cool idea in such-and-such a movie, lets chuck it in. The resulting film is a chaotic mess of genres, styles and storylines.

Then there is the monster himself. Grendel is basically a man in a suit… so far so cheap and, with a bit of moody lighting and some fast cuts it would have been possible to get away with this (for me, at least). But no… someone found the purple fog button on his CGI console so we are treated to a monster that parades its cheapness in the tackiest manner possible.

That said, the film does have a couple of good moments. The first action scene in which Beowulf rescues Pendra (Patricia Velazquez) from the besieging army is fun in an exploitative, over the top kind of way…

Ill rephrase that - the film has one good moment.

Cut

Cut A group of film students decide to complete Hot Blooded a low-budget slasher shelved twelve years earlier when the films director (Kylie Minogue) was murdered by the films villain. Ignoring the fact that every subsequent attempt to complete this film has resulted in someone getting killed, the teenagers drive off to The Spooky House where it all began and start filming.

Surprisingly enough, someone in the killers mask and costume starts killing off the kids

The main problem, for me, with Cut is that the makers of the film seem to have decided to make an eighties style slasher flick without really thinking about what they are trying to achieve. The result is a bizarre piece of nonsens that attempts to both parody and pay homage to the genre and one which fails to do either. There are a couple of funny lines and a couple of genuinely shocking scenes, but not enough of either to lift the film out of the mire of its formulaic origins.

The other thing that really lets this film down is its complete lack of suspense. Granted, as soon as the teenagers arrive at The Spooky HouseTM we know whats going to happen. And by the time wed established that the phone line had been disconnected and that they were so far from civilisation that no mobile phones could get a signal, it was pretty clear who was going to survive and who wasnt. But there still needs to be some level of tension - not in terms of how it will end, but in terms of what will happen next. And over and over again, this tension was simply not generated.

The villain of the film - Scarman - suffers from a complete lack of charisma. Apart from one scene where he stares out of a cinema screen at his next victims, there is simply nothing there. There is no attempt to come up with moives, or even any suspense about who he really is hes just evil. Sorry guys, but this simply doesnt cut it - there has to be a little more than that before we start to care.

The same goes for the teenagers are they supposed to be slasher fodder or are we supposed to be interested in them. Because, if were supposed to be interested, there needs to be a few bits of plot thrown out to catch our interest in the first place. A few badly written lines of dialogue do not amount to a character.

The (anti-)climax of the film is predictable and dull. By this point I had completely stopped caring about what was happening and was taking bets on who would come back from the dead and save The Feisty HeroineTM from the killer and how much plot would have to be ignored in order to get to the set-up for The Inevitable SequelTM.

In short, Cut is a bad slasher film which has a little too much self-awareness to be a parody of itself and not quite enough self-awareness to parody its gentre. Its a shame that the makers didnt simply go with Hot Blooded - that could have been a much more fun film.

On the other hand, it does have Kylie in it.