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Berserker (2001)

Aside from passing off South African locations as Scandinavia, this action/horror hybrid is fairly undistinguished. It's as if the weird Norse variant mythology of Grip of the Lorelei were grafted onto the time-spanning heroic fantasy policier sub-genre of Highlander, but the result could do with more oomph in all departments. In a long opening sequence set in long-ago times, a Viking chieftain (Patrick Bergin, hiding behind major beardage) plays a favoured son, Barek (Paul Johansson), against his glowering brother, Boar (Craig Sheffer). There's also muttering about sleeping, vampire-fanged Valkyrie Brunhilda, who is plotting against Odin and has the habit of cursing some folk to make them immortal super-warriors. In the present day, Barek is chained up in an asylum claiming to have been all the mad killers throughout history (Peter Kurten, Attila the Hun, Rasputin, etc) and making a connection with his sexy shrink (the always-welcome Kari Wuhrer). Naturally, bad brother is around too - and they both get loose and clash in nondescript urban locales.

Writer-director Paul Matthews skimps on the spectacle you might expect from a Viking movie with supernatural elements, but does pile on a lot of plot. It turns out that the heroine is the modern avatar of Brunhilda, and gets to be a seductive villainess as well, and a last-minute, hard-to-follow bit rewrites our understanding of who exactly the cursed warrior is and what role he has to play in the squabbles of the Gods. Johanssen, who was in Highlander: The Raven, is a bland lead, but fun is to be had from the attack of used-to-this-sort-of-tosh Bergin and Sheffer - while Wuhrer looks super in body-paint and fangs. Not to be confused with Berserker: The Nordic Curse.
KIM NEWMAN

First published in this form here.


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