Blood of Beasts
aka, BEAUTY & THE BEAST. 2003

Director: David Lister

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

Blood of Beasts (2003) starts out in all mediocrity, with no sense of actually being set in the Viking age, but more likely at a Renaissance fair that passed all the proper health inspections, too modern & tidy even to have been filmed at Woodstock.

Slowly, with the viewer making an effort to go along with the ruse, it becomes a tale of medieval Scandinavia, or at least set among some similar sort of coastal people attempting to re-conquer a small island ruled by supernatural forces.

As a family film of sword & sorcery it has periodic conviction & does not seem too awfully silly. King Thorsson (Greg Melvill-Smith) sets off to conquer the haunted isle with all his men. Proud & snotty Sven (William Gregory Lee) goes along all pumped up & self-important, planning to prove his merit then marry the king's daughter Freya (Jane March), not for love but for kingship.

The film is not overly afflicted with Disneyisms because the battles with the Beast of Odin are brutal & slightly gorey. The Beast gives the initial impression of being a giant were-bear, part man, with human cunning & a wolf's howl.

King Thorsson is captured by the beast. The surviving Vikings flee for home. Young Sven has now been proven himself unworthy of Freya. But if the men are to much the cowards to try to save the king, the women won't be.

Freya in chain-mail & with weapons sets out with Ingrid (Candice Hillebrand) to save or avenge the king. Freya is good with broadsword & with bow & arrows. Ingrid fights with axe. In the adventure that ensues, the Beast gets the upper hand, but Ingrid & Thorsson are allowed to leave the island safely, in exchange for Freya agreeing to remain with the Beast.

By day the beast can almost control its animalism. But he warns Freya to lock herself in the cage by night, so that he cannot get at her.

The beast's name is Agnar (David Dukas), formerly a man of heroic character who all thought dead years before, & who was Freya's first love.

The story turns into an interesting & effective variant of Beauty & the Beast, which had in fact been the film's original title, but retitled in 2005 because of the obvious confusion of naming it after a famous story & other films that have nothing to do with Vikings.

The Beast is sufficiently well played as to be extremely real seeming, more than making up for the film's earlier deficiencies. Too bad that after Blood of Beasts picks up steam, it begins too soon to deflate itself again.

Sven is still coniving to become the new king. With Freya gone, his plans are difficult, so it looks like he'll have to make another raid on the beast's island. Eric (Justin Whalin), who loves Ingrid, will also make the heroic effort, though having no reason to trust Sven.

The Beast is slain over Freya's protest & Freya forced to adhere to her betrothal to calculating Sven. The beast however is a creature of darkness, revived by moonlight. He leaves his island & bursts into the Viking hall like Grendel, stopping the marriage, revealing that he is Agnar, son of Ragnar (Ron Smerczak), come to claim his promised bride, & through her kingship.

The climax strives for grandeur & sadness but is too hoky. Had it found a less mawkish finale it could've been a film good of kind. As it stands, anyone who believed the average episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Xena Warrior Princess was good enough to pass for a movie will enjoy Blood of Beasts to a similar degree.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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