Berserker (1987)

There’s a bear in the woods.

I have a good friend who watches slasher films almost exclusively.  It is the rare day when I come across a title that he has not seen. Berserker is one of these films, one that has fallen so far through the cracks that my main source for info on this subgenre(pat yourself on the back, buddy) doesn’t know how to make heads or tails of it. Whenever I find one of these movies, I immediately feel I have to watch it. Why? So then I can let my pal know how quickly it should be added to his expansive repertoire.

Berserker, unfortunately, is not a “go out and grab it immediately” film. It’s competent in terms of production, the acting is certainly serviceable, and in general it is not a chore to watch. Yes, there are some awkward cuts with footage of a bear to try to ratchet up tension that fall flat, and yes, some of the few kills and maimings are on the hokey side. The idea of the film isn’t bad either: a bunch of horny teenagers who mostly adhere to your traditional slasher character tropes get attacked in the forest by a man possessed by the spirit of a viking berserker. Hell, the film even breaks a few traditions regarding who dies and the idea of a final girl, which I appreciate for being different. Instead of just having one virginal lady survive, multiple kids make it, but quite a few are going to need hospitalization. It makes me think of Deliverance a bit in that respect. And I really like that poster.

Sadly, Berserker is brought down by a bad script and some poor choices in editing which really hold it back. The big reveal at the end over who is the evil Viking possessed killer roaming the forest makes painfully little sense because of scenes we’ve seen previously with said character. The constant shots of the bear in the forest to try and make us think “oh a bear is killing these kids” feel more jarring and silly than anything. Oh, and the soundtrack is almost entirely composed of Chuck Francour songs. Who is that? This guy:

Something about this music video really makes it hard to take him seriously, probably because he seems to be trying so damn hard to be taken seriously.  His songs in the movie don’t help him at all, particularly when one of his songs in Berserker is about being a “cool dude” with a “degree in social science.” Seriously, that’s part of the refrain.

That said, you still do get a hilariously awesome scene of our bloodlusting berserker attempting to strangle a grizzly with his bare hands. Or bear hands. Whichever works for you.

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