A Review by Noah Antwiler
A friend of mine loaned me a copy of Hawk the Slayer before our Hackmaster game and made me promise to write a rant on the film once I'd seen it. I'd never seen the film before; I'm only 23 so the film is before my time. I'd heard a lot of things about it-- none of them good. But everyone I spoke to agreed I had not known pain or the true spirit of D&D until I had seen it. Knowing a movie is going to suck hard is a heavy burden for a man to bear when going into a room to watch it; I've only felt it worse when entering Attack of the Clones and Alien vs. Predator. On the other hand, Hawk is supposedly a favorite of KoDT's very own Jolly Blackburn. Is Hawk the Slayer smooth like Ladyhawke, or is it more like Hudson Hawk?
The words "This is a story of Heroic Deeds," appear on the screen as the movie opens. Considering the strange capitalization, Hawk's real name must be Heroic Deeds.
In a time of darkness, where matte paintings covered the land and animated mist was everywhere, Jack Palance is a mighty warlord named Voltan who leads a fearsome force known as the Devil's Army. (Note to parents: if you name your child "Voltan," he's doomed to either become the Dark One or the leader of the Hawkmen in Flash Gordon.) You might remember Jack from such good movies as City Slickers and other achingly stupid movies as City Slickers 2: The Legend of Curly's Gold, Angels' Revenge, and the even-worse-than-this fantasy stinkfest Outlaw of Gor! "Voltan" is a good choice for your villain's name, because The Lord of the Rings might not have carried as much suspense if the Dark Lord of Mordor was called Curly. Voltan wears a funny looking helmet that covers one side of his face, no doubt to conceal a disfigurement suffered while putting in a contact lens. Remember kids, scarred and unattractive people are evil! Voltan starts the movie out by killing his dad (who looks younger than he does), because under federal law, fantasy movies must begin with the slaughter of the hero's father/village/sandcrawler.
Hawk (who is never referred to as "the Slayer" in the entire movie) enters the frame about 2 seconds after Jack departs, and sees his dad stabbed in the heart. Hawk (the Slayer) is played by John Terry, a waxy-looking fellow who looks like he stocks the baked goods aisle when he's not acting (in other words, right now). Hawk (the Slayer) tries to act like his own father was just murdered brutally, and that he will never see him again. Unfortunately, John Terry's emotional range consists of two faces: "Mild Smugness" and "A Man Who Thinks He Might Have Just Eaten Expired Meat." Honestly, during any given introspective moment for Hawk (the Slayer)'s character, it appears that he's wondering if he should call the number for poison control. Perhaps I'm just projecting my own thoughts on Hawk (the Slayer).
Hawk (the Slayer) entirely fails to register any remorse over his slain father, or rage when he swears his vengeance. This is supposed to be the dramatic moment when the hero collapses to his knees and shouts up at the sky either "NOOOOO!!" or "KHAAAAN!!" Instead, he takes up the Mind Sword, which looks like it's made out of plastic and has a hilt shaped like a fist crushing an Everlasting Gobstopper, and whines out an oath of vengeance. It appears that the Gobstopper gives the Mind Sword it's power, since it constantly glows with lame animation. The fist is reminiscent of the stage on the WWE SmackDown show. The Mind Sword's powers seem kind of lame: it floats toward you and gives off anemic green light. Though you shouldn't expect much out of the sword, considering Hawk (the Slayer)'s intelligence score is 4, maybe 5.
Meanwhile, a crusty balding man collapses on the porch of Castle Anthrax. Some hot nuns nicely let him inside and chop his hand off (though it's quite clear that the makeup artist put a sock and a leather cup over his fist, since his arms are still of equal length). Jack Palance bursts in shortly after, demands 2,000 gold pieces, and takes the head abbess back to his camp as a hostage. I'm not sure why he wants this money. Maybe Voltan is saving up for a less-dorky helmet. Perhaps he just wants to draw out Hawk (the Slayer). Voltan's masters have commanded him to hunt down and destroy the one man who can stop the Devil's Army, but that's not the only reason that Voltan is antagonizing nuns. We learn in several flashbacks that the key reason that Voltan is evil is because Hawk (the Slayer) stole his girlfriend.
Well whoop-de-fricking-do. He's become the Dark One because some preppy pretty boy is knocking boots with his ex? This is the kind of emotional relationship baggage that most of us learned to deal with in high school. I just think Voltan's angry because he misses Bronk. The flashbacks show more of John Terry being unable to display the emotions of love, affection, or sincerity. Just mild smugness and possible botulism. In an effort to further undermine the emotion of the scene, it sounds like Jack Palance has inhaled helium to make his voice sound younger. Jack finally gets fed up with having someone like Hawk for a brother and captures him, confident in his dopey costume and vague intimidation to win back his lady's heart. For some bizarre reason, the lady doesn't seem to appreciate all the effort Voltan took to murder her boyfriend and smacks him in the eye with a torch. He kills her because of this, which Dr. Phil would probably only suggest as a last resort. In one of the lamest death scenes in cinema history, Mrs. Slayer swoons into death and John Terry still fails to work up a tear or even a slight frown. His emotional range might have expanded to a third face--mild constipation-- but I can't be sure.
Hawk (whom I will no longer call The Slayer) rides across the matte painting landscape in an effort to raise 2,000 bucks for the nuns. I'd suggest a bake sale, but I doubt it would work. The world seems strangely underpopulated, except for fog machines scattered throughout the forests going full blast in every scene. Only the Dark Forest provides any signs of fauna. It really just turns out to be a sound stage covered in cotton spider-web substitute and inhabited by lame puppets, but this does prove to be the suspense climax of the movie. Will the Mind Sword's minty-fresh green glow fail and leave them at the mercy of two rejected puppets from Gremlins? On the way, he also saves a poor helpless woman accused of being a witch, about to be burned at the stake by a raucous mob of two people. Turns out the torch-happy crackers were right, and she really is a witch. It would have been really funny if Hawk had just tossed her right back on the pyre after realizing the truth, but Hawk needs to find a character who knows what the hell is going on, so he lets her live.
To accomplish his quest, the witch explains, Hawk must collect his old adventuring buddies:
- The Giant - a lumpy balding fellow who holds the rare distinction of being the only man alive who has been out-acted by Andre the Giant. He's not so much a "giant," as he's just taller than everyone else in the movie.
- The Dwarf - the comic relief who doesn't eat red meat and whose primary weapon is a bullwhip (huh?).
- The Crusty One-Armed Dude with the Automatic Crossbow - a man should be rich for inventing the machine gun and revolutionizing medieval warfare.
- The Sissy Elf - the character I laughed out loud at when I saw his face. A scrawny dude with little ropey limbs who looks like a video store clerk with an extra pair of Spock ears and 5 o'clock shadow. It seems nobody consulted Tolkien for the whole facial hair issue. Even more annoying is his tendency to speak in a nasal monotone.
Now that the adventuring party is together, the movie can finally get moving. The music kicks it up to a funkalicious allegro that makes me long for the annoying strains of The Alan Parsons Project in Ladyhawk(the Slayer)e. What really pisses me off is the pestering whistling diddy that sounds whenever Hawk appears on camera. Anyway, Voltan's son, Drogo has a bit of an inferiority complex and wants to supplant Voltan as High Lord of Stupid Helmets. Drogo takes a dozen of his finest cannon fodder extras and confronts Hawk at the abbey. Hawk won't hand over the ransom to a brat like Drogo, so the villains attack!
The fight scenes consist of highly irritating rapid edits of people shooting arrows and other people falling down. It's apparent that none of the actors were taught any form of stage fighting, so most of the battles consist of tight close-ups and people jumping around. It's all terribly hard to see because the action is so disjointed and obscured by excessive amounts of fog everywhere. Hawk hardly looks like a fearsome swordsman and survives only because of his reliance on heavy archery support. The editing and video looping are so herky-jerky, it's the closest someone can come to simulated whiplash.
Hawk handily (footily?) kicks Drogo's ass, and the villains retreat back to their camp. Drogo's wounds are grave, and he dies shortly after arriving. Voltan screams "Drogoooooo!" so goofily, it's actually worth watching this movie to hear it. It's probably the funniest scene in the movie. I wonder who Voltan's wife was, and how they met. What did she find attractive? His spindly arms? His hissing creepy voice? His frequent temper tantrums? I personally think it was the hideous second-degree burn on his face that lured her. Anyway, Voltan swears revenge on Hawk AGAIN and sends his army out to crush him once and for all.
Long story short, the Devil's Army is righteously crushed by 4 semi-competent warriors, an elf that makes Newmoon from The Gamers look like Legolas in comparison, and a video editor with attention deficit disorder. The witch is also there to help by firing a storm of magic fireballs (more like ping-pong balls) and immobilizing guards with her magic can of silly string. Curly-- I mean, Jack Palance-- fights about as well as Zell Miller in a swimming pool. John Terry musters all his emotional range for his climactic battle with his dreaded enemy and renders his face into an ominous mask of mild smugness (as usual). Jack is defeated about as quickly as St. Louis at the World Series, and manages to put in a less-inspired acting performance since his role in Cops & Robbersons. The dwarf got killed, the elf lost one of his Spock ears and returns to his stalking of Jane Mulgrew through a high-powered telescope, and the giant travels with Hawk since the football season is over and there's no reason to stay home with the wife.
Probably the scariest moment of the movie occurs when Voltan's evil mistress raises him from the dead, clearly setting up a Hawk sequel. Good gravy, what dementia did the writer and director possess that made them insert THAT little setup? "I can see it now, Bruce, Hawk comic books. Hawk action figures. Hawk the Slayer Underroos. Hawk the Slayer letter openers! Hawk the Slayer 2! They'll be begging for it! Call Jack's agent!"