Berserker - Berserker( Blu Ray & DVD) [Vinegar Syndrome - 2019]From the tail end of the golden age of the slasher, Berserker is a rural-based example of the genre- with an often quite effectively eerier fog bound setting, brutally if not very inventive killers, and a neat Norse folklore twist. From Vinegar Syndrome here’s a duel Blu Ray & DVD release of the film- featuring the companies trademark great scan, and a good enough selection of extras including a commentary track from half the slasher loving podcast The Hysteria Continues.
Released in 1987 Berserker( aka Berserker: The Nordic Curse) was directed & written by sixties folk/ Blues singer turned filmmaker Jefferson Richards( as Jef Richards). This was the third & last feature to date he’s helmed, though nowadays he's more involved with filmmaking as a producer. He directed Berserker in a fairly competent enough manner- going from the bright & buoyant start, onto the more gloomy & fog-shrouded main of the film- the story, and characters are fairly predictable & clichéd slasher wise, though he does weave in some fairly original folklore elements- so you are not sure if the killings are been carried out by a Bear, or a Berseker- a Viking warrior that dons the skin of a bear to become superhuman strong & half beast.
The plot finds a group of three couples heading off into the countryside to camp- they settle on going to a coastal valley where 100 of years ago the Vikings landed. Running the campsite is the Lincoln beared, beret-wearing & chess playing Pappy Nyquist- played by B movie legend George 'Buck' Flower, in one of his more memorable & larger roles. Lead the group of couples is the arrogant & cocky Josh(Greg Dawson) who decides to go against Pappy’s instructions & camp in a different area- but as the night & the fog rolls in something is stalking the wooded valley.
The kills come fairly regularly- but are a little samey as each is mauled/ battered around, by what may be either a bear or a Berserker- they are fairly bloody & brutal with claw rips & neck snaps. The great & key moments here are down to the extreme moody & gothic-like stalking scenes in the Fogbound woods, with a neat brooding & tense soundtrack that brings together buzzing ambeince, bass darts, and wind/ horn sounds. Aside from Flower and Dawson, as the obnoxious Josh, the young cast is fairly forgettable/ indistinct, though one must mention John F. Goff as the middle-aged surly-to-sinister local sheriff. On the whole, Berserker is a fairly run of the mill example of later day slasher with a neat moody & misty setting- not top, or second tier, but somewhat down from that- if you’re a fan of the genre or a fan of Mr. Flowers it’s certainly worth checking out.
Moving onto this new duel release- and as usual, VS have done a splendid job on the new print, I had a budget DVD release of this film, and that was so murky & dark- this new print is crystal clear, defined, and balanced so you can clearly make out everything. Moving onto the extras & first off we get a commentary track from one half of the slasher loving podcast The Hysteria Continues- and this comes from Justin Kerswell & Joseph Henson- the pair offer up an enjoyable & highly informative track, they start off by discussing how/ when they both saw the film. Before going onto talk about each of the films actors, the locations, and the director. They later go onto talk about similar films from the time & those set in Utah, what the slasher genre was like at this point in history, as well as reading old newspaper reviews about the film. All told a great track which I could easily see myself playing a few times through. Next we get a good selection of stand-alone/ on film interviews- first and the longest is with the director Jefferson Richards, this runs around twenty-five minutes mark- it starts off with him discussing how he got in to film, before going onto talk in detail about the film, it’s production, and actor choice- so this is most interesting. Next we get two around ten minutes interview with two of the actors in the film- Joseph Alan Johnson & Joseph Alan Johnson, and lastly, we get an audio-only interview with Mike Riley- who played the Berserker.
With the release of Berserker is great to see VS growing the slasher side of their catalog- and while there’s nothing too original or distinct here, save for the Norse legend stuff, the films an enjoyable stalk and slash romp- that I’m sure fans of the genre will most certainly want to add to their collection.Roger Batty