Blood of Beasts (October 16/05)
With its extraordinarily low-budget production values (think Saturday morning television) and thoroughly straight-forward storyline, it's hard to shake the feeling that Blood of Beasts will play better among less discriminating viewers. The ceaseless silliness within Paul Anthony's screenplay is exacerbated by director David Lister's visually inert sense of style, and though the movie never quite becomes a flat-out bore, there's little here worth getting excited about.
Set in Viking times, the film opens with a flashback that finds warrior Agnar (David Dukas) about to head off into battle - much to the disappointment of his lover, Princess Freya (Jane March). Agnar is thought lost in the ensuing melee, and - three years later - the King (Greg Melvill-Smith) decides to conquer a small island that supposedly holds a mythical beast. The beast - which actually turns out to be Agnar in a bear suit - easily defeats the King and his men, leaving Freya with no choice but to attempt a rescue.
That Blood of Beasts was original titled Beauty and the Beast doesn't come as much of a surprise, as the majority of the film's second half revolves around the tentative relationship between Freya and the beast (despite the fact that Freya inexplicably has no idea that the beast is, in fact, her former beau). Of course, this doesn't sit well with Freya's betrothed, a cowardly, power-hungry warrior named Sven (William Gregory Lee).
The line between good and evil remains explicitly drawn throughout Blood of Beasts, and it seems obvious that the film has been designed to appeal to a fairly young demographic. In terms of the performances, they're pretty much at the same level as the film itself - though March and co-star Justin Whalin do deserve some kudos for attempting to breathe life into their overly-simplistic characters.
Blood of Beasts essentially comes off as a lesser Xena: Warrior Princess or Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, ensuring that fans of this sort of thing will probably find something here worth embracing.