I had good fantasy movie ju-ju with Scorpion King IV, so I decided to press my luck with this one. Curse of the Dragon Slayer turns out to be a self-serious action-fantasy that seems inspired by some dude’s Dungeon and Dragons campaign. Shall we venture forth to check it out?
Curse of the Dragon Slayer (2013)
I had to do a tiny bit of research to find out anything about this movie. IMDb has no movie listed with the title Curse of the Dragon Slayer. According to them it’s called SAGA: Curse of the Shadow. So this movie has two totally generic, forgettable titles. Director John Lyde has written/directed/edited and produced about 30 low-budget features and shorts, so I give him a ton of credit for getting this movie made and shown on Netflix. But I won’t give any credit for mediocre plotting and dozens of repetitive orc fights.
The movie starts with a bog-standard fantasy movie world narration. The backstory can be boiled down to, “You’ve seen Lord of the Rings, right? It’s like that, but with fewer castle sets.” The movie opens with an orc riding a dragon. Cool. I like dragons in movies. Then to dispel any wonder and excitement for dragons, a mysterious warrior shoots the dragon out of the sky with a crossbow. In this world, dragons are annoyances and money-sucking special effects that must be avoided at all costs. But since there is the word “Dragon” featured in the title, it’s probably worth the 100 bucks of graphics compositing to include one.
So the warrior takes off her mask to reveal she’s a blonde elf with silly, long, rubber ears.
Despite falling hundreds of feet off of a plummeting dragon, the orc is unharmed, and they have a sword and kung fu fight. This movie has a lot of Xena:Warrior Princess style fighting where there’s a lot more kicking and punching than using weapons. I would suggest it’s more effective to shove a three foot long blade into a dude’s neck then punching him in the face, but what do I know? I’m not based on someone’s super rad D&D character.
After the elf decapitates the orc Mortal Kombat style, with a splatter of CGI blood onto the camera lens, his dark essence flows into her. Or something. She will be suffering from this affliction for half the movie, making grunts and groans as she resists the awesome power of the dark smudge on her wrist. She also uses the cursed rune like a freemason hand sign to try to infiltrate orc gatherings. She does this at several points. It’s like the orcs were saying, “Hey, clearly non-orc sexy chick, since you know our secret password we can let you into our dark orc cabal. We have coffee and maple oat scones.”
Then we meet our bland hero who is named Keltus the Wanderer, but I will call him McStudly. McStudly is mountain climbing in full armor and gauntlets. So at least the movie is realistic.
McStudly finds a rubber-faced Gnome Tinkerer who fires a gun at him. Then they sword fight. You can almost see the 20-sided dice rolling when they were writing this script.
After losing, the gnome whips out a bomb and says, “Now you die,” and throws it at McStudly. McStudly casually tosses the bomb back to the gnome who can only stupidly look at it and utter the two word line everybody utters in bad movies right before they blow up. The first word is “Oh.”
So the cave explodes, but despite standing within bomb-chucking distance of the gnome, McStudly is completely unharmed. That must’ve been a terrible bomb because later even the gnome has survived.
Then comes a horrible scene where an orc warlord with an axe is betrayed by other orcs and there is a clumsy orc insurrection, and all dialogue is spoken in a goofy orc language with subtitles. I am getting a serious whiff of nerd juice coming from this film. And I am pretty sure the filmmakers got the orc armor, weapons, and make-up from Peter Jackson’s garage sale, because damn if that isn’t copyright infringement territory.
McStudly has a scene in a dry lake bed where he talks to a sorceress and we learn the theme of the movie is that McStudly has to believe in himself because he’s the vessel for some sort of holy magic. Honestly, I don’t remember him doing a single good or noble thing in the entire movie to justify this power.
The story carries on with lots of fantasy events but little in the way of drama or tension. There are many, many more orc fights, a tussle with a rubber river monster, and a demon fight that in no way reminds you of the Balrog battle in Lord of the Rings. This is the kind of movie with character named Nemyt Akaia, Kullimon the Black, Fangtor Bloodmoon, and Mulva the Mermaid. Seriously, there’s a character in this movie named Mulva the Mermaid.
A lot has been done with an obviously low budget, so again I give the filmmakers credit for getting this made. There is a ton of latex monster make-up, a trove of armor and weapons, some camera trickery to make the Utah landscape look more fantasy-like, and there’s a fair number of so-so CGI monsters. But I cannot support a movie this dumb and generic. Nemyt the Elf is captured and needs to be rescued several times, even though she’s proven herself to be a bad-ass fighter. Because she’s a girl in a fantasy story, and girls always need to be rescued several times, I guess. Kullimon the orc encounters the mermaids who try to lure him to his doom. “I don’t play with fish,” he quips. Instead of using a clever strategy to defeat the mermaids he merely stabs poor Mulva with his knife and they all swim away. McStudly, or should I say Keltus, has a terrible swordfight with a Dark Lord of the Sith wannabe. Keltus loses and the Dark Lord reminds him, “You don’t have enough faith,” and then the Dark Lord walks away without killing him. Why does he let him live? Because the movie would only be an hour long. And we wouldn’t have met Mulva The Mermaid.
Would it surprise you if I said the movie ended with a 15 minute orc fight on a random hillside somewhere outside of Salt Lake City-zania? You know what would’ve been more creative, daring, and made this a more awesome movie? If they let McStudly die and a female elf, an orc, and a gnome tinkerer have to defeat the evil demon at the end. I’d happily watch that movie.
BOTTOM LINE: I haven’t seen too many movies that whole-heartedly embrace the nerdiness of a Dungeons and Dragons style hack and slash adventure like this one does. I guess there is a niche audience made up of people who like brutal violence and kung fu but don’t want an interesting story, good dialogue, or excitement in their fantasy adventures. If you enjoy movies with dialogue like, “Kullimon, so we meet again… For the last time,” then you will probably love this one.