The Direct to Video Connoisseur
I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.
Tuesday, August 6, 2013
Dream Warrior (2003)
I found this on Netflix Instant when I was looking for more Richard Norton. It turned out it had been buried in my Instant queue for a while, but with over 400 movies in there, it's not inconceivable that something would be lost in the shuffle. I know, that's way too many, but what can I do, I run a review site, I'm always looking for more material, and throwing something in the Instant queue seems like the right thing to do at the time, but at this point, with so much out there and me only doing three movies a week, most of those will probably never been seen or reviewed. But we're doing this one, so let's see how it went.
Dream Warrior takes place in the post-apocalypse after an asteroid hit the earth. A small community is run by a dictator, Lance Henriksen, who is very religious, very cult-like, and has his group of people to vilify: the Freaks, or mutants who looks like regular people, but have special powers. Dar from Beastmaster is one of them, and Henriksen wants to hunt him down. While escaping, he runs into an enclave of fellow Freaks, including Sherilyn Fenn, who has the ability to heal people. Dar wants to take Henriksen down, and a prophecy has foretold that he will do that through Henriksen's newborn son, who also has special powers. Will good prevail?
I don't know what to say about this one. First and foremost, the cover has nothing to do with the film. No badass knight, no spiked bat, no broken Statue of Liberty. There are aspects of the movie that are fun, like the construct of Henriksen's dictatorship, and the people with special powers fighting him; and there are a lot of fun performances, from Dar, Sherilyn Fenn, Richard Norton, Henriksen, and Isaac Hayes-- who is listed as a "special appearance", but is in it with a solid supporting role as a stoic mutant master in a cloak. The big problem for me though, and what is often the problem with these films, is the inconsistencies/Plot Convenience Theater. Dar is telepathic, but he can't sense that one of Henriksen's men is spying on him. What? Another guy has the ability to touch the ground and figure out where he is and where other people are nearby, yet he too can't sense that the guy is following them until, again, it's convenient to the plot, then we find out he has that ability to know if someone is nearby. Then, we have a third guy, who has the ability to see the future, and he can't sense that this guy is spying on them. The other issue, which might be more egregious, is the shaky cam syndrome during the action scenes. I think that was a budgetary issue, because this was obviously made on a shoestring budget, and probably most of the money was spent on the cast, but still, it's hard to watch at times. I don't know, it's not the worst thing ever, but it's not the best.
Richard Norton was our one Hall of Famer, and he was pretty sweet as Henriksen's main hatchet man. He plays a great baddie, but he plays a better good guy, meaning I need to dig into his 80s and 90s D-grade stuff that's only available on import VHS to see some of that great stuff where he's the lead. Also, in this film, he was the second unit director, and the stunt coordinator, both jobs he also did for writer/director Zachary Weintraub in another film, Amazons and Gladiators, that came out in 2011. We don't get a lot of Norton martial arts here, but in the fight scenes we do get his expertise, which is almost as good. Unfortunately, we have that shaky cam thing so we don't see them as well.
Sherilyn Fenn was very interesting here. The character was great, and she was great playing it, but it was like, man, this is a really low budget film, why is she here? I know I say this when she was in the Asylum flick Bigfoot with Danny Bonaduce and Barry Williams, but still, for some reason here she was a different actress among everyone else. Like seeing her act opposite Dar, it was hard to swallow. The thing was too, her character was really strong, yet the writing betrayed her and made her play second fiddle to both Dar, and the guy who could touch the ground and know where he is (played by Matthew Porretta of both The New Adventures of Robin Hood and Beverly Hills 90210 fame). It was weird, she should've been the leader, and Dar the outsider who needed to work through her to get everyone's help; and while it started like that, that aspect fell off for some reason, and made Fenn's presence that much weirder.
We love Henriksen here, and he was great as the baddie. He always plays a great baddie. It's like he taps into that smug, Conservative, money-grubbing politician ethos, and puts it into the bad guy he's playing. Like, all you have to do is replace "I want him dead" with "I want transvaginal ultrasounds in this bill", and he's Rick Perry or Scott Walker. Of course, we know Henriksen is acting, which makes us love him while we loathe him. The other big name in this was Isaac Hayes, and he was some kind of mystic or guru, an older mutant with all kinds of powers who was helping Dar fulfill the prophecy. Again, I have no idea why he was listed as a "special appearance", because he was in it enough to be a co-star. The opening credits to these movies can be all over the place sometimes. Then of course there's the star, Daniel Goddard, aka Dar of The Beastmaster. He's very Dar-ish here too, though much more fully clothed. As someone who's telepathic, it seemed like his telepathy came and went. He couldn't talk to animals though, so that was a disappointment. In fact, I don't remember there being any animals in this. Goddard was the guy who needed a few consecutive syndicated TV shows to cement his status as a lead before he jumped into DTV flicks, but, sadly, that world of syndicated TV shows disappeared before he had his chance. Now, according to imdb, he's on The Young and the Restless.
Finally, this woman above played the queen of The Orphanage, a gang or unruly kids in cool make-up that Dar finds himself the prisoner of before Isaac Hayes helps him out. It's only a short scene, which was disappointing, because this is the kind of thing we come to a movie like this for, and it was barely in the film as little more than an afterthought. Maybe the issue was that there weren't any of the big names in the gang, so they couldn't have as much screen time. It felt underwritten though, which maybe is a metaphor for the film, because it had the most character.
While this is on Instant, it's not the worst thing ever, but it's not the best either. I'd say it's more a 3AM rabbit hole movie than one to pick specifically from all the titles on Instant, but also, if you like anyone in the cast, it's fun to see them in this. Sometimes, with movies like this, that's all you need. (Oh yeah, and this has nothing to do with the Dokken song or the Nightmare on Elm Street film, but it did sufficiently get the song in my head!)
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0322651/