Horror and fantasy fans may not believe it, but one of the most adapted genre stories is actually a poem! And not just any old poem – though old it is – but the 1000 year old Beowulf, written by an unknown author.
The Beowulf poem, which is somewhat of a pre-medieval novel, has been adapted to, or influenced at least nine movies, of which Robert Zemeckis’ Beowulf (2007) is perhaps the best known version. Sci-Fi Channel’s Grendel, named after one of two monsters in the film, is a “mockbuster” from the same year, akin to Asylum’s “so similar they can be confused with major movies” projects.
The story is familiar to many viewers; a monster is terrorizing King Hrothgar’s kingdom, and when the hero Beowulf arrives, he takes the job of killing the monster, as well as its mother. Armed with a quadruple crossbow that fires explosive arrows, and some of his hero buddies, Beowulf sets traps and treks into the forest to kill the beasts.
While not a faithful adaption of the poem – and who cares, why should it be? – this is a quite entertaining movie, and when there’s no violent action in battles with the two monsters / dragons, the pre-medieval Viking milieu goes a long way to keep interest up. Costumes, weapons, sets, landscapes and photography makes you completely forget that it’s a cheap movie, and you actually have to look hard to realize the budget is not 10 times bigger. It’s not a glossy or technologically advanced movie, and it is very limited in scope, but money has been stretched to the limit and everything looks as you expect it to look. Only when the CGI monsters enter the screen do you sneer, as they really look bad. Sci-Fi Channel bad!
Given low pretensions, the low budget (1.4 million dollars, apparently), the entertaining look of everything, and how all the funny anachronisms make you laugh (this movie may set the world record for the highest number of historically unaccurate items), Grendel comes out as one of the better Sci-Fi Channel original movies, especially if you are into B-movie Viking fantasies (horned helmets included).
Rated 7 of 10.
Directed by Nick Lyon.