Thursday, January 15, 2015

Hawk the Slayer

Score Technician: T. J. Geise

It goes without saying that the 1980s are very well known for their fantasy films. Some, such as Labyrinth, Legend, and Neverending Story are classics that to this day are highly revered. Others, such as Erik the Viking, Krull, and The Barbarians are cult classics of the lowest order.

But what of the original '80s swords-and-sorcery romp? Before Willow, Conan the Barbarian, and Clash of the Titans came Hawk the Slayer. While certainly not the first movie to feature an intrepid hero battling wickedness in a medieval fantasy land, Hawk the Slayer's release in 1980 surely contributed to the domino effect of long-haired dudes hacking and slashing their way through pop culture.

Starring John “Dr. Christian Shepherd” Terry as Hawk, Jack “Curly Washburn” Palance as his evil brother Voltan, and Patricia “Magenta” Quinn as the blind sorceress (whom the writers didn't bother to name), Hawk the Slayer is a plucky and unintentionally hilarious tale of revenge set in a land where giants and dwarves differ in height only slightly and elves talk like socially awkward robots. If this sounds like a good time to you, then let the nanobots guide you through the ridiculous D&D LARP campaign that is Hawk the Slayer.
  • If you couldn't tell that Voltan was the villain by the pitch blackness of his face-shrouding helmet, he shatters all doubts by stabbing his own father. = +3pts 
  • The actor playing Hawk and Voltan's father is only three years older than Jack Palance (who is, in turn, 31 years older than John Terry). So much for suspending your disbelief! = -6pts 
  • Having both solid gold walls and a purple hot tub in your... living room, we guess? = +4pts 
  • Hawk's weapon of choice, the Mind Sword, has a fist gripping a rock on the pommel. Nothing strikes fear into the heart of evildoers like depicting an action that even a toddler can do! = -5pts 
  • Unable to save his father from the dark machinations of his vile brother, Hawk demands his sibling's blood. He articulates this by shouting, “Voltan... you will die!” = +5pts 
  • Starting the credits with a cartoon hawk flying into the screen as disco music blasts your booty onto the dance floor. = +7pts 
  • A one-armed beardo with a crossbow (played by the bad guy from the Elvira movie) is saved by a nun (played by One Foot in the Grave's Annette Crosby) whose name isn't Sister Zoot (or Sister Dingo). = -3pts 
  • The nanobots can only describe this scene as, “Shadow Weaver from She-Ra shoots lasers into Voltan's face in a completely non-erotic fashion.” = +4pts 
  • Calling a woman visibly decades younger than you “old.” = -2pts 
  • That moment when the only thing you can do to seem like a badass is to chop bread. = +2pts 
  • Getting your backdrops painted by whoever keeps thrift stores stocked with art. = -5pts 
  • It's like disco music was made specifically to accompany guys riding horseback through a swamp. = -4pts 
  • Hawk saves the blind sorceress by staring for a very long time at the bandits holding her captive. = +3pts 
  • We get it, Voltan – you're the bad guy. Did you really have to strangle your own minion? He probably had a shack full of hungry kids and a yet-sexually frustrated wife. = -3pts 
  • Shooting a crossbow so fast that it looks like the film is just looping over and over. Oh, wait... = -10pts 
  • Hawk and his bearded amputee companion ride through a haunted forest populated by loathsome beasts such as this fear-inducing monstrosity. = -6pts
  • Hawk needs more companions to help him defeat Voltan, so the sorceress whisks him away by casting her Neon Hula-Hoops of Teleportation spell. = -8pts 
  • Gort the 6'7” giant hits guys with a sledgehammer just for the lulz. = +5pts (We like Gort.) 
  • Crow the elf introduces himself as gracefully as a four-year-old on the first day of pre-K. = -7pts 
  • Those foppish bandits fell victim to one of the classic blunders. The most famous of which is, “Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line” – but only slightly less well-known is this: “Never challenge an elf to an archery competition, especially not one with the speech patterns of an autistic robot!” = -6pts 
  • Baldin the 5'6” dwarf is rescued from freaky cultists. He celebrates by bullwhipping a fish out of the river and eating it whole. = +2pts (For being as ridiculous as it is badass.) 
  • To see how the leader of the freaky cultists feels about his role in this film, look no further than his role in A Clockwork Orange. = +4pts
  • Voltan has always been a dick, as evident by his “younger” self shooting Hawk's girlfriend in the back. = -4pts 
  • Guilt-tripping a giant into sharing his chicken dinner. = +2pts 
  • “All food is holy. It comes from God.” This nun must have never eaten a Hot Pocket, because those definitely come from The Devil. = -3pts 
  • Talking with food in your mouth is both gross and rude, even for a slave-trafficking hunchback. = -4pts 
  • Killing said slave-trafficking hunchback by slinging his own mace over a tree-branch and putting the rope in his mouth knowing that he'd immediately scream for help. = +6pts (Jigsaw would be proud.) 
  • Strangling your own son as punishment for being too excited. = +3pts 
  • Not being able to tell if an actor fell off his horse because his character was so scared or because the actor has no clue how to ride a horse. = +5pts 
  • For having a character named Drogo who is as dissimilar from the Khal as possible. = -2pts 
  • After finding out that his son has died, Voltan vents his grief by killing yet another random minion. = +3pts 
  • Crow slowly jumps backward onto a tree branch, winning the director a bet that he wouldn't both slow down and reverse a shot. = -5pts 
  • “Betrayed by Nuns” is the name of your new favorite Estonian symphonic post-grindcore band. = +3pts 
  • The sorceress roles a natural 20, hitting for max damage with her Green Silly String of Binding spell. = +11pts
  • Baldin will be whipping fish sticks into his mouth in heaven now. Good night, sweet, slightly-shorter-than-the-protagonist prince. = -4pts 
  • Nothing grants you the element of surprise quite like an explosion of fluorescent ping-pong balls and glitter clouds. = +15pts 
  • Good to see that covering up bad fight choreography with slow-motion isn't a modern filming convention. = -7pts 
  • Correction: the fight between Hawk and Voltan isn't in slow-motion; Jack Palance is just really old. = -14pts 
  • Stabbing your dumb evil brother in his dumb evil face. = +8pts 
  • Having your corpse stolen by a ghost is so goddamn metal. = +4pts 
  • Just in case you didn't have enough of disco flute jams, the filmmakers give us another five minutes of it. = +3pts
Total Score = -9pts
Available on: Laserdisc, probably?

We here at The Progressive Cinema Scorecard could sum up Hawk the Slayer by calling it Disco Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Funk, but we're not going the cheap route. To say such would banish an otherwise entertainingly bad film into the realm of obscurity. No, Hawk the Slayer deserves better. Despite the piss-poor production values, lopsided story pacing, and at-times agonizing acting, this movie has a passion for adventure that most modern fantasy epics sorely lack. While we wouldn't recommend viewing this progenitor of '80s fantasy without a scorecard, we would recommend viewing it. That says something at least, right?

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