Tuesday, October 25, 2011

BERZERKER (1987) - camping with beer and friends and a Viking bear is pretty metal, but it is also a bit on the dangerous side

You are a loser
and it’s such a shame that you’re a fool
and you don’t know that I am a Viking
-Yngwie Malmsteen, “I am a Viking”

I heard Yngwie Malmsteen is an asshole. Well, that's the word on the streets anyway (and by "streets", I probably mean the pages of Kerrang magazine). I haven't met the man personally, but there must be something to it if everyone who seems to have met Yngwie agrees that he is a dick. Ask Eddie Trunk, who'll probably say something like "I had Yngwie as a guest on my radio show, and his manager told me ten minutes before we were to go on the air that if I was to ask him about anything that didn't have to do with his new album, he was going to immediately get up and leave". Or, you could ask Steve Vai, who might say something to the effect of "I co-headlined a show with Yngwie, and no one was allowed to touch his guitars, or even point at them, and he had to have a minimum of six Swedish meatballs in his dressing room at all times, even when he was on stage". Well, you get the idea.

Myself, I never had a beef with the man until I heard his music. I don't know about you, but if someone rapes me in my earhole, I'm not exactly gonna consider them a "friend". Having said that, Yngwie is kind of interesting to me as an "idea", and looking at the cover of Yngwie's trilogy album and pondering his occasionally Viking themed lyrics, I can't help but view Yngwie as a symbol of religious struggle.

While Christianity is currently the official religion of the western hemisphere, the distant ghosts of vanquished foes lie dormant, biding their time to seek revenge. The Vikings are one such group, and their explosive fury is best illustrated by the cover of Yngwie’s Trilogy LP. Our resident squealy bar magician summons a fireball through his Stratocaster and into the no doubt flummoxed face (faces?) of a hydra. This clearly represents the oppressive regime of Christianity and its inflexible “hey asshole, here’s a bible” policy. I realize that the Hydra is a Greek mythological creature, but you can’t shoot a fireball at the pope and except Wal-Mart to carry your album.

In Berserker, this rage comes rushing forth in the form of a campground visit from a Viking were-bear/man/regular bear curse-based assault, designed to wipe out the most recent remnants of Christian society: modern (circa 1987), horny, and drunk 30-year-old teenagers. We know these kids are all modern and stuff because of their music; cutting edge AOR slop peppered with electro vocals and laser breakdowns. However, the group nerd, not yet swept away by technology, has the temerity to bring a book on a camping trip. This prompts derisive insults from his peers, because, let’s face it, reading is gay. We are also provided with the astute information that the campground was originally inhabited by Vikings, which may or may not be important.

Speeding down the highway and throwing empty beer cans out of the window tends to raise the ire of local authorities, but, quite cunningly, the teens get out of their bacon pickle by admitting to a lesser charge of littering. As they finally enter the campsite, they subsequently stumble upon a mysterious Norwegian asshole (well, not that mysterious; he’s an asshole from Norway) known as Pappy the caretaker (played by the esteemed George “Buck” Flower). He warns them about the evils of littering and the prevalence of hungry wild animals, which may or may not further the plot. There’s some more “modern” sub-Van Hagar, sub-Montrose Van suckage in the form of a song called “Cool Dude”, which plays over a montage of these city slicker poseurs riding an ATV and frolicking in the river. This builds to a “guys spilling beer on each other’s bare chests” crescendo, which is what real men do when they get away from all of the hubbub and reading of the big city. However, our resident "thinker" still hasn’t allowed the proper amount of manliness to rub off on him, and decides to read from his little book about Viking legends over a spooky campfire.

Included is a mention of the “Berserker", a Viking were-bear spirit, which is a Viking that turns into a bear, who then turns into a ghost, which then possesses a Viking descendant, who then promptly turns into either a bear or a just feisty dude in a fur loincloth; certainly the most ferocious pile of vagueness anyone could ever hope to bump into on a campground. This threat probably proves too confusing to bother heeding, so they continue to party and litter, doing their part to help kick this “story” into high gear.

Our sole line of defense from this most confusing of obstacles consists of old Pappy and some police officer, who endlessly babble over a game of chess. This proves an interesting mirror image twist on the scene from Bergman’s The Seventh Seal, in which the Christian Antonius Block staves off Death and his obnoxious black plague with a merry game of chess. This allows him to stay upright and keep his ass bubonic free in his quest of defeating heathen types (like the Vikings), spreading the word of God and the bible and shit.

In the case of Berserker, a Viking descendant, in an era of widespread Catholic meddling, plays a game of chess with the local bacon enforcement in order to keep his skillet greaser ass occupied while the animalistic, were-bear spirit of heathenism roams free to bear claw teenie noggins (thereby exacting sweet, furry revenge). The central theme is laid abundantly clear; one culture’s holy counter- attack is another’s terrorist intervention. This dynamic has continued back and forth throughout human history, sort of a socially destructive see-saw for masses of religious nutballs.


The nitty gritty of this tale involves various characters wandering around in the woods, partaking in energizing walks and/or refreshing nookie, and periodically getting paw slashed by the “monster”. This builds to a “holy shit” twist ending crescendo, where it ‘tis revealed that the bear is really a real ass bear (and therefore a red herring that conveniently sauntered near every murder scene to mislead the public) and the real killer is a dude merely dressed in Viking bear paraphernalia (like assless chaps constructed from grizzled fur, sort of like the stuff Manowar likes to wear on their album covers). Of course, the killer may in fact be the real bear, but I don’t think so considering the evidence…wait a second, they could have been in cahoots. Fuck. The next morning, one of the survivors finally tracks down the chess playing cop, and bacon boy lays a shotgun blast into the Viking without so much as a feigned attempt at due process. As it turns out, the were-bear-Viking-ghost-guy-whatever-in-a-suit-killer was indeed Pappy under a rather heavy Nordic-curse-bear-ghost-conversion influence. I guess that makes sense.

video courtesy of Judavo

During the end credits, the audience is finally treated to a decent attempt at rock music, the thankfully non-Hagar and damn near metal-esque “Prisoner of Rock n’ Roll”, sending the audience away on a thematic high note filled with hope. Let us finally break this vicious cycle of religion and construct a new way of life built on Marshall stacks, drum solos from hell, the headbutting of strangers, and, most importantly, the ribald destruction of all things sanctimonious. Vikings are invited of course (they're pretty damn metal after all), as long as they promise to not let Yngwie Malmsteen play classical scales at 400 beats-per-minute. Also, no horned helmets in the mosh pit. There have been complaints. Thanks.

P.S. I think this is post#7 in my Halloween countdown, which would mean there are 4 more to go...possibly.

1 comment:

  1. Even after reading your review, I feel like I could watch this and still be shocked and surprised and confused by the ending.

    Hollywood is so busy remaking old successful horror films... they really should focus on gems like this.