BERSERKER - 1 sheet
(1987, US)
2 and a half stars 
directed by: Jefferson Richard (as Jef Richard)
starring: George 'Buck' Flower, John F. Goff, Joseph Alan Johnson, Greg Dawson, Valerie Sheldon, Shannon Engemann, Beth Toussaint, Rodney Montague, Oscar Rowland, Beverly Rowland, Mike Riley

choice dialogue:

“I'm hot. Tired. I want a campsite. Right now!”

- Brats go camping

slash with panache?
[review by JA Kerswell]

Bears vs. twinks - the movie! Actually, this isn't a gay porn slasher - although the beer Bukkake scene comes close. More on that later.

  IIn time honoured tradition, teens headed into the wilderness for beer, boobs and a bloody demise in BERSERKER

If you've seen one late '80s slasher movie you've pretty much already seen BERSERKER. Still, as fans of the subgenre know only too well, part of the fun is in familiarity and repetition. This film may not break any new ground but it does feature bouncing breasts, stalking in the woods by someone in a bear mask and the aforementioned homoerotic beer spraying scene. Plus it has Buck Flower sporting a Norwegian accent and a folk singer's beard. It also has a six pack turn into a beer belly in a slow fade. What's not to love?

The Norwegian angle is explained because a remote campground is located in a valley that was originally (and allegedly) settled by Vikings, who may or may not have brought with them the curse of a Berserker. The legend of this much feared warrior - who wore the snout of a vanquished bear and ate his victims in a cannibalistic frenzy - says that the curse is passed through bloodlines. Seeing as the only two people who seemingly live in the valley are campground owner Old Pappy (Buck Flower) and his cousin, the grizzly looking Sheriff (John F. Goff), the odds are pretty even as to who shits in the woods.

And cue teenagers. Like clockwork, a bunch of over-sexed, under-brained campers arrive in a blizzard of bleached denim and frizz perms. Their leader, Josh (Greg Dawson), is quickly established as the asshole of the bunch; who guzzles beer and smokes reefer before having a minor run in with the Sheriff. Josh responds to his ticking off with a roll of his eyes and a flick of his fringe (well, it would have flicked if it hadn't been set solid by enough Hard Rock hairspray to take down Mothra). Arriving at the campground Josh has another minor run in, this time with Old Pappy, after the old man jokingly feigns not to know him (he went there every summer as a kid). Despite being directed to a different spot, Josh insists that they go to his old stomping ground. It is supposedly already being used by an elderly couple - but they have mysteriously disappeared ...

  IWhat could possibly be suspicious about a campground owner from Norway with a folk singer's beard in a movie called BERSERKER?

Conveniently - for plot purposes at least - another of the group, Larry (Rodney Montague) is also a history buff and has brought along a book on Vikings (as you do). Around the inevitable campfire scene, Larry regals the rest of the group more tales of the Berserker. Meanwhile, someone with furry fingers is pulling down a nearby branch to get a look at the slack jawed teenagers. And, as they'll soon find out, the mutilated bodies of Homer and Edna - the unlucky silver campers - lie nestled in the undergrowth. Not all of them will live to daybreak ...

BERSERKER's central mystery - if you call it that - is who is doing the killing? Is it really just a random bear (who we see amiably sauntering around in cut away shots liberally sprinkled throughout) or is a fat, hairy man in a bear mask lumbering after teenage boys (and girls). Or Even a werebear? And, you have to ask yourself can you really ever trust someone with a folk singer's beard?

The film keeps up this, er, intrigue until the last few scenes. Whilst the murders are mostly on screen throughout they are hardly explicit. Mostly they run to what looks like strawberry jam being smeared into someone's face with a giant brown mitten. Not really that scary. But here's the rub. BERSERKER - for all its faults - is actually quite effective in some scenes. Despite the phoney looking mist from the we've-hired-a-fog-machine-so-let's-get-our-money's-worth some of the night shots are nicely done. The disorientating feeling of being lost in the dark, dark woods is aided by a discordant and abstract score that almost veers into the eerie. The '80s heavy rock used throughout the rest of the film, however, is nothing short of aural torture.

The film does veer into almost high camp as the group descends into hysterics. The moment when one of the boys finds a dead body and emits a scream so ear-piercingly girly that it could shatter a champagne flute a hundred miles away is priceless. That his girlfriend takes the overacting to another, previously unknown, level is the cherry on the cake. And, of course, there's that shirtless beer spraying over glistening torsos, which is followed by a manly wrestle. #millerlitebukkake

  He's a bit bitey

However, BERSERKER throws a curveball rarely seen in teen slashers and that's a genuine character arc. A couple of the stereotypes at the beginning of the movie become different stereotypes at the end of it. I guess that's progress. Also, the cast - when not over emoting (actually, when they are over emoting, too) - seem to commit themselves more fully to their roles than some of their contemporaries.

Flower and Goff are seasoned genre pros and their dialogue and scenes together are effortless fun. Flower's credits run the gamut from '70s smut, to ILSA movies to proto-slashers and beyond. The next year he put in small, but memorable, turns in CHEERLEADER CAMP and PUMPKINHEAD. Goff co-starred with Flower in many exploitation and horror gems from the '70s and '80s - not least of all John Carpenter's THE FOG (1980). Of the teenagers, Joseph Alan Johnson had already appeared in THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE (1982) and went onto ICED (1988), which he also wrote the screenplay for. Rodney Montague also appeared in ICED before going onto a highly successful career in visual effects. Beth Toussaint appeared in the genre piece DEAD HEAT the next year and went onto SCREAM 3 (2000). Oscar Rowland - who played the elderly camper in the beginning - was in SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (1984). His real wife Beverly played his spouse in this. She had a brief role in HALLOWEEN 4 (1988).

Director Jefferson Richard is another interesting character. He started his career in the 1960s as a folk singer (perhaps the beard was an in joke?!). More prolific as a producer he went onto MANIAC COP (1988), as well as WRONG TURN (2003) and I'LL ALWAYS KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER (2006).

BERSERKER was shot in Utah around July of 1986. According to Variety the budget was somewhere between $2.5-5 million. The film appears to have gotten a brief theatrical release; with its distinctive painted artwork some of the best of the period.


BODYCOUNT 5  bodycount!   female:3 / male:2

       1) Male mauled to death
       2) Female mauled to death
       3) Female mauled to death
       4) Female mauled to death

       5) Male shot in the chest