Six friends travel to Rainbow Valley for a week of camping. Turns out Rainbow Valley was settled by Vikings and one of their savage descendants still roams the woods looking for fresh flesh to rend and gnaw. Besides running from a slasher in a bear mask the teens also have to stay one step ahead of a hungry grizzly that’s also looking for a little action.
Berserker feels closer in spirit to the slashers made after 2000 rather than slashers from the good old days of the 1980s. A director (Jef Richard) got together with some friends (actors Buck Flower and John Goff) to make a slasher in their back yard (in this case it’s a ranch in Utah.) A group of young actors (including Joseph Alan Johnson from Slumber Party Massacre and Iced) spend most of the film wandering through the woods reciting endless dialogue before the killer (Mike Riley) shows up an hour into the film’s running time. Any atmosphere and suspense generated early on (nice fog machine there, buddy) goes stale when the viewer realizes the only thing lurking in the woods is more smoke.
Despite the rather generic trappings, Berserker does feature a few unintentional laughs to help the viewer stay awake. While a geezer is getting mauled during the first kill his wife takes a bloody money shot right to the eye. The shock registering on Granny’s face is priceless. Buck Flower, using his best Norwegian accent, warns the campers that there are “vile” animals in the “voods.” Later, during an exchange with John Goff, Flower tries to tell Goff that one of the kids is named Winter, not Vinter. “Vinter! Vinter! Read my lips. It’s Vinter not Vinter”. Okay, maybe you had to be there for that one to be funny. By far the biggest laughs occur during the climactic battle between the Berserker and a giant grizzly (Bart the bear who later acted with Sir Anthony Hopkins). At first, the crazed slasher takes the bear down and uses some UFC ground-and-pound. Later, after the grizzly takes control of the fight, the bear appears to be humping the Berserker doggie style. The Berserker spends the rest of the film hiding in a bush and babbling incoherently after his bear encounter.
Jef Richard, who also wrote the script, changes some of the elements in the slasher formula and gets mixed results with his experimentation. If you’ve ever wanted to know why there is a Final Girl and not a Final Guy in slashers, then watch Berserker and everything will become clear. Three guys stumbling over each other in the woods, twisting ankles, and crying for mommy just ain’t as fun to watch. The Final Girl in Berserker is never in any danger from the killer because she hides in a secure location and waits for the cops to arrive. Even more infuriating is that the most obnoxious guys in the film are either a) never attacked or b) mauled but manage to survive despite having their throat ripped out.
Sometimes even the worst slashers can have some unintentional laughs or goofs that can make up for some of the dull bits. Berserker is that type of slasher. While short on action, suspense, and coherent storylines, Berserker has enough oddball moments to warrant at least one viewing. Buck Flower fans will be surprised to see him play something other than a silly drunk or backwoods hick. Flower’s performance as the camp owner is more serious than his other work in similar late-entry slashers. Why Flowers dresses like an old sea captain is never explained, though. John Goff and Flower also worked together on Drive-in Massacre and The Fog. Richard, who directed second unit for Maniac Cop, went on to produce two modern slashers, Urban Legends: Bloody Mary and I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer.