Format: DVD from personal collection (no, really) on laptop.
This is the fifth in a series of twelve films suggested by the guys at YourFace. This is Nolahn’s second pick.
I knew a few things about Deathstalker II going into it. First, I knew that this movie was particularly special to Nolahn. When I first envisioned this monthly project, I was warned that he’d assign this movie to me. As it happens, this was on the top of his list. I also knew this was going to be a really, really bad movie. The guys at Your Face revel in the cinematic sewer, as it were. What I didn’t know was how to find this movie. Ultimately, I bought the damn thing in a Roger Corman four-pack. So now I own Deathstalker II for good or ill.
Roger Corman is a unique case when it comes to movies. For the most part, his movies are shit, and low-budget shit, but he’s made a few good ones here and there. He’s also responsible for starting the careers of directors like Francis Ford Coppola, Jonathan Demme, Martin Scorsese, James Cameron, and Ron Howard. So there was at least a little bit of hope going into this that maybe, just maybe there was something here.
It took me about half an hour to really get what Deathstalker II is doing and trying to do. This is a movie that is made almost specifically for people familiar with the world of pen-and-paper role playing games. If you’ve ever spent a Saturday huddled around a table rolling 20-sided dice, Deathstalker II will be astonishingly familiar. That’s because Deathstalker II is what you’d get if you recorded a day’s game session and filmed the conversation. Not filmed the adventure, mind you, but filmed the actual table conversation of the players minus all of the inevitable Monty Python references.
So what do we have here? Well, we should probably start with Deathstalker (John Terlesky) himself. Deathstalker is blonde, perfectly coiffed at all times, and often walks around without a shirt. He’s sort of a Conan wannabe without the rippling muscles and Austrian accent. In the opening scene, he steals a jewel from Sultana (Toni Naples), who literally barks out the name of the movie for us. It’s worth noting that the scene starts with Deathstalker accompanied by a female companion whom he sends off and whom we never see again.
Flash forward a few minutes and Our Hero rescues Reena the Seer (Monique Gabrielle), who tells him that he needs to undertake a quest, and by so doing, will become a legend. What she doesn’t tell him is that she’s not really a seer and that the quest she wants him to undertake is for her benefit. She’s actually a deposed princess. She’s been kicked out of her own kingdom by Jarek (John Lazar), who has made a duplicate of her. So off we go on the quest to restore Reena (who is actually named Evie) to her throne. The way will be paved with guys in pig masks, Amazon women, zombies, and more than our share of really bad acting.
I feel kind of bad for John Lazar, since he seems like the one person in this film who almost has a little bit of talent. He at least tries to play this kind of straight, but there’s no real reason to. Deathstalker II is a completely self-aware film. This is sword and sandals fantasy without a single attempt to be anything other than modern characters. Like I said, it’s the table conversation of a Saturday D&D group.
In terms of acting, Monique Gabrielle is, well, painful. She was no doubt hired for her appearance, willingness to show her tits and ass, and status as a Penthouse Pet. She sure as hell wasn’t hired for her acting talents, which seem to have come from being coached by a 2”x4” she bought at Lowe’s. That’s pretty much true of just about everybody here. It’s evident that they’re having a good time with this (Terlesky more than anyone else) and know they’re in a bad movie. They just go with it.
In a sense, that’s sort of the issue. Deathstalker II is forced camp, and camp doesn’t work nearly as well when it’s intentional. One of the joys of a truly bad movie is the knowledge that the people making it weren’t intending to make a bad movie. Here, the intent is fully to make a terrible but funny film. It’s not merely self-aware. It’s also aware that it’s bad. And it makes a bunch of bad choices. In a movie that runs about 75 minutes, did we need an 8-minute scene of Deathstalker getting beaten up in a wrestling ring by a giant woman?
So I’m torn. I get the enjoyment here. It’s exactly the same reaction I had with The Room. I understand exactly why this is entertaining, but it’s just so bad.
I have to go with half credit for this. I get why Nolahn wanted me to watch this, and I both hate and love him for it. That’s 4.5 out of 5 so far.
Why to watch Deathstalker II: If you were ever a gamer, you’ll have pleasant memories.
Why not to watch: It’s even shittier than it means to be.