Barbarian Movie Review: Deathstalker

Deathstalker (1983) is a movie I remember seeing every time I went to the video rental store when I was a kid. I loved fantasy, so I always wanted to watch it. Unfortunately, it was rated R, and both Erol’s and Blockbuster scrupulously observed the ratings back then. Now, 30 years after it was released, I finally got to stream it on Netflix .

It was a bit more disappointing than I thought it would be.

The first two lines of Deathstalker are “that’s my horse” (by Rick Hill as the barbarian hero) and “our fight is not with you” (by some disfigured humanoids who wanted to kill some other guy for reasons that are unclear). For the first five minutes, that’s it. Ninety seconds later, a woman is naked with Rick Hill, who did not seem to worry whether or not she wanted her “dress” removed.

The opening scene does a pretty good job of setting expectations, to be honest. The movie’s thin-yet-confusing plot is mostly a vehicle for sweaty muscle men (one in a pig mask) getting all rapey with sweaty women who don’t seem to own (or to be allowed to own) much clothing.

After the opening scene, Rick Hill encounters, in succession, a deposed king hanging out in the woods, a creepy witch who turns a stick into a snake to attack a guy who turns into a crow and flies away, and a talking monkey-demon who has a magic sword that Rick Hill needs in order to get a magic amulet and chalice that the guy who turned into a crow is hoarding. That guy wants Rick Hill’s magic sword, so he holds a big tournament to lure him to his palace, which used to belong to the deposed king. The three magic items will make whoever possesses them super-powerful, of course.

Lots of weird stuff happens without much explanation, and even the actors don’t seem to take any of it very seriously. At one point, for example, Rick Hill turns into a boy and leads the monkey demon out of his cave, and then the monkey demon turns into a human (Rick Hill turns back into a man at the same time) who goes with Rick Hill on his adventure and gets a lot of attention from the evil crow man’s harem. Rick Hill’s name in the movie is Deathstalker, although if there is a reason why, I totally missed it. Probably a prophecy from the carnivorous puppet that the evil crow man is keeping in his trunk.

Look, it’s all very confusing. Some B-movie fantasies manage to be entertaining, but Deathstalker is just bad. The plot is weak, and often random. Some of the actors try to take the movie seriously and fail, but many — starting with the protagonist — don’t even try. Plus, there are the cheesy-looking puppets, gratuitous boobs, and rapey barbarians. If I had managed to get Deathstalker out of Erol’s when I was 15, I probably would have watched it until I broke the tape. Watching it now, I can’t even enjoy it.

Summary

Deathstalker is a fantasy with a weak plot, cheesy-looking puppets, a lot of boobs, and rapey barbarians. At 15, I probably would have worn out the tape. Now, it is barely watchable.

Rating: 1 (out of 5)

Deathstalker, reviewed by Sam Glover on .

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