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Film Review: Deathstalker II (1987)

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SYNOPSIS:

Deathstalker helps Reena the Seer out of a few jams, and she solicits his help for a bigger task. She reveals that she is actually Princess Evie, but the evil sorcerer had her abducted and cloned in order to seize control of the kingdom. Together they travel to the evil sorcerer’s stronghold to restore the princess to her rightful position, encountering challenges along the way both from the sorcerer’s goons and the fierce Amazon women.

REVIEW:

The Deathstalker series was producer Roger Corman’s attempt to cash in on the popularity of the sword and sorcery genre sparked by Conan the Barbarian. The first Deathstalker was enough of a modest hit for Corman that it spawned three sequels. Each movie followed the adventures of a warrior and thief who usually is forced to fight some evil guy who normally turns out to be a wizard. Don’t let the fact there were four entries fool you thinking that the movies were good, though. In fact, they got progressively worse with each one.

In Deathstalker II, the titular hero helps a young woman called Reena the Seer after she’s accosted by some ruffians. She eventually convinces him to help her regain her kingdom. Reena is actually Princess Evie of Jzafir, but she’s been deposed by the evil warrior-wizard Jarek and his henchwoman, Sultana. Jarek has magically created an evil doppelganger of Evie that allows him to maintain control of the kingdom,and he’s desperate to capture the real princess. If she dies, her evil mirror image will die as well which will weaken Jarek’s control of the land.

When reviewing these movies, it’s hard not to sound like a broken record when it comes to describing the acting. A lot of low budget movies are plagued with subpar actors, and Deathstalker II is no exception to the rule. Absolutely everyone is horrible in this. There isn’t a single performance in the flick that even remotely approaches being good. Almost everyone reads their lines so woodenly that they made ventriloquist dummies seem lifelike in comparison. For example, John Lazar as the evil Jarek practically seemed bored in his scenes and came across as being as menacing as a sleeping sloth. He was one of the least compelling villains I’ve ever seen. Monique Gabrielle played both the good and evil versions of Princess Evie, and she definitely was not there to actually act (which she couldn’t do if her life was depending on it). The former Penthouse Pet was there because she was willing to go naked, and she does indeed deliver that here. John Terlesky replaces Rick Hill as Deathstalker, and he seemed only capable of mugging for the camera and smirking. He was either unable to do anything else or didn’t care enough to try.

This flick looked cheap even by Roger Corman standards. Some of the sets looked like they were made out of cardboard that had been painted in a vain attempt to make it look like something else. The cheap prop weapons looked fake, and the special effects were, to put it kindly as possible, bottom of the barrel variety. The low budget is obvious an impediment here, but I can’t help but think a better director would have been able to do a better job of hiding the shortcomings.

Speaking of which, the director is b-movie/exploitation film master, Jim Wynorski..I have a soft spot for the man since he directed some fairly enjoyable flicks. My love of Chopping Mall gives him a lot of latitude in my book. However, that doesn’t mean that I’m blind to the fact that he’s not a particularly good director. Every movie he’s made his just a showcase of how bad he can be. His technical skills tend to be lacking across the board, and movies like Deathstalker II only work to shine a light on each and everyone one of his flaws. He doesn’t always seem to be able to grasp how to properly light or block a scene, get a decent script, or get his actors to actually act.

So, by now, it should be fairly obvious that I think the movie is bad. However, does it still manage to be entertaining? I don’t know how the movie does it, but it actually does. Despite the list of its many failings, and there’s a lot more I haven’t even touched on, the movie manages to be watchable. The film doesn’t take itself too seriously, and everyone involved seemed to try to have some fun with it. A few of the action scenes, and I do mean “few”, have some excitement despite being a tad on the clumsy side. Some of the makeup and gore effects were pretty well done, which was a pleasant surprise. The overall end product was a silly mess that manages to eke out enough fun to be mildly enjoyable.

Deathstalker II is not a movie I’d go out of my way to watch, nor is it one I can fully recommend. If you don’t have any tolerance for silly, exploitive, and cheaply made fantasy films, you may not want to watch this. If you do enjoy those things, you still may not want to watch this unless you’re really desperate or just want something to make fun of with some friends. This one is another feature that got the Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment back in the day, so there take on the movie is always worth a watch.

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