It’s possibly one of the maddest pitches you’ll hear this year: a group of aggrieved women inveigle their way into the local monastery on the night of a debauched celebration, to take revenge on the monks who sold their families into slavery, just as a party of Vikings arrive on the run from some tree demons – and the three disparate groups, plus the lord of the manor, invited to partake in the monks’ revelry, and some men held captive in the dungeon waiting to be sold as slaves, must band together to try and survive the night, before making their escape if they can overpower the slave traders’ ship, due to arrive at dawn.
Shame the filmmakers didn’t stick by the original name Attack of the Tree Beasts, which makes more sense of this ludicrous, bloody, foul-mouthed, micro-budgeted nonsense, as Viking Siege isn’t really a title that conjures up just how ridiculous the whole thing truly is. The only way to make something like this work, would be if first-time director Jack Burton could manage to persuade the cast of mostly novices – a smattering of short film and television work between them – to play it all with enough gusto and conviction to sell the absurdity to the watching audience. To be fair to Burton, he more or less does.
What this badly wants to be, is The Sword and the Sorcerer, the 1982 Conan the Barbarian rip-off that showed Milius’ ponderous epic how much fun smocks and monsters can be, and so it is replete with lurid characterisation, bucketsful of blood, and brash fight sequences, enough that it very rarely stops for breath and when it does so, generally only because those characters we’ve been marked out to care about have a bit of glaring or arguing to attend to. With the whole film recorded on one location – the vast majority of it taking place within a single room – it might easily have sunk into tediousness if the tone hadn’t been set so archly and, crucially, if Shaun Moseley’s old-fashioned, melodramatic score hadn’t been used throughout, distracting attention from the cheap film-work and occasionally dodgy performances.
Worth singling out are James Groom as Lord Osmund, a bit of a ringer for a younger Rupert Graves, and Sarah Driver and Rosanna Hoult, two young ladies with enough confidence in their performances to suggest they’ve a future ahead of them. Much less successful are the “Tree Bastards”, little more than rough tunics and green-tendrilled masks, but there’s an in-universe explanation that makes them just about forgivable. Make no mistake, this is not by any stretch of the imagination A Good Film. It is, however, surprisingly entertaining in all sorts of odd ways.
Special Features: Trailer
VIKING SIEGE / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: JACK BURTON / SCREENPLAY: PHILIP DYAS, ALASTAR KIRTON / STARRING: MICHELLE McTERNAN, SARAH DRIVER, ROSANNA HOULT, ALAN BOOTY, PHIL DEGUARA, JAMES GROOM / RELEASE DATE: DECEMBER 26TH