Awfully Good: Hawk the Slayer

A fantasy realm. Feuding brothers. Odd-looking elves. A guy with a giant hammer. I’ve been waiting to feature HAWK THE SLAYER and with THOR: THE DARK WORLD out this week, the time is right.

Hawk the Slayer (1980)

Director: Terry Marcel
Stars: John Terry, Jack Palance, Bernard Bresslaw

After his evil older brother Voltan kills their father and kidnaps a nun, Christian Shephard gathers his tallest, shortest and most effeminate friends to help stop him.

I’m a sucker for sword and sorcery movies. (It’s probably why I’m one of the few humans that loves YOUR HIGHNESS.) It’s a genre that’s fun, ridiculous and almost always cheesy in the best way possible. Which is a blessing because, honestly, there’s not much traditionally “good” in HAWK THE SLAYER. It’s pretty awful on all levels. However, like most movies of its kind, it has a certain dopey charm that can’t be denied.

Because of budget constraints, this version of the Cyclops would have to do.

For starters, it’s probably one of the most amateur movies to ever get a theatrical release. It just looks like something that someone shot in their backyard on VHS. The aloof, over-the-top acting is akin to bad community theater, even at the hands of some seasoned performers. And the script is clunky and full of fantasy clichés and plot points. (It’s essentially a loose remake of STAR WARS when you think about it.) I cringe with embarrassment and laughter at lines like, “I am no messenger, but I will give you a message. The message of DEATH!” or “The hunchback will have something to say about this!”—both of which are somehow delivered with the utmost seriousness.

The original Hot Tub Time Machine.

Not only is it a cheesefest, but HAWK THE SLAYER is also a cheap-fest. They didn’t even try to cover up the low budget with creativity or selective camerawork. The sets are clearly made out of Styrofoam and cardboard. The haunted forest features Halloween cobwebs and store-bought puppets. Hawk’s fancy teleporting rings look like neon hula hoops. And—I’m not kidding—there’s a scene at the end where the Sorceress uses Silly String on one of her enemies. It’s almost impressive how little they care. The production clearly also couldn’t afford somebody with any editing experience to cut it all together. They utilize jarring “I Dream of Jeannie”-style cuts for special effects. (Just pay attention to the background anytime something magical is supposed to happen.) There’s also atrocious editing used to simulate speed whenever someone fires an arrow.

And don’t get me started on the music. The hilarious score sounds like a porn soundtrack from a renaissance faire.

Voltan gets a premonition of CITY SLICKERS II: THE LEGEND OF CURLY’S GOLD.

Everything about HAWK THE SLAYER may be laughably bad, but the characters help make the movie. Oscar-winner Jack Palance (CITY SLICKERS) stars as the villainous Voltan, who is somehow Hawk’s brother even though he’s 31 years his senior. (And only three years younger than his onscreen father.) Palance tries his hardest, but can’t overcome the goofy material. For example, his character’s face is partially hidden due to a terrible scar. Instead of making their own helmet, the production just bought a helmet and covered up part of it with some kind of aluminum foil, so that in every shot of the movie it looks like the big scary villain is wearing his helmet comically crooked.

Valiantly hot on Voltan’s trail are the heroes: Gort, a giant with a big hammer; Crow, an effeminate-voiced elf and speed archer; and Baldin, a wisecracking dwarf with a whip that’s bigger than himself. There’s also some dude with a machine gun bow, and the Sorceress, who’s always unfairly saving the day with her magic. And then of course you have John Terry as Hawk himself. Terry is best remembered as Christian Shephard (Matthew Fox’s dead dad) on LOST. Here, he’s amusingly the lamest part of the movie named after him. All the other actors at least try some sort of traditional fantasy British-style accent, except Terry. Everyone on his team also seems to have some kind of unique skill or added value. Again, not the title character. All he has is a fancy “mind sword” his dying dad gave to him and most of the time, it does the work for him.

“You have to go back, Jack!”

So why is Voltan so pissed off and unbelievably evil? Turns out (via sparkly flashbacks) Voltan was friendzoned by some chick and then as soon as he left for battle, Hawk started banging the woman he loved. Upon his return, he tries to kidnap her, she burns his face in retaliation and so he shoots her in the back with an Arrow of Justice. Because his face now hurts all the time, he goes full-on villain and kills his father and kidnaps a nun.

“Stop! Voltan Time!”

So Hawk, thirsty for revenge, gathers all of his Fantasy BFFs together to rescue the nun. But instead of heroically fighting the villain, they use their powerful skills to go rob some guy and try to give the money to Voltan for the ransom. Obviously this doesn’t work and they continue to chase after the foe until they get captured. In the end [SPOILER WARNING], the Sorceress saves them by using Silly String on one of the guards. They recoup, then attack Voltan’s hideout using “magical” Styrofoam peanuts and laser pointers. (This is not a joke.) Finally, Hawk and Voltan have their swordfight showdown—which is presented entirely in slow motion for no discernable reason. Obviously, Hawk defeats and kills his brother—but then an evil ghost demon immediately appears and brings him back to life, completely negating the entire movie and setting up a sequel.

And for 30 years, that promised sequel was just a dream for fans of the cult classic. But in 2011, director Terry Marcel announced that he was working on a sequel titled HAWK THE HUNTER. Even if it takes another three decades, I’ll be waiting.

Baldin is caught red-handed with his trouser trout.

These are simultaneously terrible and amazing.

A “greatest hits” montage of bad action, complete randomness and the most suspenseful scene of all time.

No, they’re all nuns.

Listen to your mind-sword! Buy this movie here!

Take a shot or drink every time:

  • Hawk yells, “Voltan!”
  • Hawk’s elf stone glows
  • Someone runs or rides a horse in slow motion
  • The dwarf tricks the giant
  • Hawk uses teleporting rings
  • There’s a flashback

Double shot if:

  • A bird flies at the screen
  • Silly string surprise!

Thanks to another more awesome Jason for suggesting this week’s movie!

Seen a movie that should be featured on this column? Shoot Jason an email or follow him on Twitter and give him an excuse to drink.


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