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Deathstalker (1984)



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"Heroes and fools are the same thing."

Yet another in a long line of bad swords-n-sorcery movies made in the wake of Conan the Barbarian's popularity, Deathstalker is an unbelievably bad, confused, meandering, and pointless exercise.

Firstly, the main character (the requisite barbarian hero) has no dimension to his character. He's not one dimensional, mind you, he's no dimensional. He doesn't have any characterization. He rarely speaks, never shows emotion, and doesn't have any apparent motive behind any of his actions. If you could ask him why he did something, and he consented to answer, I'm sure the reply would be, "The script made me do it." Why is he even called "Deathstalker"? No clue. Because it sounded nifty, I guess.

The plot. Oh, the plot. Where is it? I can't find it. The movie opens with some badguys terrorizing a woman. We know they are badguys because they grunt and have crud all over them. Deathstalker disposes of all the badguys, then terrorizes the woman himself. But we still know he's a goodguy, because he doesn't grunt, doesn't have crud all over him, and does his terrorizing gently. From this irrelevant episode, he encounters a king sitting in a chair in the middle of the forest. The king asks him to go on a meaningless quest and convinces him to undertake it by the most ridiculous reasoning I've ever heard.

That's about when the movie stops making even a semblance of sense. The rest loosely follows the story set up by the previous scenes, but it only looks that way after the fact. It isn't until individual scenes were over that I was able to hazard guesses as to where they fit into the greater scheme of things. For example, one moment Deathstalker and his companions (and no, we have no idea what motive they have for following this guy around) are camping out in the middle of the forest, and the next moment they're partying in the enemy's castle. Hello? What happened?

The king proposes some sort of warrior's tournament, where everybody kills everybody else. I'm not sure why Deathstalker or his buddies go for this, as I fail to see how it accomplishes their goal. They could have axed the king right there and saved some time.

More fooling around happens in the castle and during the tournament. Somebody dies. Somebody betrays our hero. Deathstalker remains stone-faced throughout. It's all very random. Finally the badguy, who has inexplicably wanted to kill the hero since he laid eyes on him, decides to terrorize him with illusions. But Deathstalker snatches the badguy's magic talismans away with the most hilariously anti-climactic gesture and destroys what has apparently been around since the dawn of time just a little too easily.

What an absurd mess. I'll say this for it -- there's a lot of unintentional laughs in this embarrassing travesty of filmmaking, so at least it's good for something.

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