top of page
Popcorn Fall

Popcorn Pictures

Reviewing the best (and worst) of horror, sci-fi and fantasy since 2000

  • Andrew Smith

Berserker (1987)

"It's too late to run. There's no time to scream... Just close your eyes and pray to die."


Six young adults camping in the woods tell each other stories of the Viking berserkers, who would dress in the fur of slain bears and wear their snouts as masks. But they soon run foul of the legend as something big, hairy and aggressive starts killing them off one-by-one.


Well the clue is in the title before you even think that the film will attempt to pull the rug from under you by giving you the constant red herring of a grizzly bear. Promising way more carnage than it delivers, Berserker is a rather feeble slasher film which should have been a lot better given the nature of the killer that the teenagers are up against. Every time I think of the word berserker, I instantly think back to the cheesy WWF wrestler from the early 90s who dressed up in fur and shouted “huss, huss" all throughout his matches. Seeing him chopping teenagers up in the woods would easily be more entertaining than what we get here. Even by the low standards that the slasher genre had sunk to by 1987, by this is weak stuff and shouldn't even be classed as a slasher due to its ridiculously low body count.

Berserker runs like clockwork and once you see the stereotypical teenagers head off to the woods, you know that you've been here before and they've simply replaced the generic masked killer with a Nordic Viking warrior. We are never really given much of the berserker to chew on either despite being the star of the show. We are given a healthy dose of the legend in the obligatory camp fire scene, explaining more about the berserkers and what they used to do but we never see the berserker, well...go berserk. He just stalks people and jumps out at them like any other slasher in a mask would do. He doesn't look crazy or even scary when he is finally revealed at the end of the film. I honestly didn't see the point in showing us the bear continually walking around the woods and trying to make us believe that there is no berserker. I mean the title of this film is Berserker not Bear.

Having said that, during the kill scenes it's really hard to see who or what is doing the killing. We see a bear claw but it could be either the bear or the berserker wearing bear skin. The continual use of dry ice to crank up the tension with a bit of fake fog is a bit annoying and overdone too. Of course with both a bear and berserker being loose in the woods, there is a showdown between the two to prove to everyone that there was an actual berserker loose in the woods. The fight is ridiculous as the stunt guy in the berserker outfit wrestles a stunt guy in a bear suit. The inevitable reveal of just who the berserker was comes as a sort of Scooby Doo moment where the only other person in the entire film apart from the teenagers is revealed to be the killer. Quite why the person changes into this massive killing machine is not explained but the film is over by that point so we don't care.

The lack of any real berserker action - hell any sort of action - is a real shame because the story has the potential to be gory and violent given the brutal nature of who berserkers were and what they did. It doesn't even deliver on those counts though. There is very little gore but with a low body count, there's little chance for there to be any blood anyway. Two characters are killed off within the first five minutes and then there's only two deaths in the whole film. This is really scraping the barrel and torpedoes the pacing of the film. At least spread things out a little bit but Berserker is so light on the ground - and with two potential killers prowling the woods, there should have been double digit carnage! But with the sluggish build-up, there's no big payoff and the film doesn't reward your patience with anything worthwhile. Even at seventy-nine minutes, the film drags.

At least the film ups the ante on the sex quota, featuring a steamy sex scene in the woods. It's inter-cut with a scene of another girl being mauled by the bear so it's hardly erotic or sleazy but Beth Toussaint went on to play Tasha Yar's smoking hot sister on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Genre veteran George 'Buck' Flower gets more lines than usual but is saddled with a terrible Norwegian accent and we also get to see his hairy chest - not a pretty sight, considering we'd just seen one of the hot chicks in the buff. I know which I'd rather see.


Final Verdict

Berserker sounded great and could have become a little slasher gem but the lack of the berserker on-screen is disappointing and 'Gentle Ben' the bear doesn't have any need to be in here. One to avoid unless you are have a burning desire to see every 80s slasher film, much like myself!



Director(s): Jefferson Richard

Writer(s): Jefferson Richard, Joseph Kaufman (story)

Actor(s): Joseph Alan Johnson, Greg Dawson, Valerie Sheldon, Shannon Engemann, Beth Toussaint, Rodney Montague, Oscar Rowland, Beverly Rowland

Duration: 79 mins


bottom of page